BRAMA, Jan 1, 2005, 6:00 pm ET
Ukrainian Christmas Pageant performs in Maryland
By Natalie Gawdiak
Kensington, MD (Dec. 29, 2004) Washington area Ukrainian Americans and other Americans were treated to a unique, colorful presentation of Ukrainian Christmas traditions, by a cast of over 35 players including many talented children, most of whom have recently arrived in the United States. Written, directed and produced by Dana and Roman Loun, the five part presentation was performed mostly in the Ukrainian language with a brief prologue in English. Despite the presence of so many children in important roles, the pace of the play-often a problem with such productions-was fast moving and professional.
The stunning costumes and props, created with loving detail by Dana Loun, were evocations of the spirit of Christmas, at once ethereal and decorative. Youngsters were dressed as the angels, the Christmas star, Christmas Eve, and a Christmas tree, as well as Ukrainian carolers, and shepherds from various regions of Ukraine. Adults and older youth appeared as St. Nicholas, important historical figures from Ukraine's Christian past, and Herod.
The flute duet by young women in Ukrainian native costume was a lovely, winsome opening, a peaceful counterbalance to the commercialization of all things related to Christmas.
An adult quartette, consisting of Maria Kaminsky, Halyna Stupen, Halyna Bodnar, and Natalya Petryk, was accompanied by both bandura and bells as well as violin, played by Olexander Tomenko. Their rendition of the famous shedryk, "Carol of the Bells" was quite beautiful. Other carols were sung by the younger singers, including an amazingly professional, fearless four-year old. These children most certainly seem destined for musical careers. The performance deviated from tradition briefly near its conclusion when a few bars of the new Ukrainian Orange Revolution anthem was sung ("We are many; we shall not be overcome!"). The performance, dedicated to Viktor Yuschenko, was advertised on orange paper flyers.
The gratis production took place at the 27th Annual Festival of Lights, Temple Visitors' Center, in Kensington, Maryland. Although the venue was within the grounds of the Mormon Temple, the presentation had no other connection with the Mormon religion. The concert hall, which holds 700, was nearly full to capacity for the two shows, given on Wednesday evening at 7 and at 8. Among the spectators were the Mrs. Reznik and the Honorable Mykhailo Reznik, Ukraine's ambassador to the U.S., as well as an audience that reflected the multiethnic diversity of today's America.
With more financial backing, this production can hopefully someday be enhanced by painted backdrops. The production was put on by the Louns' Power of Spirit Society, a non-profit organization. Sponsors of the event included the International Union of Ukrainian Businessmen, Inc., Western Union, Meest America, Inc., Ukrainian Selfreliance New England FCU, the Chopivsky Family Foundation, and Halyna and Olexander Woskobunyk. Media sponsors included Ukrainian Weekly Mict; Raio NYNI, and Zkordonna Gazeta. Patrons included the Embassy of Ukraine in the US, the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the U.S. and the Consulate General of Ukraine in New York
The first presentation this year took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on December 21. Subsequent performances will be given in Connecticut (January 2, St. Michael's Church in Hartford), New Jersey (January 8, Ukrainian Orthodox Cultural Center, South Bound Brook), and Pennsylania (January 9, Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculae Conception, Philadelphia and January 16, Ukrainian Educational and Cultural Center). Further information about the production or its schedule may be obtained by contacting Power of Spirit Society, P.O. Box 344, 8001 Castor Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19152-2701. Tel. (215) 469-0910.
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