La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club

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Box Office: M–Su 12–6p




Raven

By Yara Arts Group

April 8 – April 24, 2011


Thursday – Saturday at 7:30pm
Sunday at 2:30pm
Opens Friday, April 8, 2011

Exploring the unknowable boundaries

Performance inspired by the poetry Oleh Lysheha,
Created Virlana Tkacz with Yara Arts Group and Ukrainian artists
With: Andrew Colteaux, Maren Bush, Sean Eden & Kat Yew
Music by Alla Zagaykevych, Movement by Shigeko Suga,
Songs performed by Aurelia Shrenker & Eva Salina Primack (Ash/Æ)
Projections by Volodymyr Klyuzko/ and Mikhail Shraga
Costumes: Keiko Obremski, lights: David Bonilla

“Raven” is a performance piece created by Virlana Tkacz with Yara Arts Group and Ukrainian artists, inspired by Oleh Lysheha’s poem of the same title. Acknowledged by many to be the best contemporary poet in Ukraine, Oleh Lysheha is a “poet’s poet.” The 1999 book, “The Selected Poems of Oleh Lysheha” (Harvard University Press) was awarded the PEN Translation Prize.

“Raven” speaks to our desire to explore unknowable boundaries. Sharply delineated details from everyday life transform to reveal the true nature of reality. Birds, trees and fruit bear messages for the careful observer. The forest protects the secrets of the invisible path. Yara’s production uses music, movement, song and voice to explore the images of the poem, which is spoken both in the original and in its English translation by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps.

“Raven” features Andrew Colteaux, who previously appeared in Yara’s “Swan” (1993), a work based on Lysheha’s poetry; Sean Eden, who appeared in the first Yara pieces, Kat Yew, who appeared in Yara’s last two winter projects, are joined by Maren Bush. Music is by electronic composer Alla Zagaykevych who combines traditional classical music with contemporary multidisciplinary projects such as installations and performances and has been a leading proponent of electronic music in Ukraine since the 1990s. American singers Aurelia Shrenker and Eva Salina Primack (who sing together as the duo Ash/Æ) will be heard in Appalachian and East European songs they have specially recorded for this production. Movement is by Yara’s Shigeko Suga, who is also a member of La MaMa’s Great Jones Repertory. Projections are by Volodymyr Klyuzko/k.kava from Kyiv and Yara’s Mikhail Shraga. Costumes are by Keiko Obremski; lighting is by David Bonilla.

Oleh Lysheha was born in the Carpathian region of Ukraine in 1949 and studied English at the University of Lviv. Expelled from school during the purges in 1972 for contributing to the literary journal Skrynia (Chest), he was sent to Siberia to serve his term in the army in the Buryat Republic. This initiated his interest in Asian philosophy, arts and culture which would eventually become a major influence on his work. Returning to Ukraine, Lysheha settled in Kyiv and worked on his poetry while holding menial jobs. He managed to totally isolate himself from the official literary world and his first collection of poetry, “The Great Bridge” (1989), was truly unique. His other books include “To Snow and Fire” (2002) and “Friend Li Bo, Brother Du Fu” (2010). Yara Arts Group staged Lysheha’s poem “Swan” at La MaMa Experimental Theatre in New York and at Harvard University in 2003. You can read Yara’s translation of “Raven” by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps at: www.brama.com/yara/lys11.html.

Virlana Tkacz is the artistic director of Yara Arts Group and has created twenty one productions with the company, all of which had their American premieres at La MaMa. Reviewing Tkacz’s production of “Scythian Stones” with Nina Matvienko last year, Michael Bettencourt (Off Off Online) named it “Pick of the Week” and wrote, “The performance builds what good theatre should always build: an alternate world that allows us to re-learn and reflect upon the great questions at the core of our being human.”

Founded in 1990, Yara Arts Group (www.brama.com/yara), 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 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 eleven pieces based on materials from Ukraine and Eastern Europe, including “A Light from the East,” “Blind Sight,” “Yara’s Forest Song,” “Swan,” “Winter Sun,” and “Waterfall/Reflections.” Yara has also created six theater pieces with Buryat artists from Siberia, three with artists from Kyrgyzstan and two based on Japanese material.

The production of “Raven” at La MaMa was made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Self-Reliance (NY) FCU and numerous friends of Yara Arts Group.

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