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CWRU/CPH MFA Program Offers an Intimate and Immersive Production of Chekhov's The Seagull

Posted September 18, 2018 in Press Releases

CLEVELAND, OH (September 18th, 2018) The Case Western Reserve University/Cleveland Play House MFA Acting Program is proud to begin their season with a modern reimagining of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull. Chekhov’s classic play about artistic rebellion, translated by Paul Schmidt, will star the MFA Class of 2020 and guests. Director Sarah Wansley’s staging will shed light on the show’s poetic realism. Press opening will be on October 9th at the Helen Theatre in Playhouse Square and the show will run from October 10th—October 20th.

It’s The Seagull as you have never seen it before as Anton Chekhov’s masterpiece gets a fresh, contemporary take in this youthful and energetic production. Each on their own quest for artistic and romantic fulfillment, guests at a country estate find themselves entangled in romantic triangles, leading to resentment, jealousy, and misplaced affection along with love, music, and laughter through tears.

The Seagull opened on October 17, 1896 at the Alexandrinsky Theatre in Petersburg, Russia. The play owes its continued success to the 1899’s staging at the Moscow Art Theatre under the direction of Konstantin Stanislavski. For the past century The Seagull has taken new forms with each adaptation. Paul Schmidt’s translation was used in the 2008 off-Broadway production at the Classic Stage Company and featured actors Dianne Wiest, Alan Cumming, and Kelli Garner.

Sarah Wansley is the 2018-2019 Artistic Directing Fellow at Cleveland Play House. She is a New York based director, producer and educator, and the Artistic Associate at Chautauqua Theatre Company. She develops new plays and musicals, as well as highly theatrical adaptations of classic works. Recent directing projects include Cry Eden at Access Theater (co-created with playwright Patrick Barrett and Drama-Desk nominated composer Tommy Crawford), Out at Sea by Slawomir Mrozek at the Drama League's Directorfest, PlayGround an evening of new plays at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, Godspell at Fordham University and Outer Banks by Stephen Foglia at Signature Theatre (Columbia Stages). She has directed new work at The Flea Theater, EST / Youngblood, the La Jolla Playhouse's Without Walls Festival, the McCarter Theatre's Youth Ink Festival, Luna Stage, and Pipeline Theatre Company. She has worked as an assistant director for Jackson Gay, Laura Kepley, Kate Whoriskey, Andrei Belgrader, Roger Rees, Rebecca Taichman, Tina Landau and Emily Mann. She is a New Georges Affiliated Artist, a 2015 Drama League Directing Fellow and a member of the 2011 Lincoln Center Director's Lab. Earlier this year Sarah was a resident artist at Access Theater, where she developed new plays by Kristin Idaszak, Patrick Barrett, Jess Kahkoska and Tommy Crawford. Sarah received her MFA in Directing from UCSD under acclaimed Romanian director Gabor Tompa and a BA in English Literature from Columbia University (summa cum laude). She is an Adjunct Faculty member at Fordham University and a Teaching Artist with BAM and the Center for Arts Education.

The Seagull is in many ways a perfect play to work on with MFA students. The play is about how we deal with failure – both personal and professional. The text embodies many of the joys and fears of young artists and also offers an opportunity for the students to put all of their acting training into practice on a multi-layered and ensemble-driven play,” says director Sarah Wansley.

“As in any good training program, the learning should be cumulative, fueled by the introduction of material that is both challenging and inspiring. The Seagull is one of the great works of the modern era, shaking off the conventions of the 19th century, a potent mixture of humor and drama. Like life. We are so pleased to welcome Sarah Elizabeth Wansley to helm this influential play that still remains remarkably current,” says CWRU/CPH MFA Interim Director Don Carrier.


ALEX BRIGHTWELL (Kostya) is incredibly grateful to be working with these brilliant artists on The Seagull. He was born in West Virginia, raised in North Carolina, and earned his BFA from the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater Actor Training Program. He was a 2018 Conservatory member at the Chautauqua Theater Company, where he played Silvius in As You Like It and Br’er Rabbit/Ratts in An Octoroon. Cleveland credits include the New Ground Theater Festival reading of Tiny Houses and the CWRU/CPH MFA production of Fifth of July. He has also been seen at Yellow Tree Theater, Minnesota Jewish Theatre, Walking Shadow Theatre Company, Public Theater of Minnesota, and the Guthrie Theater.

CONOR CANNING (Medvedenko) was born and raised in Alford, Massachusetts. He is a 2016 graduate of Georgetown University where he majored in Political Economy and minored in Theater and Performance Studies. Notable past credits include playing Jed in Fifth of July, Joe Cooper in Killer Joe, Stacey Kinsella in The Metal Children, and Angelo in Measure for Measure. Conor would like to thank his family for all their love and support.

KASEY CONNOLLY (Arkadina) came to the CWRU/CPH MFA Acting Program from New York City where she attended the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at NYU. While there, she focused primarily on classical texts and performed in Hamlet; Mother Courage; and an all-female, democratically directed production of Julius Caesar. Film credits include the upcoming independent shorts Apprehending Edmund Montrell and A Way Home.

COMFORT DOLO (Sorin) was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee and raised in friendly Fridley, Minnesota. She graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN with double majors in Honors Theatre and Communication Studies. Since graduating, she has been performing around the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Favorite credits include: To Kill a Mockingbird (The Guthrie Theatre), TOUCH, a remake of the 1984 Emmy Award winning film project (Illusion Theatre), and various commercials ranging from the Minnesota State Lottery to hand modeling for KeyBank. Recent credits include: Naomi in Sugar (Phoenix Theatre), Carlos Sirah’s The Utterances (The Playwright’s Center), and Shirley in Fifth of July (CWRU/CPH debut). She is a big fan of theatre for social justice, the German language, and gummy bears!

GREGORY JAMES (Trigorin) is a Buffalo, NY native who received his B.F.A. in Theatre Performance from SUNY at Buffalo. Upon graduating he spent six years working in Los Angeles. Recent stage credits include Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet and Mr. Brooke in Little Women (Oberlin Summer Theater Festival), John in Fifth of July and Billy in Cicada (CPH), and The Fate of the Date presented at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. LA theatre credits include Summer and Smoke, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and Lend Me a Tenor with the Actors Co-Op Theatre Hollywood, and Some Girl(s) with the LA Fringe. Gregory was a founding resident member of the Whitefire Theatre Company in Los Angeles where he appeared in numerous Seasonal and Hollywood Shorts. Film credits include Jilted for Glamour Magazine, Slow Clap Comedy, and the original Actors Co-Op series The Fur is Gone. @GregoryJamesActing

ABDUL SEIDU (Dorn) is rapturous to be acting again alongside his fellow teammates in the Case Western Reserve University/Cleveland Play House MFA class of 2020’s second production. Abdul has graduated summa cum laude from Kent State University with a BA in Theatre Arts. He has recently completed an African accents workshop in New York City taught by the Speech and Dialect director of Yale's drama program, Beth McGuire.

COURTNEY STENNETT (Masha) is a native of Eagle, Idaho. She graduated with her BFA in Performance from Baylor University. Prior to making the move to Cleveland, Courtney enjoyed living and performing in Chicago. She most recently appeared onstage in the CWRU/CPH production of Fifth of July as Sally Friedman, and internationally at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Call of the Void. Favorite recent professional credits include Agnes of God (Aleatoric Theatre), A Little Princess (Windy City Music Theatre), and Seminar (Spartan Theatre Company).Courtney is delighted and humbled to be working toward her MFA in the CWRU/CPH Acting program and thrilled to be part of this ensemble!

ELISABETH A. YANCEY (Nina) most recently performed internationally at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the world premiere of Call of the Void. She made her CWRU/CPH MFA Acting Program debut last spring as Gwen in Fifth of July. Other favorite credits include the New Ground Theatre Festival as Marina in Cicada, Oberlin Summer Theater Festival as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, and work with Wellesley Repertory Theatre. Elisabeth holds a BA in Theatre Studies from Wellesley College, a certificate of classical acting from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, and a certificate of literature from Cambridge University. She is thrilled and grateful to join this generous ensemble in bringing another story to life!

BRETT DiCELLO (Shamarayev) is honored to be a part of The Seagull! Previous credits include The Addams Family (Gomez Addams), The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Doug Panch), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Bottom), and Urinetown (Lockstock). Brett was a member of IMPROVment: Case Western’s Premiere Improv Comedy Troupe. He spent a semester studying abroad at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. Brett also has a B.A. in Theater and a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University.

KADIJAH WINGO (Paulina) BFA Acting at Ohio University: Defiance of Dandelions (Queerness/Lee), Last Days of Judas Iscariot (Saint Monica), Madness of Ladybright (Girl), The Rover (Don Pedro), and Machinal (Mother).

THE SEAGULL Creative Team

SARAH ELIZABETH WANSLEY (Director) is the 2018-19 Artistic Directing Fellow at Cleveland Play House. At CPH, Sarah assisted Laura Kepley on the 2015 production of The Crucible. Recent directing projects include The Amish Project by Jessica Dickey at Chautauqua Theater Company, Ibsanity by Nina Morrison at Fordham University, Out at Sea by Slawomir Mrozek at the Drama League's Directorfest, and Cry Eden co-created with Patrick Barrett and Tommy Crawford at Access Theater. She has directed new work at The Flea Theater, Ensemble Studio Theatre, the La Jolla Playhouse's Without Walls Festival, the McCarter Theatre's Youth Ink Festival, Fordham University, New York University and Signature Theatre. Upcoming projects include Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. by Alice Birch at Dobama Theatre and The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe as part of CPH's New Ground Theatre Festival. Sarah is the Artistic Associate at Chautauqua Theater Company, a New Georges Affiliated Artist, a 2015 Drama League Directing Fellow and a member of the 2011 Lincoln Center Director's Lab. Sarah received her MFA in Directing from UCSD and a BA in English Literature from Columbia University (summa cum laude). She is an Adjunct Lecturer at Fordham University.

ANTON CHEKHOV (Playwright) was one of the greatest dramatists of the nineteenth century. From Chekhov, many contemporary playwrights have learned how to use mood, apparent trivialities, and inaction to highlight the internal psychology of characters. Chekhov's four major plays—The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, and The Cherry Orchard—are frequently revived in modern productions. Born the son of a grocer and the grandson of a serf, and brought up in a small port town on the Sea of Azov, he went to the University of Moscow to train as a doctor in 1879. On graduation, he practiced medicine in Moscow and wrote for the “St. Petersburg Gazette.” His first full-length plays, Ivanov and The Wood Demon, were unsuccessful. After the failure of the first production of The Seagull, Chekhov swore that he would never have another play produced. However, Constantin Stanislavski persuaded him to revive The Seagull. Stanislavski gave it a very careful production at his Moscow Arts Theatre, employing his methods of acting and direction, and the play was recognized as an important new drama. Uncle Vanya, a reworking of The Wood Demon, followed The Seagull, quite successfully, although Three Sisters, again produced at the Moscow Arts Theatre, was not well received. In 1904, after the first production of The Cherry Orchard, Chekhov suffered two heart attacks and died in the German spa town of Bradenweiler, just as he was beginning to be recognized internationally as a major dramatist. He is buried in Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.

The Design Team for The Seagull includes: JILL DAVIS (Scenic Designer), INDA BLATCH-GEIB (Costume Designer), ANNIE GARRETT-LARSEN (Lighting Designer), NICHOLAS DRASHNER (Sound Designer), BETH McGEE (Vocal Coach). The Stage Manager for this production is KYRA BUTTON.

Ticket Information

The Seagull will take place in the Helen Theatre from October 10 – October 20, 2018. Tickets are $15. There is also a special offer to purchase one MFA show for $15 or two MFA shows for $25. Tickets are half off for currently enrolled students under age 25 with valid student ID, and Young Professional discounts available with YP-CPH Membership. To order single tickets please call 216-241-6000 or visit Groups of 10+ save at 216-400-7027.


Since 1996, Case Western Reserve University has partnered with Cleveland Play House. Every two years, eight actors are chosen from the hundreds who audition nationwide to join this rigorous three-year conservatory program. The CWRU/CPH MFA Acting Program admits committed and bold young artists who possess a love of language, empathy for the human experience, a vivid imagination and the desire to develop the necessary physical and vocal skills for a successful and sustained career in the ever-evolving performing arts scene. All three years are spent in residency at Cleveland Play House, providing students with unique access to its new downtown Cleveland state-of-the-art facilities and the professional expertise of its staff. Program graduates include Rich Sommer (Mad Men, Buried Child), Elizabeth A. Davis (Once – Tony Award Nomination), AJ Cedeno (Z: The Beginning of Everything), Tom Degnan (Limitless), and Stephen Michael Spencer (Oregon Shakespeare Festival).

DONALD CARRIER is the Interim Director of the CWRU/CPH MFA Acting Program. Jerrold Scott is the Chair of the CWRU Department of Theater.


CLEVELAND PLAY HOUSE, founded in 1915 and recipient of the 2015 Regional Theatre Tony Award, is America's first professional regional theatre. Throughout its rich history, CPH has remained dedicated to its mission to inspire, stimulate, and entertain diverse audiences across Northeast Ohio by producing plays and theatre education programs of the highest professional standards. CPH has produced more than 100 world and/or American premieres, and over its long history more than 12 million people have attended over 1,600 productions. Today, Cleveland Play House celebrates the beginning of its second century of service while performing in three state-of-the art venues at Playhouse Square in downtown Cleveland.

Cleveland Play House is made possible in part by state tax dollars allocated by the Ohio Legislature to the Ohio Arts Council (OAC). The OAC is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Cleveland Play House is supported in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.


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