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27 August 2013 @ 01:02 am
My old Chess site - frozen in time  
Hi to all you members of the fandom.

I'm new on here, but very much enjoying reading your posts etc.

I have just discovered that my old Chess site was archived by Geocities when they closed down their web hosting network and I thought that maybe some of you would enjoy having a look at it - though if you have been on other forums etc over the years you may already have seen it.

There is a 'working' script for a workshop/development production of Chess that I have always wanted to do - but of course never have! I've noticed a few blips within the site, but it is frozen now so I can't access it to make any corrections, but you will probably get the general idea of the kind of things I had been working on. Also, not all pages work on the old site, so some sections can no loner be looked at.

Some of the old site is on my current site, but I hope to add some more stuff to that one soon and I will let you know when I manage to do that. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the old site if you take a look.

Best wishes, RJS

Sarahdreamsofstars on August 27th, 2013 12:06 am (UTC)
Oh man, that is awesome! Thanks so much for sharing!
zédille: Pooh and pigletzedille on August 27th, 2013 10:58 am (UTC)
If you don't mind my asking, what happened to your site rjscreativeadventures.com? That was the link I had bookmarked. Geocities is gone forever, but would that domain be easier to work from? *shrugs*

And yes, it is good to see this script again! I think I've identified some of the same issues/questions you found (what is Walter's actual job? what are Svetlana's motivations?), though we picked different answers. Looking at your Programme, a few things strike me:

  • Making Anatoly the established champion and Freddie the challenger obviously upsets the story dynamics, but it's a nice acknowledgement of real chess history, where (if I remember correctly) most of the champions during that era were Soviet. And it gives Freddie a more coherent story arc too. (Though of course any one-match story structure is better in that sense than London was, what with Freddie's Act II interview gig, The Deal interference, and then sudden turnaround in Talking Chess.) Has any production ever taken this approach? Plus your mapping the Freddie-Florence relationship with Freddie's career was a particularly clever move.

  • Molokov, "Anatoly’s second and head of the Soviet Chess Federation" -- I think this was the second-most drastic change Inoticed? I personally associate Molokov very strongly with the KGB, so seeing that element removed from his character was a bit of a surprise. But this version of the character works really well -- you've given him reason and justification to perform all the same actions, though potentially for more purely chess-focused motives than political. How ironic that he and Walter, who in London were the most explicitly political characters, now have that element completely excised (in the American productions, Walter is only a businessman/commercial agent without his CIA connections, but even in those versions, Molokov is still a KGB guy.) Or hm, it seems like you've removed London's political element to focus more on the personal dramas?

  • Walter as the American Chess Federation's head of marketing -- from all the roles that he's played in different versions of the show (journalist/TV anchor, Freddie's personal manager, CIA agent....), I don't think he's ever had that specific connection to the American Chess Federation as an organization. Again, given his London dedication to politics, his employment by the Chess organization here is amusingly ironic. But your description really makes that work, and in hindsight I almost wonder how he could have been anything else.

  • Arbiter -- you mention that he "still believes that chess is a game of cerebral supremacy and nothing whatsoever to do with money, fame or politics." So would you characterize him as somewhat naïve, if he really believes his efforts will be respected and successful? Or does he acknowledge that while chess should be just about the game, in practice it is all about money, fame, and politics, and therefore all his efforts to preserve the match are futile? Sydney's Arbiter was very much the latter (the most so of any recorded Arbiter I'm familiar with) -- his voice practically drips with grumpy, bitter sarcasm and self-awareness whenever he talks.

  • You're missing a Svetlana entry here? I'd love to see what kind of description you give her and her story arc.) (She's my favorite character, and then the Arbiter is my second-favorite, so I apologize in advance if I end up rambling a lot about them instead of the actual main characters of the show.)
rjschess: pic#121678020rjschess on August 27th, 2013 06:14 pm (UTC)
Hi zedille,

Thanks for much for your comments on the script. To be honest I haven't read it myself for such a long time, I need to go back and look at it and re think many ideas and thoughts etc. from way back then.

It was, however, great to read what you thought about it and it has certainly made me start thinking about it all again.

A few replies to your questions and thoughts:

My current web site address is now http://rjscreatives.weebly.com/ I stopped paying for the domain name, so it now has weebly within the address. I've not done much on there for ages - but this week I have added a Gothenburg page, with full details of how that production was staged. (I was holding off from posting about it, as I had decided to create an RJSChess site, but feel free to have a look at it on the RJS site in the meantime if you are interested.) http://rjscreatives.weebly.com/-chess-gothenburg.html

Molokov, "Anatoly’s second and head of the Soviet Chess Federation"...... I must admit that I did see this 'title' as a sort of cover for Molokov, and although this is his 'role' he would certainly have some connection with the KGB. This probably would need pointed up more within the script, but I kind of seen him as the 'public' chess face of the KGB and in some ways, he would almost be as controlled by the people above him as Anatoly is by Molokov.

Walter as the American Chess Federation's head of marketing.... I really wanted to make Walter someone who did actually have a 'reason' for being there, a proper job, thus a proper character. Again, I did imagine him as having some 'heavy' clients and political connections and these little additional strands of character and motives etc, were the kind of things I would have further developed during the imagined workshops etc. I'm glad you feel it's a plausible 'official' role for him to have.

The Arbiter.... He is an idealist, and 'wishes' that chess had nothing to do with politics, money etc. These are his aims and he strives to make sure the sportsmanship of the game survives, despite everything that constantly puts that in jeopardy. He really does not like what is happening to the game, but the only way he can have some influence is to stay in there, keep pushing the rules and do as much damage limitation as he possibly can. I think he really has devoted his life to this aim.

Svetlana... WOW! I kinda forgot to mention Svetlana!!!!! I guess I had not really formalised what I wanted the character to be, or not enough. I would need to read back through a lot of stuff to really give her a detailed description, but I certainly see her as somebody who has had to work hard for where she has got. By that I mean, work hard at being the wife of a chess champion - NOT an easy thing to be. I feel she has struggled with the many hours, days, weeks when she would hardly see him. I feel that part of what she did, was help Anatoly retain his sanity, he may not really be aware of what she has done for him, but she certainly is and feels that for that, he owes her. Likewise, after all the time and effort she has invested in him, she does not want to lose him. She really does know him so well and knows that in reality, Florence really does not mean that much to him - she is a trinket, a prize and a 'change of scene'. Svetlana is certain, that Anatoly has simply got swept along with something that she thinks could possibly have been instigated by Molokov - she knows him well too! (That's a very brief outline of a few thoughts. I will certainly add Svetland to the programme soon.)

Anyway, thanks again for taking the time to give so much feeback.

Best wishes, RJS
zédille: Pooh and pigletzedille on August 28th, 2013 09:40 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for the Gothenburg synopsis! There's been a lot of speculation from people in fandom (me included) about what was going on in that production, since the visual style was so distinct. We were all really curious about what was happening behind Anatoly's sudden appearance in a wheelchair in the trailer (the "Anatoly pretends he had health issues to explain his recent choices" thing sounds familiar, but I don't think it's ever played such a large role in any staged production before) and having such a detailed description and synopsis is really just amazing. Did you get to see the show yourself? I don't suppose you took any recordings? It's in bad taste to ask like this, but inquiring minds want to know!

Whoops, it looks like I missed the subtext that you intended with Molokov and Walter, then! I'm sure that would have been more noticeable via the story/script itself. Molokov being controlled by his superiors would also be an interesting theme to include -- London seems to paint him as ~the face of the Soviet Establishment~, representing all its authority without suffering any consequences, while Broadway and later productions hint at it with the "no one cares what you think!" conversation. Still, if his acknowledged job is with the Soviet Chess Federation, then in a way his first loyalties are still [ostensibly] with chess. It's a very thought-provoking change, whereas the mostly money-motivated Walter, with secondary political interests and connections, already exists in Broadway/some of the American versions, though it seems that you're following a middle line and including more of the London CIA stuff via implication.

Your Arbiter description puts me in mind of Michael Cormick's performance from the Danish tour. Unfortunately his efforts will always be unsuccessful... (I really feel sorry for the guy.)

I really enjoyed your thoughts on Svetlana, and I look forward to seeing her character entry in your programme! Reading your script synopsis, and now with your comments here, I really enjoy how you've thought through the character and her experiences, motivations, and actions. Too many stage versions use her as a plot device for inducing Act II angst in the Florence-Anatoly relationship without properly thinking through what a real person would feel or do in that situation (dating back to London and Svetlana saying in IKHSW that Anatoly should go with Florence -- is she looking out for her children's interests at all?), and later versions, while treating her as more of a person, still "stack the deck" to create the desired affect (most obviously in the 2002 Chess på Svenska's portrayal of her as a shrewish, unpleasant woman to whom Florence compares favorably). So a particular highlight of your script was seeing how Svetlana really was treated as an organic person, with just as many wishes and thoughts and feelings as the other characters, and those are just as legitimate as everyone else's. Your Svetlana knows what she wants, and takes action to secure what she wants. And she voices her concerns directly to Florence (I don't think any staged production has ever really included a conversation as blunt as the Florence-Svetlana interaction you describe in your version of The Deal), so your interpretation of IKHSW also made a lot more sense than most show's versions (and also it's a lot simpler than my theory, that Svetlana was deliberately playing up the "oh you're better for Anatoly" angle with Florence to guilt-trip her and get her to send Anatoly back).

Thanks again for sharing all this with us! I am always open to talk about Chess, and would be happy to talk more about your script, if you'd like :)
rjschess: pic#121678020rjschess on August 29th, 2013 06:59 pm (UTC)
I never thought to record the show - until during it, but even then I only recorded the Arbiter and Reprise - as I love the Swedish version of these. I also have the curtain call, which I LOVED, but the quality on all are low, but have uploaded a video of the Arbiter tracks and will do the curtain call at some point. You might enjoy hearing these.

rjschess: pic#121678020rjschess on August 29th, 2013 11:37 pm (UTC)
These video images are from TV coverage at the time - the links to the websites are on my Gothenburg videos page, they are slightly different in this edit, as I couldn't download them from the TV websites, so these are 'recorded' from my computer screen. They kinda worked ok for this project, but obviously they are also of poor quality.

The links are here http://rjscreatives.weebly.com/gothenburg-videos.html