|Yara Arts Group, now celebrating its 15th anniversary,
will perform "Koliada: Twelve Dishes," a new world music-theater
work based on ancient winter ritual songs from the Carpathians, from March
4 to 20. Contemporary scenes used in the production have been written by
Serhiy Zhadan, Ukraine's hottest young poet, who was leader of the tent
city in Kharkiv (the "Chicago" of Ukraine) during the country's
recent "Orange Revolution." The multidisciplinary theatrical work
is being created by director Virlana Tkacz in collaboration with Zhadan.
It centers on a midwinter ritual of the Carpathians in which the forces
of nature are invited to dinner. The cast mixes American performers of Yara
Arts Group with artists from Carpathians who will perform on traditional
instruments, including ten-foot wooden horns.
Work on "Koliada…" started in rehearsals conducted by
director Virlana Tkacz with Yara and Ukrainian artists in Kiev in November,
2004. It was presented as a work-in-progress during the Orange Revolution
at the Les Kurbas Center, only meters away from the demonstrations in
the Square. Yara is currently creating a new version of the piece for
Serhiy Zhadan is in New York for the rehearsal period and will be reading
his poetry, while Wanda Phipps and Virlana Tkacz will read their translations
of his work, on February 15 at 7:00 PM the Bowery Poetry Club, 308 Bowery.
For more information on Serhiy Zhadan and links to his poetry see http://www.brama.com/yara/zhadan-bowery.html
For the past two winters Yara's founding director, Virlana Tkacz, has
traveled to a village deep in the mountains and recorded ancient pre-Christian
winter solstice rituals and songs. The koliadas, as they are remembered
in the Carpathians, are sung incantations that assume the magical powers
of voiced words. They are some of the best preserved examples of oral
literature, hundreds of years old. Although beautiful Hutsul koliadas
had been collected by ethnographers at the end of the 19th and beginning
of 20th century in this region, most people assume that these ancient
songs were essentially lost. But the tradition has miraculously survived
over fifty years of Soviet persecution and has recently experienced a
revival. This is the first time these ritual songs have been adapted to
the American stage. For more on Yara's research trips and these rituals,
A fox, a thunderstorm and the spirits of the dead are called to the dinner
table in the pagan solstice ritual and in the show. The Koliada ritual
brings together the present with the past to create a greater community
of the living (both human and animal), the dead and nature who must cooperate
if the future, the next harvest, is to be bountiful. The production follows
the Yara Arts Group style of dramatizing ancient myths with movement,
world music, and songs sung in many languages. Songs and incantations
of the ritual have been translated for the show into English by Virlana
Tkacz and Wanda Phipps.
Each of the play's twelve scenes develops a theme from one of the dishes
of the feast, which include Kutia (a porridge of wheat, berries, poppy
seeds and honey), Borscht, Dumplings, Stuffed Cabbage, Potatoes, Corn,
Stewed Fruits, Beans and Pickled Fish. (The menu is meatless and dairy-less.)
The fox, thunderstorm and spirits of the dead reflect, in music and modern
poetry, on the fragility of their links to humanity. They examine the
traditional dishes and reveal the food's complex multicultural history.
The set, lights and costumes are by Watoku Ueno, Yara's resident designer
and founding member, who is an NEA/TCG award-winning designer. Photographs
are by Siberian photographer Alexander Khantaev. The piece features traditional
Hutsul winter songs sung by Ivan Zelenchuk with Dmytro Tafiychuk on folk
fiddle and trembita, a mountain horn. The cast includes Yara artists Andrew
Colteaux, Olenka Denysenko, Siho Ellsmore, Allison Hiroto, Olga Shuhan,
Vira Slywotzky, and Meredith Wright among others. The piece is multilingual,
but is easily accessible to English speaking audiences.
Director Virlana Tkacz heads the Yara Arts Group and has created fifteen
original theater pieces with the company, all of which had their American
premieres at La MaMa. She is the recipient of this year's National Endowment
for the Arts Poetry Translation Fellowship for her work with Wanda Phipps
on Serhiy Zhadan's newest verse. She is also the author with Sayan Zhambalov
and Wanda Phipps of the prize-winning book, "Shanar: Dedication Ritual
of a Buryat Shaman in Siberia" (Parabola, 2002).
Last spring at La MaMa, Yara Arts Group created "The Warrior's Sister."
American Theater Web (Laura Shea) wrote, "the performance reminds
us of what theater should be and rarely is-the opportunity to step to
a world that is virtually unknown to us." Yara's "Circle"
at La MaMa in the spring of 2000 was called "a stunningly beautiful
work (that) rushes at your senses, makes your heart pound, and shakes
your feelings loose." (Eva Yaa Asantewaa, The Village Voice)
Founded in 1990, Yara Arts Group, a resident company of La MaMa, 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 seven pieces based
on materials from Eastern Europe including: "A Light from the East,"
"Blind Sight," "Yara's Forest Song," and "Swan."
The New York Times (D.J.R. Bruckner) called "Waterfall/Reflections,"
a piece 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 also created seven theater pieces
with Buryat artists from Siberia.
Serhiy Zhadan is the most popular poet of the post-independence generation
in Ukraine. His work speaks to the disillusionment, difficulties and ironies
of life that the collapse of the Soviet Union has brought to the country.
Once, the enfant terrible of Ukrainian letters, now approaching 30, he
is acknowledged as the most important poet of the current decade, as well
as one of the leading voices of the last century. The magisterial anthology,
"A Hundred Years of Youth: Bilingual Anthology of 20th Century Ukrainian
Poetry" (Litopys: Lviv, 2000), which included the 100 best poets
of the twentieth century, concludes with a selection of his work. His
most recent published book of poetry, "History of Culture at the
Turn of This Century" (Kiev, 2003), has been the talk of literary
circles in Ukraine. His visible audience is young and vocal. They fill
large auditoriums for his readings and snap up his published books. Mr.
Zhadan also has earned deep respect among fellow poets and literary critics.
He is undoubtedly the most quoted contemporary writer in Ukraine.
"Koliada" was made possible, in part, by a grant from the Trust
for Mutual Understanding, the Self-Reliance (New York) Federal Credit
Union, the Alliance for Resident Theatre of New York, Yara's individual
contributors and with public funds from the New York State Council on
the Arts. For more information see Yara's web site, www.brama.com/yara/