Tom Stoppard on Chekhov

November 15, 2008

On Tuesday, I had the privilege to attend an interview with Tom Stoppard at BAM by David Remnick, an editor at the New Yorker. The event epitomized what I love about New York – an erudite audience, an amazing setting, and brilliant presentation.

Stoppard was quintessentially Stoppard – extremely eloquent despite the overuse of the phrase “as it were”, constantly taking us in unexpected directions through the joys of free association. David Remnick, a Russian specialist who won the Pulitzer in 1994 for his book Lenin’s Tomb, asked amazingly well researched and interesting questions.

The conversation ranged from whether the world needs another translation of Chekhov to the potential advantages of being a thinker in a censored society.

As Remnick put it: “Even truck drivers read Dostoyevsky in Soviet Russia”

Stoppard: “Yes, but if porn was available what do you think they would be reading?”

Stoppard’s version of the Cherry Orchard is being written with a specific focus on how it will be acted and played rather than read. He has made himself available to the producer and actors to tweak it as needed. It will be interesting to see how it comes out when it open at the BAM in January.

If you go see it, take the opportunity to eat pizza at Lucali, supposedly the best pizza in New York, a short cab ride away from the BAM in Brooklyn. Make sure NOT to go on Tuesday as it is closed that night!

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