Character Bios
Voyage begins in 1833 and moves forward in time to 1844. Below is information on the characters you will meet in the play.

When the House doors open (approximately 1/2 an hour before showtime) we will host a short "background chat" with historical and contextual information on the play for anyone interested in getting an early start.

Alexander Bakunin
The patriarch of the Bakunin Family
Age 65 at the beginning of
Call him a liberal if you like - but all he really wants is to hold this family together. Alexander spent most of his youth in Italy; he was sent there by his father, a man with a foul temper, who had little patience for his intellectual son with the delicate constitution. Alexander also was in France in 1789 and witnessed the storming of the Bastille. When Alexander's father died he inherited the Premukhino estate and lived as a bachelor until his 40s when he met eighteen year old Varvara and fell madly in love with the young woman.

Varvara Bakunin
Wife of Alexander
Age 42 at the beginning of
Alexander's wife and mother of four daughters and a very challenging son. Varvara's loyalty is wholly with her husband.

Liubov Bakunin
Daughter of Alexander and Varvara
Age 22 at the beginning of
The eldest daughter; the first to be engaged, the first to change her mind. At the beginning of the play she is engaged to Baron Renne, a cavalry officer.

Varenka Bakunin
Daughter of Alexander and Varvara
Age 21 at the beginning of
Varenka marries a cavalry officer named Dyakov, who Varenka desribes as "all right...we can't all be philosophers when it comes to love."

Tatiana Bakunin
Daughter of Alexander and Varvara
Age 18 at the beginning of
Tatiana has a passion for literature and artists. And a sportsman.

Alexandra Bakunin
Daughter of Alexander and Varvara
Age 17 at the beginning of
The youngest Bakunin daughter who would marry Pushkin if she could.

Michael Bakunin
Son of Alexander and Varvara
Russian radical/anarchist
Age 19 at the beginning of
Later in life he will become known as the father of anarchism. He wrote: "The passion for destruction is a creative passion." In Voyage he is intent upon guiding his sisters (his father would argue controlling his sisters) and finding the true philosophy. With Michael we see a revolutionary in the making.

At Moscow University Bakunin was influenced by other radicals such as Alexander Herzen. In 1842 he left for Europe and in Paris he met George Sand (with whom he became friends) and also Karl Marx. In 1844 he was ordered back to Russia after publishing radical articles. He refused to return. In 1849 he was arrested in Dresden, Germany for participating in the Czech rebellion of 1848. He was deported to Russia where he was initially sentenced to death. His sentence was reduced to hard labor and in 1857 he was sent to Siberia. Bakunin escaped via Japan in 1861, traveling to San Francisco and then New York, finally arriving in London where he worked with Alexander Herzen on the radical publication The Bell. Bakunin became highly influential to young radicals in Europe and in Russia.

Bakunin was an advocate of anarchy and strongly disagreed with Karl Marx:

"They [the Marxists] maintain that only a dictatorship—their dictatorship, of course—can create the will of the people, while our answer to this is: No dictatorship can have any other aim but that of self-perpetuation, and it can beget only slavery in the people tolerating it; freedom can be created only by freedom, that is, by a universal rebellion on the part of the people and free organization of the toiling masses from the bottom up."
M. Bakunin in Statism and Anarchism

Alexander Herzen said of Michael Bakunin: "This man was born not under an ordinary star, but under a comet."

Vissarion Belinsky
A literary critic
Age 25 at the beginning of
Belinsky wants nothing more than to be a literary critic even though he believes that Russia has no literature - yet. In Voyage he begins work on the Telescope literary journal. Belinsky was a literary critic, social thinker, essayist, known as "furious Vissarion", often called the father of the Russian radical intelligentsia. Vissarion Belinsky believed passionately that Russian literature had to progress beyond the native form of Russian folk poetry. Literature should honestly reflect the reality of the country and transform society. "We will have our literature. What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. Our external life is an insult. But we have produced Pushkin..."

Natalie Beyer
Age 20 at the beginning of Voyage
A passionate young woman who believes there is more to life than philosophy.

Peter Chaadaev
A philosopher/writer
Age 41 at the beginning of
Some scholars believe that Pushkin's character Eugene Onegin is modeled after Peter Chaadaev, who wrote one of the most inflammatory articles of the day:' The Philosophical Letters.' Chaadaev wrote that Russia remained a backwards country steeped in superstition. "We have no history and no past. We belong to none of the great families of mankind; we are neither of the West nor of the East and we possess the traditions of neither…Historical experience does not exist for us…Isolated in the world, we have given nothing to the world, we have taken nothing from the world; we have not added a single idea to the mass of human ideas; we have contributed nothing to the progress of the human spirit." After 'The Philosophical Letters' were published in The Telescope, Tsar Nicholas I promptly shut down the journal, exiled the editor, and declared Chaadaev a madman and placed him under house arrest.

Alexander Herzen
A revolutionary
Age 22 at the beginning of
Herzen is known as the "father of modern socialism". His work played a key role in the emancipation of the serfs in Russia in 1861. After completing studies at Moscow University in 1834 he was arrested for attending a festival at which a song criticizing the Tsar was sung. He spent six years in prison and returned to Moscow in 1840. In 1847 he left Russia and lived in exile in Europe for the rest of his life. He continued to work for socialist causes and to affect change in Russia.

The writings of Alexander Herzen served as a key inspiration for Stoppard to write The Coast of Utopia. Herzen wrote and edited the radical newspaper The Bell which was described by American liberal critic Dwight Macdonald called the Bell "perhaps the most effective muckraking magazine in radical history."

Tom Stoppard wrote of Herzen: "In Moscow in the early 1830s, among the young men and women of the educated elite, there were two related but distinct responses to Tsarist absolutism (where there was a response at all), both of them nurtured in the student body of Moscow University: the 'philosophical circle', and the 'political circle', amicably decried by each other as 'German sentimentalists' and 'French frondeurs'. Both circles were tiny. The philosophicals took refuge from unpleasant reality in the 'inner liberation' offered by German idealism. Their most famous alumnus turned out to be Bakunin. Meanwhile, the politicals studied the French Revolution and the Utopian Socialists. Their leader was young Herzen."

Belinsky's mistress.
Age 21 at the beginning of
She proves that you do not need an education to see the truth.

Nicholas Ketscher
A doctor
Age 28 at the beginning of
One of Alexander Herzen's radical friends; a medical doctor who also translates Shakespeare in his spare time. In Herzen's memoir he describes first meeting Ketscher: "We were inseparable friends; from that minute the anger and kindness, the laugh and shout of Ketscher have resounded at all the stages in all the adventures of our lives." (pg. 103) My Past & Thoughts: Memoirs of Alexander Herzen

Nicholas Ogarev
Poet and radical
Age 21 at the beginning of
Nicholas Ogarev was the life-long friend of Alexander Herzen. He collaborated with Herzen, shared his views on socialism. Herzen included one of Ogarev's poems in his autobiography The Past and Recollections. Ogarev's poem is entitled Old Home and describes his friendship with Herzen:

The house stands there sadly decaying,
The greenery plaster is spread.
The cloud up above moves so sadly
And weeps for the life that's been led.

Here's the small room that in old days
We shared with one mind and one soul,
Remember the thoughts that one soared there,
The dreams, the forgotten lost goal.

Glad friendship grew up in this chamber.
And oh, the past joy that we knew,
But since then it's fallen to pieces,
In corners the spider webs grew.

Nicholas Polevoy
Editor of the Moscow Telegraph
Age 38 at the beginning of
Polevoy describes the Telegraph as the "lone voice for reform." Polevoy wanted to reach a larger audience - not simply aristocrats. Although The Telegraph was a literary journal, Polevoy's frequently found ways to criticize the aristocracy and began to attract the attention of the Tsar. When Polevoy wrote a highly critical review of a patriotic play by Kukolnik entitled The Hand of the Almighty Saved the Fatherland the Tsar had enough and he closed down the Telegraph.

Alexander Pushkin
Russian Poet 1799-1837
The most celebrated Russian writer of his times. He was also popular with the radical circle as he often advocated for social reforms. He was subject to censorship, was exiled in the 1820's for speaking against the government.

Pushkin gained fame with the serial publication of Eugene Onegin (published between 1825-1832; first full edition was published in 1833). This "novel" was written entirely in verse. Onegin is a charming, intelligent but idle young man who attracts the attention of Tatiana, an idealistic, passionate young woman. Tatiana writes Onegin a letter expressing her love for him. Onegin meets Tatiana and tells her that if he was capable of love, he would choose her. But he confesses that he would simply grow bored with her – or any woman and encourages her to forget him. Tatiana is heart broken. Shortly thereafter, Onegin’s best friend challenges him to a duel believing that Onegin has betrayed him. Pushkin includes language in his novel regarding the absurdity of duels – a tragic irony given that Pushkin loses his life in a duel. Onegin agrees to the duel and kills his friend; afterwards he is a broken man. Years later, Onegin sees Tatiana at a ball – she is a changed woman, very refined and married to a much older man. Onegin realizes that he loved her deeply all along. He meets Tatiana who confesses that she still loves him deeply but will not leave her husband. She believes she must follow the rules of society. Throughout Voyage you will hear several references to Eugene Onegin and the choice at the end of the tale.

George Sand
French novelist 1804-1876
George Sand is not a character in the play but she is mentioned so frequently she may as well be! French novelist Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin took the pen name of George Sand. In 1833 she published her first novel, Indiana, which ignited much controversy as the central character, a married woman named Indiana, falls in love with a dashing rogue. She leaves her husband not once but twice. Indiana chooses to follow her heart despite the conventions of society. George Sand herself caused quite a stir as she left her husband behind to pursue a career as a novelist. She became famous not only for her passionate novels but also for her love affairs. George Sand defied convention to stay true to herself. Sand wrote: “…I solemnly vow…that I shall raise woman from her abject position, both through myself and my writing, God will help me!...let female slavery also have its Spartacus. That shall I be, or perish in the attempt.” In Voyage you will hear many references – mostly from the women in the play – about this “philosopher of love.” Indeed, you may find that there is a division between the men and women in Voyage regarding the influence of George Sand.

Nicholas Sazonov
Russian radical
Age 22 at the beginning of
Sazonov was part of Herzen's "circle" at Moscow University. He later leaves Russia and continues working for socialist causes in Paris, Geneva and is reunited with Herzen in Nice. Herzen speaks fondly of his youth in Moscow in his memoirs and of meeting Sazonov.

Stepan Shevyrev
Editor of the Moscow Observer
Age 29 at the beginning of Voyage
The first editor of the Moscow Observer, a literary journal that promotes Russian literature as long as it passes the censor. Shevyrev published a critique of Gogol - both supporting his work and sharply criticizing it. Shevyrev felt that Gogol was responsible for a harmful influence on Russian culture, by consistently focusing on its faults. He felt that he focused far too much on what was vulgar in society, without offering any hope for the future.

Nicholas Stankevich
A young philosopher
Age 22 at the beginning of
Stankevich was the leader of the literary/philosophical circle that formed amongst a group of young intellectuals in Moscow. Biographer E.H. Carr writes of Stankevich: "Men and women fell irresistibly in love with him. He was the first important intellectual influence in Michael Bakunin's life..." Nicholas Stankevich wrote:

"Art is becoming divinity for me, and I keep repeating one thing: friendship...and art! That is the world in which man must live, if he does not want to be like an animal! That is the beneficial sphere in which he must reside to be worthy of himself - that is the fire with which he must warm and cleanse his soul."

Ivan Turgenev
"A sportsman"; later a poet/novelist
Age 23 at the beginning of
We meet Turgenev before he becomes the famous author of novels such as Fathers and Sons. In Voyage, he just hopes to write a decent poem one day. Turgenev graduated from the University at St. Petersburg. He also traveled to Germany as a young man and after the publication of his poetry he devoted himself to literature and travel. He spent time at the Bakunin's estate at Premukhino and wrote poetry to Tatiana Bakunin; alas, he soon lost interest in her. Instead, he fell in love with Pauline Garcia Viardot, an opera singer. She was married however and he lived in a state of unrequited love - although there was a period when Turgenev actually lived with Viardot and her husband.

Shotgun Players | 1901 Ashby Avenue | Berkeley, CA 94703 | 510-841-6500