“I think that Anton Chekhov and I might have been good friends if our paths had crossed.” writes retired SCC Theater Professor Steve Cleberg on his blog: My Friend, Anton. “There are similarities. We’re both congenial introverts with civil demeanors and surly spleens,” he continues. But those who know the Somerset theater scene know that the similarities don’t end there. For his contributions to the theatrical canon, the nineteenth century Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, known for his unique use of ambiguity and irony, was deemed the “Father of Modern Drama.” Steve Cleberg, who served as the head of SCC Theater and Film for over 30 years, directed and performed in over 100 plays, and nurtured a love of the arts in countless students, could be called Somerset’s own “Father of Drama.”

These two theatrical masterminds will converge together on a new project: Flashback Theater Co. presents Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya running February 15-25, adapted and directed by Steve Cleberg at his home stage, Stoner Little Theater on SCC Campus. Cleberg’s productions are known to sell out, so those interested in purchasing tickets should reserve their seats soon! Tickets can be purchased online by clicking this link or by calling the box office at (888) 394-3282, ext. 1. The Flashback Box office is located at 400 E. Mount Vernon Street, and box office hours are Tuesday through Friday, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Uncle Vanya was first published in 1897, and tells the story of elderly Professor Alexander Sebrayov returning home to the rural estate that has long supported his urban lifestyle. Vanya, the keeper of these grounds, is maddeningly jealous of the professor and his success, and especially his beautiful new young wife, Helena. The play explores the tumultuous relationships between the people of the estate, an individuals’ inner turmoil can result in disastrous outer conflict. It is a story of great tensions between social classes, and examines the desires within all of us for a better life, despite having wasted years working without reward.

Cleberg was drawn to the idea of adapting Uncle Vanya as he found that, more than any other Chekhov play, it seemed to mirror our own present reality: “The story of a class of people whose lifestyle was fading away seems to emulate the transitional period that our culture is now experiencing. Conservation of the environment, the reexamination of class structures and societal roles are very pertinent to those issues that concern us today,” says Cleberg. He also adds, “Underlying all of this, however, are universal issues that all human beings have faced, regardless of the era. Such concerns as how we reconcile our ideal futures with the weary burden of day-to-day reality.”

In the 1800s, when Uncle Vanya was produced in the original Russian, the performance would have been several hours long, featuring added entertainment interspersed throughout the play’s four acts. Cleberg’s adaptation however, cuts the play down to its essential spine: “My version is rendered in four fast-moving scenes that all take place in the common room of the estate. This cinematic rendering of the story keeps the action moving forward. It also keeps the audience focused on the main issues that face the family’s crumbling way of life in a blend of comedy and tragedy.”

Steve Cleberg (Adaptor and Director) After thirty-four years in the position, Steve Cleberg retired as the Director of Theatre Arts at Somerset Community College in 2020. He has directed and acted in over one hundred plays. At SCC, his directing credits include Fiddler on the Roof, The Glass Menagerie, Children of a Lesser God, The Tempest, The Fantasticks, Crimes of the Heart, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. For Flashback Theater, Cleberg appeared as an actor in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, The Lady’s Not for Burning and The Book of Will. He also serves on the Flashback’s Board of Directors.

Two of Cleberg’s plays, Radio Suspense Theatre and Radio Suspense Theatre: The First Episode, are published by Playscripts Inc. Cleberg has also written and produced several adaptations of classical works by such playwrights as William Shakespeare, Anton Chekhov and Moliere. His first musical, Tin Pan Alley Tavern, was produced in the fall of 2014. His play, The American Parade, received its premiere production with Flashback Theater in 2022.

Though it may seem odd to today’s audiences, Anton Chekhov called his plays comedies. You could blame it on his distinctly Russian sensibilities, but his unique wit lends itself to the staying power of his work. Says Cleberg: “What sets his comedies apart from most joke-oriented comedies that we enjoy today is his strong sense of irony and his commitment to a realistic depiction of human nature.” The “comedy” in Chekov comes out when characters simply tell the truth, which is often “both sad and hilarious.”

Flashback Theater Co. invites you to take in one of the greatest theatrical masterpieces of the modern age, directed by a local legend. For over 30 years, Steve Cleberg has made a name for himself by providing artists and audiences with theater that speaks to the soul. As the characters in Uncle Vanya face conflicts similar to those we all face every day, Cleberg believes the production will “provide insights into the best and the worst qualities of human nature.” Chekhov embraces both what is beautiful and what is hideous about our daily lives, “Struggles of jealousy, resentment, pettiness and power are played out alongside compassion, self-sacrifice, sympathy and love.”

Production Information

Uncle Vanya
February 15-25, 2024
By Anton Chekhov
Adapted and Directed by Steve Cleberg
Stoner Theater
When a retired professor brings his (much) younger wife home to the rural estate cared for by Uncle Vanya, he inadvertently sets off a series of bizarre love triangles that threaten the sanity of every man involved. Deemed “the first modernist play” for its unique form of ambiguity, Chekhov’s masterpiece explores the tragic and absurd humor of the wasted lives of the Russian middle class.

Performance Dates and Times

Thursday, February 15, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, February 16, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, February 18, 2:30 p.m.
Friday, February 23, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, February 24, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, February 25, 2:30 p.m.

Ticket Information

Tickets can be purchased online at: https://fbtc.ticketleap.com/uncle-vanya/ or by calling the box office at (888) 394-3282, ext. 1. Box office hours are Tuesday through Friday, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Season ticket holders will be contacted in the first week of ticket sales for each show to confirm the desired date of attendance. Seating will be assigned at the time of each show’s reservation. Tickets for each production will be sent via email. Season tickets are $85 and include a seat at each of the season’s five productions.

Single ticket pricing for the 10th Season of Flashback productions will be:
Adults – $23 Advance, $25 Door
Students – $12 Advance, $15 Door
Seniors – $20 Advance and Door
Season Sponsors & Supporters

Flashback Theater is grateful to our 2023-24 Spotlight Sponsors: Applied Behavioral Advancements, M&W Printing, The Shubert Foundation, The City of Somerset, David Daring Rentals, and Fenix Digital; as well as our Footlight Sponsors: Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital & Lake Cumberland Residency Programs, First & Farmer’s National Bank, The Weigel Family, United Cumberland Bank, T. Ronald Kidd Trust, Kinetic by Windstream, Somerset Community College, Toyotetsu America, Inc. (TTAI), Brad Bigelow of Century 21 Advantage Realty, and Buffalo Wings & Rings.

Uncle Vanya is presented with support from the show’s Title sponsor: Citizens National Bank. Additional support is provided by Walmart of Somerset, EHA CPAs, Alton Blakely Family of Dealerships, Kingsford Manufacturing, and By George Properties, as well as Design Sponsors South Kentucky RECC, The Law Office of Martin L. Hatfield, and Protea.