I am a Seagull follows a community of actors in their frenzied and loving attempt to stage a Chekhov play in their front yard.
Life and rehearsal blend together in this filmic portrait of The Seagull, an abiding fable that plumbs the splendors and hazards of our human need to create art and make contact with one another. The play is interpreted by a handful of top shelf stage actors from New York City as they converge in an upstate lakeside retreat where they live and breathe Chekhov. Surrounded by a menagerie of paper lanterns, circus tents, ten-foot tall puppets and floating furniture, the players merge with the reckless choices of their characters. In full view of their fellow artists as well as a wider participating audience, the performers’ most intimate impulses are splayed open and made public.
Through juxtaposing phases of rehearsal, live performance and pure cinema this hybrid documentary captures the idealism, contradictions and raw instinct that fuels theatre-making itself. An art form that bursts into life for a brief moment, witnessed by a committed few, and then disappears.
The Chekhov Project was conceived in 2003 by theatre directors Brian Mertes and Melissa Kievman as an exercise in the transformation of space. Living space, working space, community space, performance space, and psychological space.
Each Summer, Mertes and Kievman open their Rockland County New York home for two weeks in a grand experiment: A group of sixty friends, all professional theater artists, gather in their front lawn to rehearse and perform a Chekhov play.
The artists bunk together in the Kievman-Mertes lakeside house or pitch tents in neighbors' yards. Meals are communal, and cooked by the group. Life and rehearsal blend together, as work carries on into the middle of the night. Music is devised. Dances are choreographed. Scenes are rehearsed. Masks and Sets and Costumes are constructed. All hands and hearts come together to make a show that is performed for only one night for friends and neighbors.
Premised on the practice of communal theatre-making outside of delineated theater spaces, The Chekhov Project breaks down conventional barriers between work life and home life and expands the role of performers and audience members into new levels of expressive engagement with one another.
After a decade of this community-building experiment, in 2014 the company shot a film version of their production of The Seagull.
"I am a Seagull" is the result.