"Staging 'Boris Godunov'" transcript

Conductor Michael Pratt: One and two and...

[Music plays]

Introduction: Honoring a legendary Russian director's unfulfilled vision for a classic tale of power and intrigue, an army of Princeton scholars and artists is collaborating on a world premiere production of “Boris Godunov.”

Production Co-manager Caryl Emerson: Pushkin wrote the play in 1825 for the stage ... had hoped that it would be performed because he had very powerful ideas about where Russian drama should go but knew it would not be performed. There weren't stages that could do it, there weren't actors who could produce it with sufficient naturalism and flexibility and there were characters in the play that would not ever have passed Russian theatrical censorship.

Production Co-manager Simon Morrison:
When we began to talk about this project it seemed that there must be a way to actually map up these words with this music, but that way turned out to be very complicated. And to try to do it right we needed to involve the entire campus, to make the campus a kind of workshop for this. And the first stop for that was in going to the School of Architecture and giving them this piece as a problem, and saying "This is Meyerhold. The original director in 1937 wanted to do this, this is the score, these are the meanings associated with this text, and can it be realized on-stage?"

[Music plays]

Director Tim Vasen: What you're about to see today is what we call a stumble-through, and the way I intend to use this is just to have a sense of, "Oh, I think I know what I want to try to do here."

Student Actress: My name is Kelechi Ezie. I'm a junior. It's been an amazing experience from start to finish. In addition to all our parts we each played members of a crowd in a mob scene, and it fits in with Pushkin's whole vision of history. It's very alive and everyone's involved in it. One moment you can be a singular person making a choice, and in one moment you're just swept into the larger scope of what's going to happen.

Peter Westergaard:
Nowadays, you can't possibly afford to produce a play with a symphony orchestra and a chorus. It's only at a university that you can do this.

[Choir sings]

Production Co-manager Simon Morrison: "Boris Godunov" is many things. It's a piece of theater that involves music, choreography and a set that is itself a work of art. In order to bring this off each of the main contributors is about to contribute something brand new that stands on its own as a work of art.

[Choir sings, music plays]