The Diary of a Scoundrel
by Alexander Ostrovsky
Translated by Stephen Mulrine
Illustration by David Zinn

November 20-22 at 8 PM
November 23 at 2 PM
Mendelssohn Theatre

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From our Newsletter
In the mid-nineteenth century, the Realistic movement dominated Russian literature. Authors like Turgenev, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy created grand works of fiction that were so comprehensive in their portrayal of history and historical character that they remain unrivaled in literary history.

Alexander Ostrovsky's work in the drama takes its place beside theirs in the novel. Ostrovsky is considered by many to be the father of Russian drama. Like his Realist contemporaries, his stories explore the human condition in Russia. His dramas likewise shares the straightforward writing style common to the movement; his plays emphasize character and atmosphere while maintaining a sharp eye for factual detail.

The characters that he wrote about, however, couldn't be more different. Ostrovsky built his tales around the people in Moscow's city classes, elements of Russian society that were left practically untouched by the novelists. Turgenev and Tolstoy, who were both born into the social elite, for example, wrote about the fortunes of the Russian nobility; even the peasants in their stories merely represent the residents who inhabited the villages bordering noble estates. Dostoevsky, the son of a Moscow military doctor who was murdered by his serfs, also dealt with the nobility, albeit with its waifs and strays. Ostrovsky's primary interest, however, was with the Russian merchants, that crude and coarse, yet moneyed, class that lacked the idealism of their educated neighbors and the bucolic charm of the peasants.

Ostrovsky was born in 1823, the son of a lawyer who conducted business among the Moscow tradesmen. After Alexander received his primary education and completed three years at the University of Moscow, he entered the civil service in 1843 as an under-clerk in one of the Old Commercial Tribunals. There he made his own acquaintances in the world of the Moscow mercantile.

The dramatist viewed the merchants as a quiet, separate class which remained in its isolation the keeper of the traditions of Old Russia. His writings about them were done with a Realist's tolerance for human weakness and wickedness, and were layered with a rich, sardonic humor.

Regrettably, when Ostrovsky published his first drama, 1850's "A Family Affair," it received a mixed reception. To the literati, the play established its author's reputation as a dramatist of undoubted talent. The play's mordant but true picture of commercial morals, however, aroused bitter feelings against him among the Moscow merchants. The response was so strong that the play was censored and Ostrovsky was fired as a civil servant. Discussion of the play in the press was prohibited, and representation of it on the stage was out of the question. But this public reaction didn't mean that Ostrovsky was done writing. Instead, he devoted his life to literary work. Soon, every theater company in Russia was performing his work.

His plays are of varied character, including dramatic chronicles based on early Russian history and the fairy drama "Little Snowdrop." But above all else he was a Realist. He rarely used drama to address great moral or social problems. He was not a revolutionary thinker or an opponent of existing society. Instead, his ideal was honesty, kindliness, generosity, and loyalty to the traditions of the past. Men and women live and love, trade and cheat in Ostrovsky as they do in the world every day. In him we can study the life of Russia as he knew it, crude and coarse and at times cruel, yet full of virtue and aspiration.
- Joel Aalberts

  Press Release
ANN ARBOR - The University of Michigan Department of Theatre and Drama presents Alexander Ostrovsky's "The Diary of a Scoundrel" or, "Too Clever by Half," November 20-22 at 8PM and November 23 at 2PM at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre in Ann Arbor. Malcolm Tulip, Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Theatre and Drama, directs. The Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre is located within the Michigan League, 911 N. University Avenue, at the corner of Fletcher Street and N. University in Ann Arbor. Tickets are $20 and $15 reserved seating, with students only $8 with ID. All tickets are available at the League Ticket Office, also located within the Michigan League. The ticket office is open from 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday and 10am-1pm on Saturday. Order by phone at (734) 764-2538. All major credit cards are accepted.

"The Diary of a Scoundrel" is presented as a part of UM's "Celebrating St. Petersburg" festival. This University-wide festival commemorates the 300th anniversary of a city that has been extraordinarily influential on Western culture. In anticipation of the performances of "The Diary of a Scoundrel," the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures in conjunction with the Department of Theatre and Drama will host a panel discussion exploring Ostrovsky's theatrical work. Michael Makin, Associate Professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, will moderate the discussion. Panelists include Assya Humesky, professor emerita in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, John Hill, doctoral student in the Department of Theatre and Drama, and "Scoundrel" director Malcolm Tulip. The forum will take place Friday, November 7, 4pm-6pm, in the third floor conference room of the Modern Languages Building, 812 E. Washington Street in Ann Arbor.

"The Diary of a Scoundrel" is a tale of one man's mission to finagle his way into upper-class society, no matter what it takes. Set in 1874, this social comedy follows Glumov, a poor, young bachelor, in his quest to marry a wealthy woman and acquire a simple, yet lucrative job. To reach these goals, Glumov will lie, flatter, and cater to the vanities of the wealthy. Unable to contain his disgust with his victims, Glumov decides to relieve his unvoiced satirical comments by recording his schemes in a diary. Accidentally, the diary is discovered by some of Glumov's wealthy acquaintances, which could mean the end of his scheme.

"The Diary of a Scoundrel" makes a social comment on how far an individual will go to gain wealth and power, but does so in an enjoyable, comic manner. Says Tulip, "The interplay between comedy and drama in this piece is exquisite." Glumov, the play's scoundrel, has made his living writing epigrams and making caricatures of his victims. According to Tulip, "We've highlighted those qualities in each character through costumes and acting by depicting people and situations as 'larger than life.'"

Ostrovsky is often referred to as the "Shakespeare of Russia," a nod to the extensive breadth and scope of the writer's work. He was an influential writer in the Russian school of realism in the mid-nineteenth century—a peer of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Turgenev. Unlike the realistic novelists of the day, who wrote mostly of the upper echelon, Ostrovsky wrote about the members of the merchant class, those who were neither wealthy nor poor, in his plays. Ostrovsky used these "everymen" to accurately depict human weaknesses. When Ostrovsky's first play, "A Family Affair," was published in 1850, the play was badly received by merchant society. The portrayal of commercial morals, although accurate, was offensive to its members. The merchants' strong reaction caused the play to be censored and banned from media discussion as well as stage performance. This obstacle did not dissuade Ostrovsky. Between 1850 and his death in 1886, Ostrovsky wrote some 50 plays, and a number of translations.

Director Malcolm Tulip first encountered Ostrovsky's work when Tulip was cast in the playwright's "The Forest" at the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival. "I'd never read Ostrovsky before, and I was pleasantly surprised at the richness and careful construction of his characters and story line." For Tulip, this particular playwright seemed a natural choice to highlight during the "Celebrating St. Petersburg" festival. "Ostrovsky knows how to present a story."

Director Tulip, Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Theatre and Drama, last directed "The Imaginary Invalid" at UM. Mr. Tulip also regularly directs and acts at Ann Arbor's Performance Network and the Purple Rose in Chelsea. Set designer Gary Decker, Assistant Professor in the Department of Theatre and Drama, last designed the set for "A Streetcar Named Desire" at UM. Costume designer Elizabeth Tholen is a senior BFA design and production student in the Department of Theatre and Drama, who last designed the costumes for UM's "A Streetcar Named Desire." Michelle Sherry, lighting designer, is also a senior BFA design and production student. "The Diary of a Scoundrel" is Ms. Sherry's first lighting design for University Productions.
- Katie Conrad

Click here to view The Diary of a Socundrel program as a PDF file

Production Photographs

Brad Faizer as Kurchaev Leigh Feldpausch as Glafira

Nathan Petts as Kutitsky Erin Farrell as Kleopatra

Erin Farrell and Adam H. Caplan as Gorodulin Brian Luskey as Mamaev

JoAnna Spanos as Turusina Lauren Roberts as Masha

Kevin Kuczek as Grigory and JoAnna Spanos Kathryn Thomas as Manefa

J. Theo Klose as Glumov and Nathan Petts J. Theo Klose

Zach Dorff as Golutvin Erin Farrell

J. Theo Klose Lauren Roberts and J. Theo Klose