Lindsay Smiling in ‘The Cherry Orchard’ —Submitted photo

The Wilma Theater will present the premiere of their adaptation of Anton Chekhov's “The Cherry Orchard” on April 12 through May 1.

Directed by acclaimed Russian director Dmitry Krymov, winner of five Golden Mask awards (the Russian equivalent of the Tonys), in collaboration with the Wilma's Hothouse Acting Company, the production is meant to create a new vision of Chekhov's story and characters.

“The Cherry Orchard” centers around a Russian family grappling with the potential foreclosure of their estate, and a community in transition as the old makes way for the new. Krymov's re-imagined production is also informed by the events in Ukraine, and the consequent refugee crisis of individuals fleeing both Ukraine and Russia.

“This play is about loss, about people who have lost their Motherland, their homes, and are caught in an historical shift in time and become displaced,” says Krymov, who has no connection to the Russian government and is anti-war.

“The characters remain the same, but by adding reference to Ukraine, Krymov's been able to add some new and familiar moments, and keep the play relevant,”says Lindsay Smiling, who plays the role of Gayev.

“In this play, our director has held on to the original plot but allows the actors room to do some improv as well, which often creates some challenges, but at the same time allows us to be a little more creative,” says Smiling.

Growing up Smiling was much more interested in sports, math and science than he was in acting. “But as I grew and attended Community College near Chicago, I took an acting class and that's when I discovered what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” he explains.

Finding acting much more exciting as time went by, Smiling decided to enrolled in Illinois State University. He felt very sure acting was what he wanted to pursue as a career. But still hesitant, still not quite sure of his abilities, Smiling decided to double major in math and theater.

However, by the time he graduated, he began looking around for a place to enhance his skills, a place on the East coast and far away from his comfort zone in Illinois. He eventually settled on Temple University.

“Philadelphia seemed the perfect place for me,” the actor volunteers.”It had a lot to offer theater wise, yet didn't get as much national attention as I think it should. But for me, it was the perfect place to study and eventually get my M.A.”

Today, after much acting work – on stage, TV and in films – Smiling is returning for his 19th production at the Wilma. He is a member of the HotHouse Company which he describes as “one of the most thrilling and inspiring groups I've been a part of in my career.” Smiling also serves as an Adjunct Professor at Temple University, and a founding member of the Black Theatre Alliance of Philadelphia.

Does Smiling still dream about roles he'd like to play someday? “Well, as a young actor I was very excited to find a new script, a new role,” he says. “Today I'd like to tackle some of August Wilson's work, as well as some more of the classics. But I would say I never give too much thought about future projects. I just want to keep on working.”

Tickets are available online at wilmatheater.org

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