Man in a Case

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Man in a Case

Adapted from Two Stories by Anton Chekhov
Adapted and Directed by Paul Lazar & Annie-B Parson / Big Dance Theater
Choreographed by Annie-B Parson
Featuring Mikhail Baryshnikov, Tymberly Canale, Chris Giarmo, Paul Lazar, and Aaron Mattocks
Produced by Baryshnikov Productions
in association with ArKtype / Thomas O. Kriegsmann
Special Presentation · Roda Theatre
January 25–February 16, 2014

Running time: 75 minutes, no intermission

Mikhail Baryshnikov and the creative masterminds behind the Obie Award-winning Big Dance Theater, Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar, bring us an inviting, innovative take on two of Anton Chekhov’s 1898 short stories, Man in a Case and About Love. Two hunters trade tales both witty and haunting: one about a reclusive man who falls for a cheerful, extroverted woman; the other about a fellow who relives the story of lost love. Garnering rave reviews and featuring Baryshnikov and a stellar ensemble of artists, Man in a Case is a high-tech fusion of theatre, movement, music, and video that illuminates those rare occasions when we’re offered life-changing possibilities.

Man in a Case includes strobe effects. Berkeley Rep offers an advisory about any stage effect of potential concern to patrons’ health. We don’t offer advisories about subject matter, as sensitivities vary from person to person. If you have any concerns about content, please contact the box office.


Season sponsors

BARTSan Francisco Chronicle / SFGate.comWells Fargo

Man in a Case calendar

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Cast and creative team

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Mikhail Baryshnikov · Belikov

Mikhail BaryshnikovMikhail Baryshnikov, a native of Riga, Latvia, began studying ballet at the age of nine. As a teenager, he attended the Vaganova Choreographic School in Leningrad, graduating from student to principal dancer of the Kirov Ballet in 1969. In 1974, he left the former Soviet Union to dance with major ballet companies around the world including the New York City Ballet, where he worked with George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. In 1980 he began a 10-year tenure as artistic director of American Ballet Theatre, nurturing a new generation of dancers and choreographers. From 1990 to 2002, he was director and dancer with the White Oak Dance Project, which he cofounded with choreographer Mark Morris. In 2005, he opened the Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC), a creative home for local, national, and international artists to develop and present work. His film and television credits include The Turning Point (Oscar nomination), White Nights, and various television shows, including three Emmy Award-winning specials. He has appeared on Broadway in Metamorphosis, for which he received a Tony nomination and a Drama Desk Award, and in Forbidden Christmas or The Doctor and the Patient (Lincoln Center Festival), Beckett Shorts (New York Theatre Workshop), In Paris (Berkeley Rep, the Broad Stage, Lincoln Center Festival, and an international tour), and most recently in The Old Woman (international tour) directed by Robert Wilson. His many awards include the Chubb Fellowship, the Commonwealth Award, the Jerome Robbins Award, the Kennedy Center Honors, and the National Medal of Honor. In 2010, he was named an Officer of the French Legion of Honor.

(Photo by Mark Seliger)

Tymberly Canale · Barbara

Tymberly CanaleDancer, actor, choreographer, and teacher Tymberly Canale has collaborated and performed with the award-winning New York City-based Big Dance Theater since 1995. With this dynamic experimental dance theatre company, she has performed around the world, and is currently at work on Alan Smithee Directed This Play, a new work that will premiere in Lyon, France in March 2014. She received a 2010 New York Dance and Performance (Bessie) Award for her role in Comme Toujours Here I Stand. Tymberly obtained her MFA in dance in 2009 from Hollins University/American Dance Festival and has recently served on the faculty of Barnard College, Peridance/Capezio Certificate Program, the University of the Arts, Marymount Manhattan College, and the American Dance Festival. Her choreographic credits include I Hate F*** Mexicans, written by Luis Enrique Gutiérrez Ortiz Monasterio and directed by Danya Taymor, Brecht’s play A Respectable Wedding at New York University (directed by Karin Coonrod), and Tristan Tzara’s The Gas Heart (for Big Dance Theater), as well as assisting in Theatre for a New Audience’s off-Broadway production of John Ford’s The Broken Heart and contributing movement for the David Byrne/Alex Timbers/Annie-B Parson production of Here Lies Love.

(Photo by Brad Harris)

Chris Giarmo · Ivan / Music Director

Chris GiarmoChris Giarmo is an artist, designer, and composer based in New York. He has performed with Big Dance Theater since 2005, composed choral music for its 2011 production of Supernatural Wife at Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival and in Paris, and will be performing in and music directing its new production, Alan Smithee Directed This Play, premiering in Lyon, France in 2014. He is also a founding member and resident composer of New York-based theatre company Half Straddle, whose productions include In the Pony Palace/FOOTBALL, Seagull (Thinking of you), and Away Uniform. His recent sound design/composition credits include Young Jean Lee’s Untitled Feminist Show, Faye Driscoll’s You’re Me, Jackie Sibblies Drury’s We Are Proud to Present a Presentation…, Mac Wellman’s 3 2’s or AFAR, and Gertrude Stein’s Pink Melon Joy. Chris has a solo music project titled Boys Don’t Fight (boysdontfight.com) and is co-creator of Homoflix (homoflix.wordpress.com), a queer film review blog with Jess Barbagallo.

(Photo by Katie Brook)

Paul Lazar · Adaptor / Co-Director / Burkin

Paul LazarPaul Lazar co-founded the Bessie and Obie Award-winning Big Dance Theater in 1991 with Annie-B Parson and Molly Hickok. His work with Big Dance includes conceiving, directing, and/or performing in such works as Supernatural Wife (Brooklyn Academy of Music, 2011), Comme Toujours Here I Stand (The Kitchen, 2010) , Plan B (Japan Society, 2009), and Mac Wellman’s Antigone (Classic Stage Company, 2004). He also directed Young Jean Lee’s We’re Gonna Die. He and Annie-B Parson are currently creating a new piece, Alan Smithee Directed This Play, which will open in Lyon, France in spring 2014. He has performed in the Wooster Group’s North Atlantic, Brace Up, Emperor Jones, and The Hairy Ape. Other stage credits include The Three Sisters at Classic Stage, Young Jean Lee’s Lear, Marie Irene Fornes’ Mud, and Richard Maxwell’s Cowboys and Indians. His film roles include Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, The Host, and soon-to-be-released Snow Piercer, as well as A Meaning Full Life with Wallace Shawn and Kate Valk. Paul teaches at NYU/Tisch School of the Arts.

Aaron Mattocks · Kovalenko / Assistant Director

Aaron MattocksAaron Mattocks, “one of the finest young actor-dancers in New York” (New York Times), is a Pennsylvania native, Sarah Lawrence College alumnus, and 2013 New York Dance and Performance (Bessie) Award nominee. He is an associate artist with Big Dance Theater under the direction of Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar, whose productions include Supernatural Wife (Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival, 2011), Comme Toujours Here I Stand (New York Live Arts revival, 2012), Man in a Case (Hartford Stage, 2013), and Alan Smithee Directed This Play (spring 2014). He has created roles in premieres by Doug Elkins, David Gordon, Stephen Petronio, Jodi Melnick, Steven Reker, Phantom Limb (dirs. Jessica Grindstaff/Erik Sanko), Yoshiko Chuma, Christopher Williams, Ursula Eagly, Kathy Westwater, and John Heginbotham. He has appeared as a guest artist with Faye Driscoll, John Kelly, Dean Moss, David Parker, and Third Rail Project’s Then She Fell, and performed in projects by Courtney Krantz, Abigail Levine, and Amanda Villalobos. In addition to his work as a performer, Aaron is a 2013–14 Context Notes Writer for New York Live Arts, after recently completing a year as guest editor for Movement Research’s Critical Correspondence. His writing has also been published on Culturebot, Hyperallergic, The Performance Club, and The Brooklyn Rail.

(Photo by Aram Jibilian)

Anton Chekhov (1860–1904) · Author

Anton Chekhov was born in Taganrog, Russia, on the Sea of Azov. He began writing essays and short stories while studying medicine at Moscow University. In 1886, he published his first book of collected tales, Motley Stories. Two years later he was awarded the Pushkin Prize for the collection In the Twilight. In the years following, he produced his first full-length play Ivanov (1887), followed by The Wood Demon (1889), as well as publishing a steady stream of short stories. Chekhov wrote The Seagull in 1895, which was considered a failure at its premiere. In 1898 the play was revived under the direction of the great Constantin Sergeyevich Stanislavsky at the Moscow Art Theatre, whose emphasis on psychological complexity proved the production a resounding success. Under Stanislavsky, Moscow Art Theatre also produced Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard as well as a revision of his earlier work The Wood Demon, which became Uncle Vanya. These four works are considered Chekhov’s masterpieces. Chekhov’s writing is fundamentally naturalistic; his characters portray the banality, despair, jealousy, humor, silence, and stillness of the human condition, and by reducing their actions and dialogue to the simplest fibers, he allows audiences of all backgrounds to identify with his characters.

Annie-B Parson · Adaptor / Co-Director / Choreographer

Annie-B Parson co-founded the Obie and Bessie Award-winning Big Dance Theater in 1991, and has created over 20 works that have toured internationally. Big Dance has received commissions from such esteemed venues as the Walker Art Center, Théâtre National de Chaillot in Paris, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Japan Society, and Les Subsistances in Lyon, France. Next up for BDT will be Alan Smithee Directed This Play, which will premiere at Les Subsistances in March 2014. Outside her work with BDT, Annie-B most recently choreographed David Byrne’s Here Lies Love at The Public Theater. She also choreographed two of Mr. Byrne’s world tours (2008 and 2012), and she will work with St. Vincent on her upcoming tour. Annie-B has created dance for opera by composer Nico Muhly; theatre, including The Broken Heart with Theatre for a New Audience, Sarah Ruhl’s Orlando, and Futurity with American Repertory Theater; string quartets including Ethel; and MTV (Salt-n-Pepa). Her independent work also includes curation, including Dancer Crush for New York Live Arts in 2011, the memorial for Merce Cunningham at Winter Garden in 2010, and Sourcing Stravinsky at Dance Theater Workshop in 2006. She has been featured in Bomb Magazine, both as subject and as interviewer. She has published work in Contact Quarterly, Ballet Review, and The Brooklyn Rail. Annie-B has been performing her lecture/video The Virtuosity of Structure since 2008 with Chris Giarmo. She received a Guggenheim Fellowship (2007), New York Dance and Performance (Bessie) Awards (2002 and 2010), the first Jacob’s Pillow Award, and two Lucille Lortel Award nominations (2011 and 2012). Since 1993 Annie-B has been an instructor of choreography at New York University’s Experimental Theatre Wing.

Peter Ksander · Set Design

Peter Ksander was one of the scenic designers for Berkeley Rep’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre last season. His other design credits include set and/or lighting designs for There There with Kristen Kosmas and Paul Willis at the Chocolate Factory Theater; Botanica with Jim Findlay at 3LD Art and Technology Center; The Brothers Size at The Public Theater and the Old Globe; Othello at Theatre for a New Audience; On the Levee at Lincoln Center Theater 3; 1:23 and Behind the Eye at Cincinnati Playhouse; A House In Bali at Cal Performances and Brooklyn Academy of Music; Making of Americans at the Walker Art Center; Laude in Urbis at Compagnia de’ Colombari in Orvieto, Italy; This Place is a Desert at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art and The Public’s Under the Radar Festival; Drum of the Waves of Horikawa at the Theatre of a Two-Headed Calf; Roadkill Confidential at Clubbed Thumb; and Saint Joan of the Stockyards produced by Stillpoint Productions at Performance Space 122. His design work has appeared in the Buenos Aires in Translation Festival, the Exit Festival, the Maison des Arts de Créteil, the Ontological Hysteric Incubator, PICA’s TBA Festival, the National Theatre of Hungary, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2008 he won an Obie Award for the scenic design of Untitled Mars (this title may change) at P.S. 122. Peter holds an MFA from California Institute of the Arts and is an associate professor at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

Oana Botez · Costume Design

Oana Botez, a native of Romania, has designed for major theatre, opera, and dance companies including the National Theatre of Bucharest and has been involved in different international theatre festivals such as the Quadrennial Scenography Show in Prague. Oana is part of the first Romanian theatre design catalogue Scenografica. Since 1999, when she moved to New York, she has collaborated with Robert Woodruff; Richard Foreman; Maya Beiser; Richard Schechner; Andrei Serban; János Szász; Blanka Zizka; Brian Kulick; Zelda Fichlander; Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar; Jackson Gay; Eric Ting; Razvan Dinca; Karin Coonrod; Jay Scheib; Rebecca Taichman; Kristin Marting; Evan Ziporyn; Eduardo Machado; Gus Solomons, Jr. and Paradigm; Carmen De Lavallade; Dušan Týnek Dance Theatre; Rania Ajami; Gisela Cardenas; Tony Speciale; Pavol Liska and Kelly Copper; Michael Barakiva; Matthew Neenan; Molissa Fenley; Zishan Ugurlu; Michael Sexton; Pig Iron Theatre Company; the Play Company; Charles Moulton; and Ripe Time, among others. Oana has an MFA in design from NYU/Tisch School of the Arts and was part of NEA/TCG Career Development Program. She has received a Princess Grace Award, a Barrymore Award, and a Drammy Award.

Jennifer Tipton · Lighting Design

Jennifer Tipton is well known for her work in theatre, dance, and opera. Her recent work in opera includes L’Elisir d’Amore directed by Bartlett Sher at the Metropolitan Opera, and Elektra for Lyric Opera of Chicago and Maria Stuarda at the Metropolitan, both directed by David McVicar. Her recent work in dance includes Alexei Ratmansky’s Romeo and Juliet for the National Ballet of Canada and Paul Taylor’s Gossamer Gallants. In theatre her recent work includes Designated Mourner at The Public Theater and The Testament of Mary on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Jennifer teaches lighting at the Yale School of Drama. She received the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize in 2001, the Jerome Robbins Prize in 2003, and in 2004 the Mayor’s Award for Arts and Culture in New York City. In 2008 she was made a United States Artists “Gracie” Fellow and a MacArthur Fellow.

Tei Blow · Sound Design

Tei Blow is a performer and sound designer based in Brooklyn, New York. Born in Japan and raised in the United States, Tei’s work incorporates photography, video, and sound design with a focus on technological processes and their artifacts. He has written songs for the film Loveless, built interactive video sets for Brooklyn band Steve Burns (and the Struggle), and made designs for Dmitry Krymov Laboratory, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Jodi Melnick, Ann Liv Young, Big Dance Theater, David Neumann, and Deganit Shemy & Company. He also performs in Royal Osiris Karaoke Ensemble with Sean McElroy and with the bands Frustrator! and Perfect Shapes on Enemies List Recordings. He is the recent recipient of a Franklin Furnace grant.

Jeff Larson · Video Design

Man in a Case marks Jeff Larson’s third collaboration with Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar, having previously designed video for Big Dance Theater’s Supernatural Wife and the 2009 New York Dance and Performance (Bessie) Award-winning Comme Toujours Here I Stand. Most recently, he designed video for We Are Proud to Present a Presentation… directed by Eric Ting at Soho Rep. Jeff directed the critically acclaimed Get Mad at Sin!—featuring Andrew Dinwiddie as evangelical firebrand Jimmy Swaggart—presented at the Chocolate Factory Theater in New York City, the Fusebox Festival in Austin, the TBA Festival in Portland, and at the San Diego Museum of Art. Jeff is co-curator of “everyone’s favorite performance series,” Catch (catchseries.org). He is an adjunct faculty member with the Department of Design for Stage and Film at NYU/Tisch School of the Arts. Visit jeff-larson.com.

Keith Skretch · Assistant Video Designer

Keith Skretch designs video for performance and installation, working with New York-based theatremakers including Mallory Catlett, Palissimo, John Gould Rubin, Jay Scheib, and Daniel Fish, and Los Angeles companies including Playwrights’ Arena, the Fountain Theatre, and CalArts Center for New Performance. He’s created immersive installations such as Display Replay (CalArts New Works Festival) and Good/Bad/Ugly (Bushwick Starr), and his experimental animation Waves of Grain has screened at film festivals internationally. He recently toured with Radiolab’s live stage show Apocalyptical. Keith holds an AB from the University of Chicago and an MFA from CalArts.

Brendan Regimbal · Production Stage Manager

Brendan Regimbal is a New York theatre artist who has been working in the city since 2004. He worked as Richard Foreman’s production/stage manager and assistant director from 2006–10. He is one of the founding members and curators of Incubator Arts Project. He creates work with his partner Samara Naeymi, the most recent of which, entitled Aviary, was seen at Incubator Arts Project. He has collaborated with several downtown theatre companies and artists including Big Dance Theater, New York City Players, Elevator Repair Service, Radiohole, Object Collection, Reid Farrington, Title:Point Productions, 31 Down, the Paper Industry, and Sponsored By Nobody.

Andreea Mincic · Assistant Set Designer

Andreea Mincic, originally from Romania and now based in New York City, designs sets and occasionally costumes for theatre, dance, and opera productions. She was the assistant scenic designer for Berkeley Rep’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre last season. She recently designed Play/Pause with Susan Marshall & Company and House of Dance with New York City Players. Regular collaborators in New York include Half Straddle, Hoi Polloi, the Builders Association, 31 Down, Yoav Gal, and John Gould Rubin. Additional collaborators nationally and internationally include Incubator Arts Project, Banana Bag & Bodice, Big Dance Theater, Hartford Stage, LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, Labyrinth Theater Company, Büro für Off-Theater, and the National Center of Dance–Bucharest, among others. Andreea is a 2011 Henry Hewes Design Awards nominee for Three Pianos with Hoi Polloi.

Valentina Migoulia · Assistant Lighting Designer

Valentina Migoulia is a lighting designer, production electrician, and visual artist working out of New York. She has worked on previous tours, including In Paris (Berkeley Rep, the Broad Stage, Lincoln Center Festival, and an international tour) and Spectral Scriabin (White Light Festival, 2011).

Erin Mullin · Assistant Stage Manager

Erin Mullin is a Brooklyn-based theatre artist and technician. Recent show credits include props run crew for Here Lies Love and Fun Home, both at The Public Theater, and production stage manager for I Think I’m Falling: A Concert at New York University’s Experimental Theatre Wing. Erin has interned with the Wooster Group and New York City Players and is thrilled to be working on Man in a Case.

Big Dance Theater

Founded in 1991, Big Dance Theater, led by co-artistic directors Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar, has created over 20 dance/theatre works using sources ranging from Euripides, Flaubert, and Twain to the illicit tapes of Richard Nixon to Okinawan pop. Big Dance Theater received New York Dance and Performance (Bessie) Awards in 2002 and 2010; the company was awarded an Obie in 2000, and the first Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival Award in 2007. Big Dance Theater is an inaugural member of the Hatchery Project, a residency consortium. Most recent commissions have been from Brooklyn Academy of Music, Les Subsistances (Lyon, France), Théâtre National de Chaillot (Paris, France), the Anticodes Festival, and the Walker Art Center. Big Dance Theater has been presented nationally by Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York Live Arts, Dance Theater Workshop, the Kitchen, Classic Stage Company, Japan Society, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago), the Walker Art Center, the International Festival of Arts and Ideas (New Haven), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, On the Boards, UCLA Live, and Spoleto Festival. Internationally, the company has performed at many festivals and theatres in France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Brazil, and Germany. Big Dance Theater is creating a film version of Another Telepathic Thing with Jonathan Demme.

Baryshnikov Productions · Producer

Baryshnikov Productions is designed to bring the distinctive voices of innovative directors, choreographers, and artists to the world’s most well-respected stages. Under this umbrella, the company has produced and toured the White Oak Dance Project (1990–2002), Forbidden Christmas or The Doctor and the Patient (2004–06), Beckett Shorts (2007), and In Paris (2010–12). Baryshnikov Productions’ current project is The Old Woman.

ArKtype / Thomas O. Kriegsmann · Associate Producer

A producer of acclaimed international projects and tours, ArKtype’s work has been seen worldwide, including projects with Mikhail Baryshnikov, Yaël Farber, Peter Brook, Jay Scheib, Julie Taymor, Yaron Lifschitz, Dmitry Krymov, and Victoria Thiérrée-Chaplin. Recent premieres include the off-Broadway run of “Nalaga’at” Theater Deaf-blind Acting Ensemble’s Not by Bread Alone. ArKtype has also collaborated with Rude Mechanicals (Austin), Theatre for a New Audience, Big Dance Theater, Aurélia Thiérrée (France), Andrew Ondrejcak/Shara Worden, Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, Circa (Brisbane, Australia), Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, TPO (Italy), Erth Visual & Physical Inc. (Sydney), Sam Green/Yo La Tengo, Arcane Collective (Dublin, Ireland), Joshua Light Show, and the World/Inferno Friendship Society. Upcoming premieres include Sam Green’s The Great Heart of Humanity, Jay Scheib’s Platonov or the Disinherited, Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen’s How to Be a Rock Critic, and Dayna Hanson’s The Clay Duke. More information at arktype.org.

Hartford Stage Company · Commissioner

Now in its 50th anniversary season, Hartford Stage is one of the nation’s leading resident theatres, known internationally for producing classics, provocative new plays and musicals, and neglected works from the past, as well as a distinguished education program that reaches 21,000 students annually. Hartford Stage co-produced the world premiere of Man in a Case last season, and the theatre is currently represented on Broadway with the musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Currently under the leadership of Darko Tresnjak, artistic director, and Michael Stotts, managing director, Hartford Stage has earned many of the nation’s most distinguished awards, including a Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre, the Margo Jones Award for Development of New Works, Obie Awards, two New York Critics Circle Awards, a Dramatists Guild/CBS Award, and an Elliot Norton Award, and has produced nationally renowned titles, including the Broadway productions of Matthew Barber’s Enchanted April, Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good, and The Gershwin’s Fascinating Rhythm; the off-Broadway productions of Horton Foote’s The Orphans’ Home Cycle and The Carpetbagger’s Children, and a landmark production of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Recent new work includes Daniel Beaty’s Resurrection (later retitled Through the Night) and Breath and Imagination, Michael Kramer’s Divine Rivalry, Eve Ensler’s Necessary Targets, Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo, and Matthew Lombardo’s Tea at Five. The leading provider of theatre education programs in Connecticut, Hartford Stage’s offerings include student matinees, in-school theatre residencies, teen performance opportunities, theatre classes for students (ages 3–18) and adults, afterschool programs, and professional development courses.

Additional credits

Steven Klems · Assistant Video Designer
Nathan Lemoine · Technical Director
Anthony Luciani · Sound Supervisor
Huong Hoang · General Manager
Katie Ichtertz · Company Manager

“Baryshnikov shines…Mikhail Baryshnikov and Tymberly Canale light up the stage as smitten and unlucky lovers—with more points of light than one can count—in the luminous Man in a Case that opened Sunday at Berkeley Rep’s Roda Theatre. The characters are Chekhov’s. The mesmerizing Big Dance Theater blend of acting, movement, video and music is by adapter-directors Paul Lazar and Annie-B Parson. There are so many elements of pure pleasure emanating from the stage that it’s hard to know where to focus one’s eyes or ears. But the heart of these poignant, remarkably uplifting tales of misplaced or thwarted love is in the multifaceted interactions between Canale and Baryshnikov.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“A small play with a huge heart…Any tale of love by Anton Chekhov is bound to be a sad tale—put two together and the shapes of sadness multiply. Adapt them for the stage and present them with grace, invention and deep humanity, as Mikhail Baryshnikov and a small company of actor-dancers are doing in Man in a Case, and sadness assumes an unusually compelling allure.”—Huffington Post

“Delightful…Perhaps the most surprising thing about Man in a Case is not the power of Baryshnikov’s stage presence. It’s how amusing and lighthearted Man in a Case can be at times. Anyone expecting an evening of heavy Russian drama will be sorely disappointed. In the hands of Parsons and Lazar, Chekhov’s stories about unrequited love can be thoroughly goofy at times…the emotions pop on stage…Go expecting the unexpected and you should leave the theater with a little spring in your step. Baryshnikov—and good theater—has that kind of effect on people.”—The Springfield Republican

“An intriguing, ultimately irresistible evening of live performance and mixed media.”—Hartford Examiner

“Mikhail Baryshnikov prances away with our hearts yet again in Man in a Case. The greatest dancer of his generation is more of a thespian here than anything else but there is still a world of magic to the quality of his movement. The ballet icon’s lithe presence adds electricity to this whimsical deconstruction of two Anton Chekhov stories, “Man in a Case” and “About Love.” Cheekily adapted by Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar of the New York-based Big Dance Theater, this delicate 75-minute gem marries the edge of experimental theater with the melancholy of the Chekhovian impulse.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group

“It’s hard to do justice to the freewheeling brilliance of Big Dance Theater’s combination of dance, theater, video and idiosyncratic imagination; suffice it to say you should see the work of Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar whenever possible.”—New York Times

“But this legendary artist still moves like a dream, which is an apt metaphor for this woozy, sly and theatrically adventuresome kind of story telling…They play with evocative storytelling tools, using movement, video, projections, photography, sound and music. Those willing to let go of convention will be entranced in a quiet spell that honors Chekhov’s simple and small tales of sweet/not-so-sweet absurdities of life, love and existence…Baryshnikov—his face is a finely etched Chekhovian mask, world-weary, wry, fatalistic…Offbeat storytelling weaves a curious, challenging spell for post-modern audiences.”—The Hartford Courant

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Prologue: from the Managing Director

Welcome to Berkeley Rep and our special presentation of Man in a Case. We are delighted to share this extraordinary show with you. This production is the second of four special events scheduled in our 2013–14 season, beginning last fall with the extraordinary talents of Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart in No Man’s Land and concluding with the return of virtuoso pianist Hershey Felder in June with Hershey Felder as Leonard Bernstein in Maestro.

Between now and June, though, you have many opportunities to experience more terrific theatre here at Berkeley Rep with our four remaining mainstage season productions. We hope you’ll want to see The House that will not Stand, opening in early February. We commissioned this new play from one of America’s most prolific and important young playwrights, Oakland-born Marcus Gardley, and it’s shaping up to be a real treasure. It’s followed by the satirical and outrageous Accidental Death of an Anarchist, probably the most important play by the Nobel Prize-winning playwright Dario Fo. Nina Raine’s Tribes was one of the hot new off-Broadway plays last year. We think this play about a young deaf man finding his way in the world—a play that raises questions about the limits of language, words, and meaning, and that heightens their value—will resonate with Bay Area audiences. Then join us for our final mainstage production in May when Pulitzer Prize-winner Tony Kushner and Michael Leibert Artistic Director Tony Taccone team up for The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, an epic tale of love, family, sex, money, and politics.

Berkeley Rep presents stories that we hope will change the way you think about theatre—and the way you think about life. We’re looking forward to these spring shows, and nothing would make us happier than to share them with you.

Warmly,

Susan Medak

A conversation with Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar

By Elizabeth Williamson

In this interview with Elizabeth Williamson, the senior dramaturg and director of new play development at Hartford Stage, Annie-B and Paul discuss their approach to the original source material for Man in a Case as well as the unique design elements used in the production.

Elizabeth Williamson: You’ve developed shows from a wide range of sources, from Flaubert, to Agnès Varda, to Euripides. What drew you to these stories of Chekhov’s?

Annie-B Parson: We have been borrowing small bits of text from Chekhov plays for the past 20 years and using them in assemblages, because like most theatre people we’re continually reading Chekhov—he comes up a lot. I’ve choreographed some Chekhov pieces, and Paul’s acted in quite a few [Three Sisters directed by Austin Pendleton, Brace Up! (Three Sisters) by the Wooster Group, and a Russian production of Ivanov], but Big Dance Theater had never done a full Chekhov work. So when Misha [Mikhail Baryshnikov] suggested this, we jumped on it.

Paul Lazar: So we read “Man in a Case” and I just felt that even though it’s prose, not a play, it’s eminently actable—because of the narrative, the sequence of events—an intensely introverted man falls in love with a noisy, extroverted woman, she humiliates him and it kills him—this seemed to be something that could be staged.

When you started developing the show, it was based on one short story, “Man in a Case.” What led you to incorporate “About Love” as well?

Annie-B: A practical matter. It’s one of my favorite things, when someone from the outside imposes a theatrical necessity—it could be spatial, temporal, or thematic—it traps you in a way that can be really generative. In this case “Man in a Case” was too short for a full evening, and I had fantasized about doing “About Love” but couldn’t imagine how to express it. However, when the practical question of needing 15 more minutes to complete the evening came up, I returned to it. Since we’d started working I had a stronger sense of what we as a group could do in relation to Chekhov and I felt confident about adapting it. And I love the contrast between the exteriority of “Man in a Case” and the interiority of “About Love.” Plus, the two stories are actually two parts of a trilogy.

Paul: We’ve also discovered connections between the two characters Misha plays. Even though the character in “Man in a Case” seems so one-of-a-kind and the character in the second story so like other people, they both have preconceived ideas about how to live, even if it means living life in a case. The protagonist of “About Love” is also in a case, because he has a notion of what an honorable life is supposed to be and he won’t defy it when he falls in love. Both he and the woman he loves don’t act on their feelings, which leaves them in a sort of purgatory. Chekhov was critical of both men for living in a case of their own construction.

As Brian Kulick, the artistic director of Classic Stage Company, says, you can distill the wisdom of Chekhov into two words: Live Now.

You often use a range of source material in creating your work. Beyond the stories, are there other sources you drew on to create this show?

Annie-B: Yes, quite a few. We started by looking at instructional videos because Belikov (the “man in a case”) is a lover of rules and prescribed behaviors, and because he’s a teacher. And since the hunters frame the piece, we also borrowed from YouTube clips of contemporary hunters’ everyday talk about hunting. In terms of movement, we drew on folk dance material from the period, and we drew on images of surveillance cameras to reflect Belikov’s paranoia.

Paul: On the first day of rehearsal we also tape-recorded people talking about their backgrounds and origins. We think where a Chekhov story can come out of now is the way people in the contemporary moment talk, so that we could emerge out of that to tell the stories and then return back to that contemporary world—to give some contemporary roots to the piece. Chekhov is forever contemporary.

With Big Dance Theater, you have long-standing relationships with many of the artists involved in each show. How do those relationships develop, and how do they inform the work?

Annie-B: They deeply inform the work. If you’ve had the experience of working with a real ensemble, which I would say is a group who has worked together for at least 7+ years, you’re really lucky because you have a shared vocabulary, a shared aesthetic, and this can be quite a powerful art machine! So many things are left unsaid in rehearsal and then expressed in the work instead of discussed. I even have an idea of a piece that at a certain point actually creates work without the director, once the protocols for the piece are set, because an ensemble is so in tune to the director, she could actually step out. I was reading about how scientists do their best work in a long-standing group and then they add someone new to the group to mess everyone up (in a good way!) and that would be Misha in this piece. We have the stability of an ensemble group of designers and performers, and the added element of a new voice/body in the mix, with his particular history, virtuosity, and perspective.

Your work makes a major use of design. Can you talk about how video functions in the show?

Annie-B: Video design is almost another character in the piece—it contemporizes the material because it is digital; it puts us automatically into the present. For “About Love,” video hones in and heightens the psychological perspective on how the heart loves and protects itself, by looking at the people and the architecture of the room as one, and simultaneously from different perspectives—with cameras above, to the side, at different angles—reminding you of multiple viewpoints, of the twisting and turnings of our thinking, looking at the mind, and the ways we both make decisions and remember. Misha’s character is observing, reliving, and recalling his actions, feeling, defending, and contemplating his actions—as you do when you meditate on something very carefully.

I think Chekhov’s stories are either written from the outside, as in “Man in a Case” which feels like it is about life observed, or from the inside as in “About Love.” “About Love” feels much more personal—it’s one of his stories where he spills a drop of blood. Not that I’m trying to prove it’s biographically based, as many scholars have—but it is palpably something he knows intimately about and had pain around.

Paul: I think the video is very much part of our adaptation of the work. If you were just to take this story and give it to a playwright and ask them to theatrically adapt it, with stage directions, dialogue, etc., that’s one way or style of telling it. I think the way we use video and sound—and some of the video even has text scrolling through it—in a certain sense it’s more evocative of the experience of reading a story. Not in the sense that we speak the text verbatim (which we also do), but that in seeing a play you take some of the language, and the imagery related to the language (sometimes obliquely) so as to replicate the reading experience; it gives you the experience of imagistic resonance rather than literal representation.

In this production you also have designers present, and working, on stage. What led to that choice?

Annie-B: I think it’s about transparency, issues of transparency in theatre, and issues of transparency in Chekhov. Chekhov is brutally honest—which has always been one of my favorite things in his work. By placing the designers and technicians on the stage we are showing the inside of making the piece; we show the seams, the honesty of our theatre, and I find this beautiful and worth exposing. Showing how things work on stage is in part a reflection of Chekhov’s transparency.

Paul: We didn’t do a playwright adaptation, where you’re turning the story into a play, in which case we would want to mask the machinery of the illusion a little more. But it’s Chekhov’s unvarnished contemporary quality and his not feeling at an historical distance that we’re going after. I wanted our world to be present in the piece. I also think that coming from the less-traditional theatre, I’m inclined to ask myself about the purpose of conventions that are just accepted: that we hide the technical elements, and have it be a mysterious magic. I like to ask whether that’s only convention or in fact appropriate to a piece and I didn’t see any reason to adhere to that here. It’s not a convention I particularly like. We often dispense with hiding the machinery and that felt good in this piece.

Reprinted with permission of Hartford Stage

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Additional resources

Our literary department offers up background on Mikhail Baryshnikov, Anton Chekhov, and Big Dance Theater.

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Baryshnikov

Baryshnikov biography

  • A concise biography of the man widely considered to be one of the greatest dancers of all time, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and his extraordinary life and achievements.

Interview from The Courant

  • Journalist Frank Rizzo interviews Baryshnikov and artistic director of Hartford Stage, Darko Trejsnak, ahead of the opening of the production.

Man in a Case on NBC Connecticut

  • A brief video about Man in a Case—featuring clips of the show—from NBC Connecticut.

Baryshnikov: In Black and White

  • A book of photographs charting Baryshnikov’s prolific career as a dancer.

Place (2009), dir. Jonas Akerlund

  • A dance film created specifically to showcase the talents of Mikhail Baryshnikov and Ana Laguna, choreographed by Mats Ek.

Chekhov: Stories and context

The Wife and Other Stories

  • A link to the collection of short fiction by Anton Chekhov that features both Man in a Case and About Love, the stories that the performance is based upon.

“The wonder of Chekhov”

  • Featured in The Guardian in 2010 on the 150th anniversary of Chekhov’s birth, writer James Lasdun celebrates the man whose short stories “explore life’s mysteries and mundanity in equal measure.”

Big Dance Theater

bigdancetheater.org

  • Founded in 1991, Big Dance Theater is known for its inspired use of dance, music, text, and visual design. Led by co-artistic directors Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar, Big Dance has delved into the literary work of such authors as Twain, Tanizaki, Wellman, Euripides, Flaubert, and Chekhov, using dance as both frame and metaphor to theatricalize these writings.

“Word Play”

  • This series of seven brief interviews from Dance Magazine features choreographers and directors from various companies, including Annie-B Parson from Big Dance Theater (the third interview down), discussing their unique set of dilemmas when combining dance and text.