"It's really asking the question, 'what is our job as artists in a time of revolution and political unrest?'" says director Jenny Lavery of the play Neva. "Is art important at that time? Is seeing art important?"
Neva takes place on January 22, 1905, known as Russia's 'Bloody Sunday." On that date in St. Petersburg, unarmed protestors were fired upon by Russia's Imperial Guard, resulting in hundreds of injuries and deaths. The play centers on an imagined production of Chevhov's The Cherry Orchard during the same time; the play's three characters are three actors who convene for a rehearsal while the historic events are unfolding.
Kriston Woodreaux plays Aleko, one of the actors. "[At] the top of the play, he's directly come from the outside world, closed the door, and is in the rehearsal room," Woodreaux says. "And it takes another actor to transition him to the sanctity of the rehearsal space."
The three characters in Neva represent different social classes and points of view in 1905 Russia. Woodreaux's character "is upper class and wrestling with what it means to have privilege, but also fulfill a duty of making sure the government stays in line," he says. "In the play, he works as the conservative... and for me that's a departure from how I think politically, but also a very interesting take on a character, especially doing it in my black body."
For director Lavery, staging Neva during this moment in American history was intentional. "When Trump took office, I know that I struggled with 'Should I be at the capitol protesting every day? What is my role? What does it mean to be an artist now?'" she says. "I felt like I was asking really vulnerable questions, and I felt like this play really talks about those questions, and offers three very different viewpoints on it in the end."