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Virlana Tkacz at Yara's 15th Anniversary

photo by Paul Grappell

Filmmakers Andrea Odezynska and Katherine Barnier answering questions

photo by Stefan Tur

Vira Slywotzky and Allison Hiroto sing a "koliada" or winter song

photo by Stefan Tur

Nina Ariadna in front of slide of the "koliadnyky" or winter song singers

photo by Stefan Tur

Tom Lee and Nina Arianda read Serhiy Zhadan's poetry

photo composition by Stefan Tur

Meredith Wright and Allison Hiroto sing Buryat songs

photo by Stefan Tur

Virlana Tkacz and filmmaker Amy Grappell

photo by Stefan Tur

Yara artists around the birthday cake

photo by Paul Grappell


Celebration included premieres of two films:

"The Whisperer"
Film directed by Andrea Odezynska
Edited by Kathryn Barnier
Produced By Kathryn Barnier and Andrea Odezynska
with support from the Yara Arts Group

"Light from the East"
Film by Amy Grappell
Cinematography: Christian Moore
Edited by: Kyle Henry and Leah Marino
Executive. Producers: Michael and Natasha Bleyzer
Co-Producer: Chris Krager
Associate Producers: Mark Rudkin, Rina Bleyzer Rudkin, Kevin Pruitt, Kyle Henry
Stage Play: Light From the East written By: Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps
Music By: Roman Hurko
Performed by: Yara Arts Group

and performance of:

InVerse: Poetry in Performance

directed by Virlana Tkacz
with Yara artists: Nina Arianda, Marina Celander, Sean Eden, Amy Grappell, Allison Hiroto, Jennifer Kato, Julian Kytasty, Tom Lee, Olga Shuhan, Shigeko Suga, Vira Slywotzky, and Meredith Wright
featuring translations by Virlana Tkacz & Wanda Phipps

September 24, 2005 La MaMa Annex, New York



New York – On Saturday, September 24, the Yara Arts Group celebrated its 15th anniversary at La MaMa Theater in New York City. The festivities included the premiers of two short documentary films featuring Yara artists and a performance of poetry translated and dramatized by Yara throughout the years under the direction of Virlana Tkacz.

Both film-makers experienced the technical and emotional challenges of making films in which they were central characters.

The making of the first film “The Whisperer” directed by Andrea Odezynska and edited by Kathryn Barnier, began when Ms. Odezynska accompanied the Yara Arts Group to Ukraine. Yara traveled to Utoropy, one of Ukraine’s oldest villages located outside of Kolomyia, to record folk songs in danger of becoming extinct. In the film, the group’s exploration of Ukrainian culture brings them to Baba Anna, a healer who calls herself “sheptukha,” or the whisperer. Baba Anna forever changes the way that the Yara artists view their lives.

Amy Grappell traveled to Ukraine in 1991 to participate in a Ukrainian-American theater collaboration that focused on the life of experimental theater director Les Kurbas. In “Light from the East,” Ms. Grappell learns about herself as she discovers a Ukraine that unfolds before her eyes with the collapse of the Soviet Union and Ukraine’s declaration of independence.

A Ukrainian theater critic Natalia Shevchenko, accompanies Amy through the city, translating as the film-maker Ms Grappell asks Ukrainians questions about their daily lives and happiness. She discovers that happiness is different for everyone: old women on the street are happy despite the political turmoil in their lives, the Ukrainian theater critic’s mother is happy because she has a daughter, and an artist is happy because he has the freedom to create. The film includes excerpts from Les Kurbas’s diaries, emphasizing art’s power to bring about both happiness and political change.

One of Yara’s specialties is promoting Ukrainian, Buryat and Japanese poetry through translation and performance. Yara artists Nina Arianda, Marina Celander, Sean Eden, Amy Grappell, Allison Hiroto, Jennifer Kato, Julian Kytasty, Tom Lee, Olga Shuhan, Shigeko Suga, Vera Slywotzky, and Meredith Wright gathered together to perform “In Verse,” a collage of music and poetry translated by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps.

Their performance was composed of excerpts from the 16 original theater pieces that Yara has created since its founding in 1990. It included Kolida: Twelve Dishes, Blind Sight inspired by the work and travels to Japan of blind poet Vasyl Yeroshenko, Swan based on Oleh Lysheha’s poetry, A Light from the East about Les Kurbas, in addition to theater pieces with Buryat artists in Siberia and pieces created in workshops conducted at Harvard Ukrainian Summer School.

Ms. Arianda and Mr. Lee’s performance of Serhiy Zhadan’s poem “Paprika” was especially poignant. The interweaving of their voices invoked the quiet desperation of a teenage couple in the supermarket. In stunning solos, Ms. Wright sang excerpts from Oleh Lysheha’s “Swan” to music by Genji Ito and Tychyna’s “Semiramis” to music by Roman Hurko. Bundarist Julian Kytasty accompanied the performance of Pavlo Tychyna’s truest pre-socialist realism poetry.

Yara’s 15-year celebration set the tone for years to come, emphasizing the power of collaboration between various genres and cultures. This collaboration has always been Virlana Tkacz’s vision. It is a source of inspiration that promises the creation of rich, emotionally fertile, and politically relevant art. by Olena Jennings, The Ukrainian Weekly, October 16, 2005

For press release and photos see Yara is 15

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