Summer at Yasnya Polyana: a one act play written and directed for the stage
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In Lev Tolstoy’s 1889 novella The Kreutzer Sonata, a husband murders his wife after believing that she and a famous musician had an affair. A decade later, echoes of this story arise in Tolstoy’s personal life, when his wife Sonya develops a ‘relationship’ with Russian composer Sergei Ivanovich Taneyev. Taneyev stayed on the Tolstoy estate, Yasnaya Polyana, for the summers of 1895 and 1896 and became close with the family until 1897 when tensions between husband and wife drastically escalated. Tolstoy scholars’ opinions in regards to this relationship differ drastically: some blame Sonya’s attachment to Sergei Ivanovich as a contributing factor to the demise of one of the world’s greatest literary geniuses, others attest that Sonya and Sergei Ivanovich’s relationship was nothing more than friendship. Through writing a one act play, Summer at Yasnaya Polyana, that focused on this highly contested relationship, and then directing it on the main stage of Rooke Theatre with the support and mentorship of the Theatre Arts Department, I was able to work as dramaturge, playwright and director. The play’s text is drawn almost entirely from primary sources, including the diaries and letters of Sonya and Lev Tolstoy, the memoirs of the Tolstoy children and Sonya’s autobiography, as well as biographies written on the Tolstoys and the Tolstoys’ fictional works, including Lev Tolstoy’s The Kreutzer Sonata and Sonya Tolstoy’s novelistic response Song Without Words, which was only recently published in Russia and is currently being translated into English by Professor Michael Katz at Middlebury College. The play drifts between primary texts, fictional accounts and imagined events, and explores how these different narratives develop our idea of an individual’s character and psyche.