OBO: OUR SHAMANISM

Performance Schedule:
March 15, April 1, 2001
First Floor Theatre
Thursday - Sunday 8:00pm
Sunday Matinee 2:30pm
$15.00


Yara Arts Group, a resident company of La MaMa, creates new World Music-Theater pieces by combining stunning singing, breath-taking design and the oldest folk sources imaginable. Last summer, members of Yara journeyed to the Buryat Aginsk region of Siberia to record shaman rituals. "Obo: Our Shamanism" was born from this experience. The piece, directed by Virlana Tkacz, features documentary footage of a shaman ritual from Buryatia, meditations on what the artists experienced and traditional Buryat Mongolian music, folk song and throat singing.

As of this writing, "Obo: Our Shamanism" is being created in rehearsals by director Virlana Tkacz and Buryat artists Sayan Zhambalov and Erzhena Zhambalov, Badmahanda Aiusheyeva, Mariana Sadovska and Battuvshin. The piece will be based on music and rituals the artists observed and recorded last summer in Siberia. Music will be by Erzhena Zhambalov with additional songs by Mariana Sadovska. Set and lights will be by Watoku Ueno and video will be by Andrea Odezynska. The show will feature the soaring vocals of Badmahanda Aiusheyeva and Mariana Sadovska, as well as virtuoso instrumentals and throat singing by Battuvshin and Sayan Zhambalov.

"Obo: Our Shamanism" was preceded in December, 2000 by Yara's "Song Tree," a work that was also born of the troupe's field research in Ukraine last summer. In that production, spirits of ancient myths descended on a woman who had buried herself in work and science. It contained music based on beautiful polyphonic women's songs that Yara members recorded in the villages of Poltava.

Director Virlana Tkacz heads the Yara Arts Group and has created ten original theater pieces with the company, all of which had their American premieres at La MaMa. Videographer Andrea Odezynska is known for her film, "Dora Was Dysfunctional," which won awards at the Hamptons Film Festival and Rotterdam Film Festival and was an Academy Awards Short Subject Finalist. The set and lights are by Watoku Ueno, resident designer and founding member of Yara Arts Group. The piece is multilingual but is easily accessible to English speaking audiences. Many of the traditional songs are translated into English by Sayan Zhambalov, Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps.

Sayan and Erzhena Zhambalov have worked with Yara Arts Group since 1996. They live in the Buryat Republic in Siberia and are considered the premiere artists of their generation. They perform as the band "Uragsha" with Battuvshin and Badmahanda Aiusheyeva. They have played traditional Buryat Music at the Museum of Natural History and the Knitting Factory and Joe's Pub and performed to a sold-out auditorium at the World Music Institute last spring.

Maryana Sadovska worked with Yara on the group's first project in Ukraine, titled "In the Light." For the last ten years she has worked at the Gardzienice Center for Theatre Practices in Poland as actor and musical director. She has appeared in that theater's productions of "The Life of Protopope Awwakum," "Carmina Burana" and "Metamorphosis or The Golden Ass," which she co-created using ancient Greek music. Last month she appeared in Gardzienice's "Metamorphosis..." at La MaMa. In December, she appeared in Yara's "Song Tree," which she helped to create at La MaMa.

Founded in 1990, Yara Arts Group creates original pieces that explore timely issues rooted in the East through the diverse cultural perspectives of the group's members. Yara artists are of Asian, African, Eastern and Western European ethnic origin. They bring together poetry, song, historical materials and scientific texts, primarily from the East, to form what one critic described as "extended meditation on an idea." The company has created six pieces based on materials from Eastern Europe including "A Light from the East," "Blind Sight," "Yara's Forest Song," and "Waterfall/Reflections." The New York Times (D.J.R. Bruckner) called "Waterfall/Reflections," developed with folk singer Nina Matvienko, "a theatrical enchantment given cohesion by choreographed movement and by music on a prodigal scale." Since 1996 Yara has created four more theater pieces with Buryat artists from Siberia, notably "Circle" (March 2000), an exhilarating World Music-Theater work. The Village Voice called it "a stunningly beautiful work [that] rushes at your senses, makes your heart pound, and shakes your feelings loose." Backstage (Irene Backalenick) praised the intermingling of Buddhism and Shamanism, music and dance in this "haunting" work, citing its rich singing and exciting staging and deeming the production a "rich, exotic experience that holds us in its thrall." Rhythm Magazine (Michal Shapiro) wrote, "The next time someone tells you that the Yara Arts Group at La MaMa is putting on a show, go see it! It isn't often that one can enjoy such a satisfying evening of theatre perfectly fused with music. This is what good art is all about--exhilarating, uplifting and entertaining. And for the world music lover, it is a feast of gorgeous singing, authentic costuming and masterly instrumentals. "

"Obo: Our Shamanism" will be accompanied by a photo exhibit, "Portraits of Siberian Shamans," featuring works by Siberian photographer Alexander Khantaev, who accompanied Yara on trips to record the Shamans. The exhibit will be open March 21 to April 1 at La MaMa's visual art space, La Galleria, 6 East First Street. Hours are Thursdays through Sundays from 1:oo pm to 6:00 pm. There is no admission charge. The artist's reception will 6:00-9:00 pm Wednesday March 21.

"Obo: Our Shamanism" was made possible, in part, by Yara's numerous individual contributors and with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Cultural Challenge Program and the New York State Council on the Arts.
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