“If in the first act there is a loaded rifle hung on the wall, then in the following one it should still be there, fastened tightly to the wall above the mantle. We don’t need another St. Petersburg.”

— Chekhov, letter to Vera Komissarzhevskaya, 21 October 1897

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“If you say in the first chapter that there is a livestock farmer who is building a prototypical type of fence, then he should show off the completed design in the second or third chapter and proclaim, ‘This is what separates us from the animals.’ If he is not going to use that line, there is no reason for him to be building the fence.”

— From Note-Book of Anton Chekhov, (1921)

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“If the patron’s first act experience dissolves into a surreal gallery of silhouettes, hair and reactive emotion, the patron should hail the usher. In most cases, the patron will be turned to face the stage.”

— Chekhov, letter to Aleksey Suvorin, 12 June 1899

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“If you put a mutilated seagull carcass on stage during the second act, then it absolutely must be taken outside before the third begins. Otherwise shit is going to stink.”

— Chekhov, letter to Constantin Stanislavski, 15 March 1898

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“Each time Uncle Vanya speaks of dashed hopes, eat a handful of curds and peas. Whenever a gunshot is heard offstage, finish your beer.”

— From S. Shchukin, Memoirs, (1911)

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“If an axe is referenced in the third act, then it must be swung against an orchard in the fourth, precisely as the final curtain closes, for maximum dramatic effect. Unless it’s the Friday show. Then a fifth act picks up right where the fourth ended, and you better believe all bets are off.”

— From Gurlyand’s Reminiscences of A. P. Chekhov, (1904)

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“Why would you leave a loaded baked potato in the kitchen if we’re out of sour cream? That’s like hanging a rifle in the ah screw it I’ll just eat the stroganoff.”

— Chekhov, note written on back of cocktail napkin to Olga Knipper, 1 November 1901