Inside The Devising Process: ONE / TWO / THREE

I don’t remember you individually; all I remember is that there were three of you. Three sisters.
— Anton Chekhov

As a director I’m drawn to plays that spark anger, frustration, passion, and a desire for change. For me, those emotions carry the most weight in my creative process and daily life - I have my Sagittarius nature to thank for that.

Anger, frustration, and passion have been at the forefront of devising this piece - because let’s be honest there’s a lot that Olga, Masha, and Irina have to be mad about, even in their very privileged bubble. There’s a lot women have to be mad about - period. In Chekhov’s world, the sisters barely speak to each other, express themselves honestly and openly, or make decisions for themselves. If you’re going to title a play Three Sisters - shouldn’t the story actually be about the women it’s named after? It is the men in the sisters’ lives who possess all of the control and influence - who drive most of the “plot” along. So what happens if you remove all of the male dialogue? What’s left of the women?

This is where our devising process for ONE / TWO / THREE began.

STEP ONE

Removing all-male dialogue from the original text.

This skeleton of the original text is where I began writing. I chose to remove all dialogue between male characters where none of the sisters spoke lines. What was left after that - well, it wasn’t much.

STEP TWO

Reinventing Olga, Masha, and Irina.

In changing the sisters to ONE, TWO, and THREE actors of all gender identities were encouraged to audition and redefine the definition of sisterhood. Through free writes and character analysis the new voices of these classic characters emerged.

STEP THREE

Developing a gesture language.

Using key words from the script in combination with Viewpoints exercises and more, we generated a glossary of gestures to use throughout the piece. Where words fail, movement speaks.

STEP FOUR

Putting the pieces together.

It’s safe to say this is not Chekhov. Over time we’ve added voice over work, videos, movement sequences, and more. Even now, pieces are still falling into place.

STEP FIVE

Moving to the NuBox.

Next Thursday we move our tiny devised piece into a black box in Hell’s Kitchen. A week from today we open our show. Incorporating all technical elements is the last piece to our puzzle.


This process has been an extremely stressful and rewarding one. I encourage everyone to come to see this show with an open heart and mind. It is my hope that audience members both with and without prior knowledge of Three Sisters can find common ground and empathy within themselves for the humanity of the people on stage.

-Angela Wheeler