Dec 9, 2023

SpaceBridge Presentation

SpaceBridge Theater Project

Irina Kruzhilina

a black arrow pointing downward

SpaceBridge is a live performance and installation which explores the impact of political and cultural polarization on youth. It revolves around the story of Russian youth who have recently arrived in the New York area due to Russia's criminal invasion of Ukraine. The project delves into their journey of integration into American society and their wrestling with questions of heritage, collective responsibility, and guilt by association at a time when these young individuals face a lack of empathy because of their origin.

SpaceBridge draws its inspiration from the 1983 peace mission by 12-year-old American activist Samantha Smith to the USSR, who managed to bridge Russian and American children during the Cold War; and the satellite-mediated spacebridges: "citizens' debates" that facilitated the first unfiltered conversations between ordinary Russians and Americans across two continents.

A note from Irina Kruzhilina:

As an integral element of developing SpaceBridge, we are currently facilitating a series of creative workshops, hosted by La Mama ETC, with young Russian refugees (most of whom live in shelters and entered the country by crossing the US-Mexico border) and their American peers. The workshops were designed to use art and performance as a tool to engage youth in critical conversations about what it means to be a young Russian refugee in the Western world now, and will culminate in a small friends and family showcase on December 9th, 2023.

The workshops consist of two parts. In the first phase ten Russian refugee teens came together
as a group to share their story and process their feeling of loss and grief. This provided them with the realization that their challenges and emotions were not unique. They revisited the experience of their departure, documented their dramatic journeys in a communal map, and eloquently described their first experiences upon arrival in the US.

During the subsequent half, the Russian participants teamed up with a group of American-born youth, redirecting the emphasis towards nurturing connections and mutual understanding between the two groups. They exchanged cultural insights, discovered similarities and differences, and together envisioned a world where their intercultural friendships are embraced and supported.

Engaging in diverse world-building creative activities, such as envisioning an inclusive school and an ideal town, planning an unconventional UN General Assembly camp, creating imaginative tools to address alienation between Russia and the United States, they are provided with an opportunity to imagine what an alternative future characterized by peace and cooperation could entail.

The creative workshops produced a tremendous collective creative output that will play a pivotal role in shaping the script and visuals for our upcoming production. The 19 young adolescents involved have become co-authors of the project, and we eagerly anticipate bringing their stories to life in the coming year. But there is more. Beyond the artistic impact, these workshops have served as a creative refuge for the participants, holding a central place in their lives.

Irina Kruzhilina is a New York-based director, scenographer, visual dramaturg, experience designer and educator, creating work at the intersection of visual art, live performance, and civic engagement. Her creative endeavors range from interdisciplinary downtown theatre to large scale parades, from opera to site responsive installations. Since 2005, her work has been shown, locally and globally, at Times Square, Tokyo Disney, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Prague National Theatre, the NY Philharmonic, the XXI Commonwealth Games, Barbican Center, and many others. Irina has collaborated with acclaimed artists and organizations including Doug Fitch, Lars Jan, Dmitry Krymov, Geoff Sobelle, En Garde Arts, Mabou Mines, and Arlekin Players.

Irina is the founder of Visual Echo, a New York-based performance organization dedicated to facilitating generative dialogues among people from diverse backgrounds. As the artistic director of Visual Echo Irina has conceived and directed several original productions, including Journey of a Dream, a cross-generational venture developed in collaboration with Peace Child International in commemoration of the UN’s 75th Anniversary, and “Мис”Translation, an interactive installation delving into the artistic potential of verbal and artistic mis-matches.

As an educator, Irina is dedicated to facilitating collaborative artistic exchange among theatre makers from different backgrounds, fostering generous creative educational environments that value a diversity of approaches and ideas. Irina holds the position of associate professor at the New School of Drama, where she co-developed a new MFA program in Contemporary Theatre and Performance. In addition to her work at the New School, Irina serves as a guest lecturer at various educational institutions in the US and worldwide.

Irina is a former NEA/TCG Career Development Program recipient and Target Margin TheatreInstitute Fellow. She holds an MFA in design from California Institute of the Arts, and an MFA in fashion design from the Textile University of Moscow.

La MaMa Kids


La MaMa Kids Online presents kids performances and hands-on workshops online, timed especially for “after school” viewing! La MaMa will continue to use emerging technologies to create a new venue for artistic expression that questions how art can function and how we as a society can survive challenging periods of history.

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