Ten years ago, The Cherry Orchard project was born out of the feeling that certain important things were disappearing from our lives and from the life of the theater. It was born out of the need to talk about those essential things using the language of art in a new and unconventional way. Finnish director Kristian Smeds, famous for his distinctive view of the theater, together with artist Jūratė Paulėkaitė and Audronius Liuga, director of the New Drama Action Festival, brought together different Lithuanian theater makers for rehearsals of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard in an old homestead near Vilnius. The roles were played by actors Vytautas Anužis, Juozas Budraitis, Paulius Budraitis, Aldona Bendoriūtė, Dainius Gavenonis, Virginija Kelmelytė, Irina Lavrinovič, Rasa Samuolytė, Benas Šarka, and theater directors Jonas Vaitkus and Gytis Padegimas. The Cherry Orchard was rehearsed and performed in Vilnius during the summer of 2009 and 2010 and broadcast live on Lithuanian television and in one of the largest German theater festivals, Theater der Welt. In 2011, The Cherry Orchard visited one of Europe’s largest theater festivals, the Vienna Festival, where it was performed in the historic expat district of Macondo. The participants of The Cherry Orchard have not met since then. Nearly a decade later, they will meet again on the stage of the Lithuanian State Youth Theater.
Kristian Smeds, the director of the Cherry Orchard project explaines what drove him to breathe new life into the project:
The times are different than they were ten years ago when we were creating our "Cherry Orchard". Different in many ways. Many things have changed in society, in theater, and in the lives of the participants of the project. Also, I’ve renewed my relations with Lithuania. I’m currently working at the Theatre Academy Helsinki, chairing the Acting Department, and cooperating with director Yana Ross, who teaches directing at the Lithuanian Music and Theatre Academy. There are also Icelandic acting students and together with the Youth Theater we are trying to create a platform for collaboration with young theater artists. Next year Finnish students will come to Vilnius to work with young Lithuanian directors, who will later go to Helsinki. Yana and I are the teachers trying to encourage this collaboration. So, I’m working as an educator who’s building connections between people. Ten years ago, I did something similar in "The Cherry Orchard" project – I tried to bring together people of different generations. And now, working with young people, I thought why not renew the relationship with "The Cherry Orchard" team. This company was formed from three different generations of Lithuanian theater makers. These are very different people. For a while we just improvised without the purpose of staging a play. But finally, in 2011, we brought "The Cherry Orchard" to the Vienna Festival. Our Cherry Orchard was created and performed outside of the theater. It will be a challenge to show it in a traditional theater. It is a rather risky endeavor. We may succeed, but we may also fail. Still, I think it is worth a try. For me personally, it’s like closing one door and opening the other. I’m not doing this out of nostalgia for the old times and the first shows of "The Cherry Orchard". That time has passed, it will never return. This time it will be different and I’m not yet sure how. First of all, I want to see all the participants of "The Cherry Orchard", to listen to them. It is very important to me that all of them agreed to get together again. We have changed, but our method is the same – to perform for the audience after a short period of rehearsals. This will be our way of expressing congratulations to the Youth Theater on the occasion of their opening of the new stage.