The Seagull Series, No. 1: Play Time In School; Discovering the Play

Monday, October 28, 2019 5:29pm

So, I’ve decided that I wanted to start a ‘series’ essentially to document and reflect on my time when I played Konstantin in Anton Chekhovs 1854 play, ‘The Seagull: A Comedy in 4 Acts’ 2 years ago back in November 2017.

I want to start this series because playing Konstantin has been one of (if not the) greatest joys I’ve ever had in my life. I think for the rest of my life when October and November roll around I will forever become nostalgic for when I played this role. I know last year for 1 year anniversary I tirelessly and deeply documented the journey, giving behind the scenes peeks and sharing stories of my time in the play. Well, I want to do that again but in a more formal-concrete, permanent way. This way I can always look back at the pictures of my time during rehearsals and have a timeline of my journey through the show- all of the pitfalls and successes as a young actor just starting out in my professional career.

This series will serve as a reflection of how I’ve grown since taking my final bow and all the things I’ve learned because of that show. I hope you enjoy this wild ride with me. Prepare for stories of completely forgotten lines during a pivotal scene, the time I ripped my shin open when I kicked a chair open and was bleeding and how I still have a scar from it, and overall growing as a human while I navigated my way through my first leading role. So! Lets jump in friend!


I think it’s appropriate to start with how much Konstantin meant to me before even being cast in the show. I studied acting at The Atlantic Theatre Company Acting School full-time conservatory located in Manhattan, New York. I spent 2 years there growing as an artist and a human being as a whole. My second year we had to take a class respectfully named “Chekhov” When I was tasked with having to read 4 of Chekhov’s plays before the first semester began over summer break I wasn’t looking forward to it. Who gives a shit about plays written over 100 years ago by some Russian dude? Well, it turns out I did. I cared. Due to my extensive posting of pictures and documenting my life and the app Timehop I was able to trace the exact day I first read The Seagull- August 20, 2016.

Here’s the status I made:


I simply replied to my classmate “I had no idea, I’m really enjoying the seagull.” That’s right Ri, you had no idea.

These are the legit FIRST lines of the play in an exchange between Masha and Medvenko. And I remember putting my phone down to type out a status update of it because I thought it was so brilliant and funny. As I continued to read the play, (it’s full title being “The Seagull: A Comedy in 4 Acts”) I fell in love.

I fell in love with the character Konstantin to be more specific. Konstantin was this struggling writer who was consumed by depression. He longed for love from his mother who was cold and dismissive of him, he was rejected by the love of his life in unrequited life-long love and struggled with suicidal ideation. He ends up making an attempt at the end of act 3 by shooting himself in the head and survives but then, sadly the final moment on stage we hear a gunshot go off and the final line of the play is “Konstantin shot himself.”

It’s maybe morbid (or to some downright depressing) to think about how much I related to such a dark character but I did. I said from the beginning, he was my spirit animal. In a picture of the cover of the play on September 23, 2016 I wrote a facebook status: “It’s ya boi Konstantin. Aka my spirit animal. He is my life in words.” Even though he was written 136 years before I was born, he was me and I was him. I needed to play him. I was lucky to have been in training and had the opportunity to do a very famous scene from the show, commonly referred to as “The bandage scene” In this scene his mother, Arkadina (are-ka-din-ah– Russian names are a bitch) wraps his fresh wound from his botched suicide attempt and they end up getting into a monstrous fight where she insults his work as a playwright, calling him talentless, belittling him to the point that he begins to cry and she ends up yelling “Stop crying! Cry baby! Stop crying!” and he, in turn, insults her acting career as she used to be a successful actress which adds to her narcissist characteristics throughout the play. It’s a scene full of energy, life, vulnerability, hurt and volatile anger between two people who don’t understand each other that just (sadly) happen to be mother and son.

Well finally on October 6, 2016 I got to do the infamous bandage scene in class. I learned so much about myself in rehearsals and the eventual “performance” for the class in that scene. I learned that I was scared of being vulnerable and being seen and letting myself “go there” and allow my work to be messy. At school, you would do a first found of the scene, then get notes, and then do what was called a “bring back” which was the final polished scene. You would think with how much I connected with Konnie I would just be a puddle of tears and ferocious but I could never cry, and I still held back. When we did the bring back about 2 weeks later after our initial showing of the scene I had a breakthrough in my life as an actor: I let my walls down and cried. Hysterically. To the point that I could barely get my lines out- which is what was needed for the scene, but also what I needed for me as an actor. I proved to myself I could let my walls down, and what it felt to be out of control and free from any judgment of myself or being in my head. I remember calling my dad that night amped up and saying that I had always dreamed of doing/being capable of what I just did in that room hours before. It was a cloud parting the sky of realizing my power as an actor when I got out of my head and what could lie on the horizon for me as a performer.

Heres a picture of me the day we did the scene for the first time on October 6, 2016


Then oddly enough the day I did my bring back was a day that I was practicing the actual bandage scene for the professional production:


Sadly, this is the point in my life where severe mental health struggles were beginning to pop up and lead me down the dangerous spiral of self-harm and complete loss of self that lasted 4 months.  A mere few weeks later, during Christmas break, I decided to leave the program for good.

So this was my introduction to the brilliance that is The Seagull. Despite having to leave training to take care of my mental health, little did I know not too far ahead, in November 2017 would I play Konstantin as my first NYC role and also marking my first leading role. which I would go on to play professionally a year later.




Take The Best, Leave The Rest

So I read this article from Backstage probably 4 days ago and just haven’t had time to share about it despite being so moved and inspired when I first read it, and here I am now on Saturday morning finally getting to talk about it because it’s STILL stuck out to me.

The featured actor on September 26th edition of backstage is Ginancarlo Esposito You might know him from his terrifying role in Breaking Bad, which is where I personally recognized him from.

He was quoted in the article when asked about his approach to acting saying:

“ I say take the best and leave the rest, if you commit yourself to one technique for me it would disallow me to pull from other modalities that I feel work.”

When I read this is was like YAS! I’m glad I’m on the same page and not the only one who does this. But specifically the wording “take the best, leave the rest” really stuck with me.

Over my time as an actor and the professional training I’ve done I’ve dabbled in meisner, Stanislavsky and my most intensive modality of technique being Practial Asthetics and I am an alumnus of @atlanticactingschool where that is the only school@that teaches PA because it was developed there. I spent 2 years of my life learning PA which for those of you that are unfamiliar with that method- it was created by William H Macy and David Mamet and has strong roots in scene analysis, intention and purely listening to your scene partner and being a human on stage.

While I was at Atlantic the steps to analyze a scene were extensive and very methodical, but when you did the work the results that were yielded were impeccable and I did my best work while learning at that school.

But after I left Atlantic I was faced with my first role, let me correct that- my first lead role in Anton Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull’ playing the protagonist, Konstantin. This is such a juicy, complex role and a huge undertaking and I didn’t have much time to prepare for it since rehearsals were a little under a month to take on such a behemoth of a play that spans 4 acts in which my character is on stage in almost every scene.

When I began researching the role and beginning the ground work and inevitably creating the character as a whole and bringing that into rehearsals I was met with an expected road block: What method do I use? My default was to use Practical Asthetics because that’s how I was trained the last 2 years ( I got this role not too long out of school and it was my first since leaving school. But I found due to the IMMENSE personal nature of the material and how I view Konstantin as an extension of myself, PA wasn’t really going to help me. Instead over time I found myself leaning more into Stanislavsky and the method. I bought “An Actor Prepares” and sunk my teeth into it. ⠀

What ended up resulting was using a lot of emotional memory (which is commonly associated with the method) and deep character work like writing diary entries in Konstantin’s first person POV. ⠀

Essentially I created my own method. I did end up using PA for the parts of scenes I sincerely COULD NOT find motivation for some of Konstantin’s choices confused me and I couldn’t rely on my own personal experience to being truth to the character. For example, I would never shoot a bird and hand it to the love of my life and then threaten to kill myself all in the same sentence. Those were moments when the method wasn’t able to help me. ⠀

It was truly astounding going through that process of playing Konstantin because I created my own method using tips and tricks from past modalities and crafting my own unique process. I wrote, created a playlist, made sure to wear his clothes each rehearsal- all things that weren’t focused on in my extensive training at the Atlantic. It was thrilling, confusing, frustrating at times because I felt lost and like I should be “sticking to” the training of what my life centered around for the past 2 years. ⠀

In the end, and even now as roles as come and gone I still do the same. I pick and choose which modalities to use to create a character and I feel forunate that I’ve found my own formula, but more importantly, told myself it’s okay to use more than one and not be married to PA. ⠀

I’ve taken the best of my trainings and what has worked for me, and then experimented by meshing them all together and as a result, cultivated my own approach, hence- leaving the rest.