A two-act audio drama adapted from the letters of Anton Chekhov and Lidia Mizinova.
Sweet Lika premiered as a staged reading at ACT Theater in Seattle, Washington on June 6, 2017 as part of The Great Soul of Russia series performed by members of The Seagull Project ensemble. The audio drama features Hannah Mootz (Lika), Conner Neddersen (Chekhov) and Julie Briskman (Maria Chekhova). Gavin Reub directed both the stage and audio productions. Joel Maddox was the recording engineer at the Jack Straw Cultural Center in Seattle.
Anton Chekhov (1860-1904)
Chekhov first met Lidia (Lika) Mizinova when he was 29 years old. He quickly became very fond of her, but kept her at arm’s length. In their ten-year correspondence he used humor as a defense against intimacy, deflecting and ultimately rejecting her love for him. Lika was not the type of woman he could marry—too mercurial, too flighty in her various creative pursuits, and too much of a drinker and smoker to suit his prim tastes. Nevertheless, she was a muse to him, serving as the model for Nina Zarechnaya in The Seagull.
Lidia (Lika) Mizinova (1870-1937)
When Lika started writing to Chekhov, she was 21 years old. Chekhov enjoyed corresponding with her because she often replied in kind to his comic posturing. She wrote to him from time to time of absurd fictitious lovers, whom he would curse with mock jealousy. If, for a while, she felt this playfulness was a way to gradually penetrate his inscrutable heart, eventually the never-ending game exhausted her.
Maria Chekhova (1863-1957)
Chekhov’s sister Maria never married. When he died in 1904, Maria became the executor of his estate and spent the rest of her long life managing the publication of his works and correspondence, and protecting his legacy with great devotion.
Isaac Levitan (1860-1899)
Russia’s foremost late 19th century landscape painter and a life-long friend of Chekhov. They were romantic rivals. Levitan enjoyed provoking Chekhov’s jealousy, particularly by insisting that Lika preferred to spend time with him rather than with Chekhov.
Ignati Potapenko (1856-1929)
A prolific author and playwright who served as the model for Boris Trigorin in The Seagull. Initially finding Potapenko to be a bore, Chekhov came to enjoy his company. Chekhov had no qualms about letting Lika take up with Potapenko, who was married. But he was disgusted when he found out that after fathering Lika’s child, Potapenko had quickly abandoned her and their daughter.
Lidia Yavorskaya (1871-1921)
A flamboyant stage actress who was considered the “Russian Sarah Bernhardt” and often performed in plays made famous by the French diva. She had a brief affair with Chekhov and served as the model for Irena Arkadina in The Seagull.
Varvara Eberle (1870-1943)
Lika’s close friend who traveled twice with her to Paris to study singing. Eberle was a much more accomplished performer. She made her debut at the Bolshoi Opera in 1893 performing the role of Tatiana in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. She sang informally for Chekhov and his family at Melikhovo many times, displaying a thorough knowledge of Russian folk songs.
Olga Knipper (1868-1959)
The leading actress of the Moscow Art Theater who married Chekhov in 1901. She disliked many of the women to whom Chekhov was attracted in his younger years, including Mizinova, Yavorskaya, and Eberle. After Chekhov’s death, Knipper and Maria Chekhova developed a close, life-long friendship.