When I was in fifth grade, I was part of something truly bizarre — a totally serious elementary school production of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya.
The play is a melancholic 19th century Russian drama about middle age, inappropriate infatuations, and the sacrifices and disappointments of aging. Because it was the seventies, writer Phillip Lopate decided that this would be a perfect project for a mixed-race group of urban public school kids to take on. And so we did, and it was weirdly amazing. (I played Vanya, the 47-year-old title character.)
It’s called Chekhov for Children and it’s having its New York City premiere at Lincoln Center on the evening of Thursday, October 21. I’ll be participating in a panel discussion after the screening.
I haven’t seen the film yet, but it’s getting great press — the folks at the Telluride Film Festival called it “a moving, honest exploration of the nature of childhood, a loving paean to the Upper West Side of the late ’70s, and a celebration of the joyous possibilities of arts education” that “transcends simple nostalgia to explore deeper, more complex emotional terrain.”
If you make it to the event, be sure to flag me down and say hi.
Update | I’ll be discussing the movie with filmmaker Sasha Waters Freyer and writer Phillip Lopate on the Leonard Lopate show on WNYC radio at 12:40 pm on Monday, October 18 — the show starts at noon, and we’re scheduled to go on the air at about 12:40 pm.
If you’re in the New York area tune in (to AM 820 or 93.9 FM) then. If not, you can listen — and find out more — online.