SPOTLIGHT: Robin A. Eriksen directs Chekhov's Platonov

November 6, 2015

Platonov might not be Anton Chekhov’s best-known play, but Robin A. Eriksen (Directing ‘17) is looking forward to getting people talking about it. His adapted version opens Friday, November 6 and runs throughout the weekend atSchapiro Theater on Columbia’s campus.

Eriksen is excited to present a work by one of the world’s most beloved playwrights while still being able to expect an audience without preconceived notions. “Most of them will probably be seeing this story for the first time,” he said.Platonov was written early in Chekhov’s career, and has more action and events than some of his later plays. It also explores genre, ranging in tone from farce to tragedy.

It was no easy task to adapt it—the original play clocks in at around six hours. This slimmed-down version plays in about an hour and a half. “Because he is such a brilliant playwright, many hours have gone into finding the essence, not only of the story as a whole, but also of every scene and every situation,” Eriksen said. “I also wanted to explore what the story would look like through a different lens, so I decided to bring new elements to the telling of it, like music, dance, colors and a touch of modern language. I realized when working on it that I was seeing the play through a kaleidoscope, and I hope that's the experience the audience gets as well.”

But people looking for the spirit of Chekhov in the piece will not be disappointed. “Platonov is dealing with the same questions that Chekhov was struggling with throughout his career,” Eriksen noted.

No stranger to theater, Eriksen trained as an actor at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts; after graduating in 2010, he returned to his native Norway to get a BA in Theatre Studies. He went on to work professionally in Oslo, doing everything from stage managing to acting to assistant directing and directing. He has also translated a few plays from English into Norwegian. “I was seeking to get as much experience in the theatre as possible, doing as many different things as I could,” he said. “Now I think those experiences are really coming in handy, and I constantly find myself drawing knowledge from the different areas of theatre I've been exposed to.”

Appearing in this play is Max Sterling (Acting ‘17) who Eriksen worked with in Collaboration class in his first year. “His positive energy, focus and dedication are such a great contribution to the project—and with him, the project has yet another person making the cast strong,” Eriksen said of the actor.

“My character is Osip, a horse thief in a world of a landed gentry and self-proclaimed intellectuals… so the parallels are obvious,” joked Sterling. “But I really enjoy trying to bridge the chasm between myself and Osip. Osip also gets his heart broken and tries to revenge himself, which is a reaction that I imagine a lot of people are familiar with, horse thieves and non-horse thieves alike.”

Eriksen enjoys working with ensembles and relies a lot on his team. “The actors working with me on this are all amazing artists, and without their hard work, craft and brilliant insight we would not have come as far in the exploration of this play as we have,” he said. “They are the ones who are making this story come to life, and because of them, what could've quickly turned out to be hard, is actually quite easy.”

Tickets for Platonov can be reserved online here.