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Default to Not-knowing: Revisiting the Classics

Updated: May 5, 2021

"It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning." Anais Nin

A few years ago, Janet Malcom, writing of Chekov, said we have to dismantle our idea of Chekov so we can really read him. We've come to think of him as too mild--perhaps from all the academic productions in this country over the years that keep him nicely controlled. We have to open ourselves to Treplev's anguish and his suicide in The Seagull. We have to get rid of the idea of normal and decent. And we have to get his humor. In 1972 I saw a production of The SeagulI at the Moscow Art Theater. I knew the play well enough that I understood what they were talking about without knowing Russian. The audience was laughing constantly at a play that has been held with false reverence for years in the US. The same applies to music. After many years I'm listening to Beethoven. It's like I've never heard him before. The Moonlight Sonata is astonishing.

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