Uncle Vanya opens March 9 at USAO

Olen Cox (left), Danielle Jimenez (center, back) and Callison Vaughan (right, front) rehearse a scene from USAO’s upcoming production of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. The set design places the audience within inches of the stage. The play opens at 7:30 p.m. on March 9 in the Davis Hall Little Theater.

Uncle Vanya opens March 9 at USAO


Chances are when most people hear the name, “Chekhov,” they are more likely to think of the helm navigator of the starship Enterprise before Russian theater. Katie Davis, director of the drama program at the University of Science and Arts, does not think that should keep anyone from coming to see the spring production of Uncle Vanya.

“What you need to know about Uncle Vanya is that it is the kind of theatre that you already know how to watch,” Davis says.

“This play has beautiful costumes, an interesting set and invites the audience to imagine that the characters are real people. You’re invited to watch as though you’re peeking through the window and no one knows you’re there.”

USAO’s production of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya opens at 7:30 p.m. on March 9 in the Davis Hall Little Theater. The show is free to USAO students, staff and faculty. Tickets are $5 at the door with discounts for those under 18.

Matinees are scheduled at 2 p.m. on March 10 and 11. An evening show is scheduled on March 10 to coincide with the opening reception of the Von Venhuizen ceramics exhibit at 7 p.m. in the USAO Art Gallery.

“Audiences seem to love the interdisciplinary experience of being able to come to the campus, see the new show in the gallery, enjoy the refreshments at the reception, meet the artist and then watch the play. It makes a really affordable, enjoyable night out,” says Layne Thrift, gallery director.

Though Chekhov wrote his plays and short stories in the late 1800s, they remain relevant because he tackled subjects to which anyone can relate.

Uncle Vanya is an American play. Family members come for a visit, they fight, they scream, someone fires a gun and then everyone makes up and says ‘See you next Christmas.’” explains Curt Columbus, the translator of the play. 

Carrie Chavers, the Chickasha High School art teacher and adjunct instructor at USAO, serves as the scene designer collaborating on this production. To give the audience the right perspective on this story, her design has extended the stage of Davis Theatre to allow the actors to play scenes only inches away from the audience.

“The joy of live theatre is that you get to watch the actors laugh and cry and sweat right in front of you,” Davis says. “The only way for the audience to get closer is to climb on the stage!”

The casting of the show is also something out of the ordinary. After an unusually large number of actors gave strong auditions, Davis decided to assign roles with more flexibility than the average show.

“The drama program chooses its plays to support our mission to provide excellent education in theatre arts for all USAO students.”  Davis explains.

“By double-casting the play, I created opportunities for twice as many students to act and created some professional challenges for the cast and crew. Each performance will feature a different combination of the 16 cast members.”

With such an ambitious production concept, Davis called upon other local theater companies to help with costuming and other production needs. This play is supported by the generous loan of costumes, props and scenery from Cameron University, Anadarko High School and the Chickasha Community Theater.

The cast includes William Benzel, a freshman drama major from Tulsa and Torrey Boyle, a junior communication major from Midwest City as Uncle Vanya; Caitlin Bear, a freshman drama major from Anadarko and Alicia Working, a freshman drama major from Mustang as Yelena; Callison Vaughan, a junior drama major from Lawton and Daniella Jimenez, a junior drama major from Newalla as Sonya.

Also featured are Brian Coburn, a sophomore drama major from Chickasha and Kyle Reed, a senior drama major from Chickasha as Dr. Astrov; Dr. Craig Elder, associate professor of business at USAO and Chris Bennett, a senior English major from Moore as “Waffles”; Roberta Lake, a senior drama major from Oklahoma City and Amanda Whitchard, a senior drama major from Muskogee as Nanny; Jeff Gray, a senior drama major from Comanche and Tyler Heilaman, a freshman music major from Duncan as Alexander.

Kayla Hurd, a sophomore drama major from Oklahoma City, plays Marya and Olen Cox, a junior music major from Grant, plays Yefim in each production. 

The company is dedicating the production to Stephanie Morris, a junior drama major from Blanchard who was cast to play Marya, but is unable to perform after sustaining extensive injuries in an auto accident.

More information about the play can be obtained by calling 574-1310.