Independent Artist Spotlight: Hank Curry’s “Three Sisters”
This performance has been cancelled from FringeFest 2021, follow https://www.hankcurryactor.com/ or @hankcurryactor on Instagram to receive updates on Three Sisters and Curry’s future projects.
Leave all expectations at the door when viewing Hank Curry’s adaptation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters.
Curry and the cast of Three Sisters bring their personalities fully to the table in their adaptation to fuse classic Russian theater with a charming sense of humor, inviting viewers to embrace the comedy in life’s most dramatic. In a play typically consumed by the sister’s plights, the cast use their backgrounds in clown to create an open and light hearted portrayal of the story, giving a modern perspective to the century old play. More than anything though, Curry’s adaptation is a return to the heart of the play; the sisters. The dedication and love of the actor’s for their characters brings this piece to life, resulting in a moving exploration of family life that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Following the death of their father, three sisters Irina (Leslie Miller), Masha (Bellisant Corconran-Mathe), and Olga (Hank Curry) struggle with the external forces keeping them from their own desires. Fixed in their positions in life, living in a house inherited by their brother and run by his disastrous wife, the sisters dream of making their own in the world; whether it be through achieving meaningful careers or leaving behind the people and places which they feel inhibit them from truly living. Curry’s unique choice in his adaptation to remove all external characters from the stage increases the focus on the sisters’ lives and their relationships with the world around them. The actors’ work and relations with their characters goes beyond in the adaptation, as clearly working in a tight-knit cast has allowed them more space to collaborate in developing and understanding Irina, Masha and Olga. “All the stuff that is about them [the actors] connecting and getting into these people is always the part that makes me most excited,” Curry stated, when asked about his favorite aspect they’ve been working on. “I was connecting with Olga on a really strong level that I was not expecting… She’s in the same place in her life that I’m in my life, sometimes in ways that are downright eerie… She’s asking the questions that people ask, when they’re thirty, about where I’m gonna go, is it too late to do this, or will this dream or ambition come true”. Corcoran-Mathe also discussed the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on her understanding of the characters and their situations. “COVID has made me think about the play itself differently and how I relate to the characters differently, just in the sense of like, one of the big things they’re dealing with is isolation, and being with very few people around them… Not being able to go where you want to go has really been something where I feel so much more of this than I probably would have two years ago”.
The nature of the actors’ relationships with each other and their characters is furthered by Hank Curry’s role as both director and actor. All coming from a background in clown, Miller and Corcoran-Mathe found that having Curry alongside them in the production eliminated the flat hierarchical nature that they had grown used to in previous performances. “As it goes on it feels more like an ensemble, but I do appreciate having Hank- whenever I have a question I can just go to him and have a definitive answer” elaborated Miller on the difference in feeling of this production compared to others, where the director is not involved as an actor as well. Corcoran-Mathe continues, “It’s lovely to have someone who is able to answer the questions that need to be answered, knows what we’re looking for, but is also up there in the trenches with us”.
Curry’s choice of Three Sisters as a production is unexpected, as his previously mentioned background in clown and animated personality contrast traditional expectations of the play. Jokingly described as “Sad Russians, but clown!”, his adaptation reinvents the play for a modern audience, while staying true to the emotional journey of the characters and the base of the story itself. Curry emphasizes that while adding in elements of comedy, he remained focused on staying true to the original script. “I think there are some moments that get played for laughs that maybe aren’t normally played for laughs… Sometimes the characters [in the original] are pitched so dramatically, so quickly, that I can’t even imagine in the standard production how you would play it straight. It’s not about doing a travesty of it, cause you wanna keep the emotional truth and reality for the characters, but it’s more just allowing the silliness of it to still exist rather than fighting it… To me I don’t think we’re ever mocking the text or the characters, it’s more just about not fighting the absurdity of certain moments. Cause, I mean, that’s life too!”. Throughout the play elements from the cast’s background in clown can be found, such as physical comedy scenes, humorous use of props, and an increased use of movement across the stage that is uncommon in other adaptations of Chekhov’s plays. While there are only three actors present on stage, Curry’s work in shaping his adaptation to his own style heightens the excitement of the narrative, making for an entertaining and dynamic experience for audiences.
Whether you’re a classical theater buff or simply looking for entertainment, Hank Curry’s adaptation of Three Sisters provides something for audiences of all backgrounds. The charming story of three sisters looking for more in life reflects upon familial bonds, relationships among women, and one’s own- sometimes melodramatic- aspirations in life. The backgrounds and personalities of the cast shine through their performances, giving a breath of fresh air to this Russian classic. To each sum up the play in one word, the cast members offered; Hope, Absurdity, and Work. Be sure to catch Three Sisters, showing at The Rosenbach September 9-12 as part of the 2021 Philadelphia Fringe Festival!
Article by Maria Dragone, Photojournalism Intern