Engage & Learn

El Nogalar

The last show for 2010-2011 Student Subscription Series is Tanya Saracho’s cultural transplantation of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. Written between 1901 and 1903, the play premiered at the Moscow Arts Theater just a few months before his death from tuberculosis in 1904.

At its heart, both The Cherry Orchard and El Nogalar are plays about shifting social climates and changing social status. In both, a once-wealthy family loses its estate to someone who was once considered socially beneath them. In Chekhov’s original text, this demise of the aristocracy was reflective of what was happening in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century. No longer able to live on the labor provided by the serfs (slaves) who worked the land, many wealthy landowners, like Mrs. Ranevsky in The Cherry Orchard, lost their fortunes and their estates, unable to adapt to the political dynamics of a new proletariat. Although unintentional, Chekhov’s play portended the Bolshevik revolution of 1917.

In Saracho’s adaptation, the cherry orchards of the Moscow outskirts, are transposed to pecan groves in the borderlands between Mexico and the United States. The shifting class structure is fueled by the new money of drug trafficking, and the destruction of indigenous agrarian and industrial economies. But in both plays, the inability of a once-aristocratic family to recognize – and respond to – changing societal shifts provides elements of both tragedy and comedy in the productions.

Goodman Theatre is co-producing El Nogalar with Teatro Vista (Theater with a View). Founded more than 20 years ago by Goodman Artistic Associate Henry Godinez and Eddie Torres, the company’s current artistic director, Teatro Vista is the largest non-profit Equity Latino company in Chicago. This play marks the fifth joint production between Goodman Theatre and Teatro Vista, and begins a new three-year producing partnership dedicated to new work by Latino writers.

Resources for El Nogalar

Conversation with production’s director Cecilie Keenan

Playwright Tanya Saracho talks about her latest work.

SparkNotes Plot Overview of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard

Synopsis of El Nogalar