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Wit Amid Despair in SFSU's New Production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya


College of Creative Arts


Ariane Bicho, Publicist
College of Creative Arts
San Francisco State University
(415) 338-1442
(415) 338-0520 fax

Press Release published by the Office of Public Affairs


San Francisco -- Unrequited love, jealous rage and disaffected Russian gentry all figure in the SFSU Theatre Arts Department's gripping new production of Uncle Vanya, Anton Chekhov's epic of suffering and idealism in pre-revolution Russia. Directed by Mohammad Kowsar, whose research and publication interests include theatre aesthetics and Lacanian psychoanalysis, Uncle Vanya previews Thursday, November 20, and continues through Sunday, December 7 at the Little Theatre in the Creative Arts building on the SFSU campus. [Please note: the house is dark over Thanksgiving]

In this smart and fast-moving adaptation by award-winning playwright David Mamet, known for his lively, contemporary dialogues, it appears something is wrong in Ivan (Vanya) Voitski's extended family, and that something is his former brother-in-law Alexander Serebrakoff, a vain and pretentious retired professor. In the wake of his first wife's death, Serebrakoff has remarried the young and beautiful Yelena and returned with her to the estate managed by Vanya. The appearance of the seductive Yelena precipitates a series of mishaps and catastrophes as both Vanya and the local country doctor vie for her affection. Supplementing the maelstrom around the desirable figure of Yelena is a story of lost ideals, epic suffering and the endurance of the human spirit.

Chekhov (1860-1904) finished writing the bittersweet four-act comedy in 1899, on the heals of his first successful theatre production, The Seagull. His earlier plays, including a precursor to Uncle Vanya titled The Wood Demon, had left audiences and critics lukewarm at best, and some were marred by shoddy acting. The success of The Seagull and Uncle Vanya propelled Chekhov, who was also a practicing physician, to great prominence, assuring that his brooding, witty, ironic style would continue to amuse and intrigue audiences long after his early death from tuberculosis.

With a shining student cast, director Mohammad Kowsar presents a powerful and nuanced interpretation of Chekhov's classic. In addition to his scholarly work, which pairs French psychological theory with literature and the theatre, Kowsar has directed numerous plays, including Jean Genet's The Balcony, John Ford's ‘Tis a Pity She's a Whore and Aphra Behn's The Rover.

Uncle Vanya is presented through special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc., 7623 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90046. David Mamet's adaptation is from an English translation by Vlada Chernomirdik.

Schedule and Admission
Thursday, November 20, 8 pm (Preview: all seats $8);
Friday & Saturday, November 21 & 22, 8 pm;
Sunday, November 23, 2 pm;
Thursday-Saturday, December 4-6, 8 pm;
Sunday, December 7, 2 pm.
All shows are in the Little Theatre in the Creative Arts Building on the SFSU campus at 19th and Holloway avenues.

$10 general/$8 students and seniors. For tickets and information, contact the College of Creative Arts Box Office at 415/338-2467, Monday through Friday between noon and 4 pm. Tickets also go on sale one hour before each show.

Nearby on-street parking is readily available on weekends. Public parking is also available in Lot 20 on the SFSU campus, which can be accessed from Lake Merced Boulevard between Winston Drive and Font Boulevard. Parking in the lot is $1 per hour with a $5 daily maximum. For more information, see


Theatre is a department of the College of Creative Arts, which has the only academic program primarily devoted to the creative arts in northern California. Under the direction of Dean Keith Morrison, an internationally acclaimed faculty directs more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students in eight disciplines: art, cinema, radio, TV, music, dance, theatre arts, and design. The College of Creative Arts is part of San Francisco State University, one of the 23 member universities comprising the California State University, the largest system of higher education in the nation. SFSU is a highly diverse, comprehensive, public and urban university. For more information about the College of Creative Arts, visit For an application, please call SFSU Admissions at (415) 338-1113.

Digital Images Available
Contact Ariane N. Bicho, Director of Public Relations, College of Creative Arts
San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132
Phone: 415/338-1442
Fax: 415/338-0520


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1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132  415/338-1111
Last modified October 27, 2003, by the Office of Public Affairs