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Kat Yew and Andrew Colteaux wait in line
photo by Margaret Morton

Kat Yew and Andrew Colteaux
photo by Lee Wexler

Kat Yew and Andrew Colteaux
photo by Lee Wexler

Sean Eden and Andrew Colteaux
see the raven
photo by Margaret Morton

Andrew Colteaux and Sean Eden
wander into the wilderness
photo by Margaret Morton

Andrew Colteaux sees a boat on the lake
photo by Margaret Morton

Maren Bush runs on the invisible path
photo by Margaret Morton

Andrew Colteaux and Kat Yew
beyond the trees of the wilderness

photo by Margaret Morton

Andrew Colteaux and Kat Yew
avoding wells suddenly abandoned by humans

photo by Margaret Morton



Exploring the unknowable boundaries

Performance inspired by the poetry of Oleh Lysheha
created by Virlana Tkacz
with Yara Arts Group and Ukrainian artists
with: Andrew Colteaux, Maren Bush, Sean Eden
and Kat Yew music Alla Zagaykevych,
songs: Aurelia Shrenker & Eva Salina Primack (Ash)
sound Tim Schellenbaum, movement: Shigeko Suga,
projections: Volodymyr Klyuzko & Mikhail Shraga

April 8-24, 2011 premiere La MaMa ETC, New York

June 10-14, 2011 - Pasika Theatre Center, Kviv
June 22-23, 2011 - Les Kurbas Theatre, Lviv
March 10, 2011 -- workshop production: Pasika Theatre  Center, Kyiv


Raven incites this ensemble to glorious flight…Complimenting the vivid imagery of Lysheha’s words and the translation by creator / director Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps is the set, bare with the exception of a screen on wheels designed by Watoku Ueno/Aki-ology. Corrugated plastic on one side and sleek, shiny sheets of plastic on the other, it acts as a rich textural landing for the vibrant video projections of designer Mikhail Shraga and alternately splits the space, rotates to generate a spiraling sense of confusion. The path flown by Raven is, by turns, intoxicating in both its simplicity and complexity. I encourage you to follow where it leads. Amy Lee Pearsall, April 9, 2011

This is the second performance based on the poetry of Oleh Lysheha that Yara has created.  In 2003, Andrew Colteaux performed in Lysheha’s “Swan,” an equally mesmerizing performance. Before the play started, the audience was treated to the recording of American singers Aurelia Shrenker and Eva Salina Primack (who sing together as the duo Ash).  They recorded music especially for the performance.  Then, Julian Kytasty played a melodic solo on the bundura that was like an incantation to call the raven.
            Mr. Colteaux plays the man who meets the raven and Sean Eden plays Ivan, a friend of the man.  Maren Bush plays a woman painting a wall that may never be finished.  There are two extreme moments of the tension in the piece: the appearance of the raven and the death of the Ivan’s wife…. There is a translucent wall in the middle of the stage.  Ivan and his wife find themselves caught on two sides of the wall unable to reach one another as the wall spins.   
            The recorded Ukrainian lines said by Olha Shuhan juxtaposed with the English added beauty.  They added a push and pull to the dialogue as the characters pull at nature in an effort to bring it close, “So what now, you loner of the forest, --/Who should be holding whom?”
            Volodymyr Klyuzko and Mikhail Shraga’s projections, which included floral and forest imagery, helped to create a natural atmosphere.  The projections were especially effective when projected on the raven’s white dress. The movement created by Shigeko Suga worked especially well to create the character of the raven played by Kat Yew as the raven moved together with Colteaux to portray a bind between bird and man. In Yara’s “Raven,” the boundaries between nature and humans were explored through spoken word, music, and movement.
Olena Jennings, The Ukrainian Weekly, April 24, 2011

As all Yara performance pieces, this one is created by the artists who appear in it. It is built on quick rhythms, the fusion of images, and diversity of stage languages. There are moments of great emotional tension: the power of the sound as the characters run through the forest and the opposing silence as an empty boat drifts in the lake; the silence during “conversation” in movement with the apple and the expressive symphonic singing of the birds in the forest. My heart stopped when I heard the prayer “Lord have mercy” performed by Kat Yew in Ukrainian without an accent… At certain moments we hear a voice repeat certain phrases in Ukrainian; this is wonderfully performed by Olga Shuhan, a veteran of Yara shows. There are also traditional and sacred songs performed by Ash/AE. There are brilliant projections by Volodymyr Klyuzko (Kyiv) and Mykhail Shraga (US) that bring a lot of color to the performance: a branch with peaches, the light lavender of the iris, the lush tree branches in the forest, the tall yellow trunks of the pines and the beautiful stagnant lake… The projections of Ivan’s wife on video over the image of the forest and on Kat Yew’s dress are a great find (the light designer in Kyiv was Evhen Kopyov from the Kurbas Center). Finally, we must mention Alla Zagaykevych, a Kyiv composer, whose electronic music is used in Raven. Julian Kytasty plays the bandura as a prolog for the show setting the mood for the audience. This is a show you can and want to watch many times. Each time you discover something new, as I can testify.
Lydia Korsun Chas I Podii, April 27, 2011.

The performance started with Julian Kytasty, the world-renowned master of the bandura, performing an improvised an etude that set the mood for the piece.  While listening to this reverie, one could read the translation of “Raven” by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps, which appeared in the program notes. The story line of the poem seemed plain enough - poet Oleh Lysheha describes seemingly ordinary events that transpire during a day at the Lavra monastery. 
            Then, events change.  A half-dead raven lands on the windowsill outside of where Ivan and the narrator are eating lunch.  They revive it, and in the evening, it flies off.  The next morning, Ivan's wife passes away and they travel together to a forest wilderness favored by Ivan and wife.  While picking raspberries, they each have a most unusual and personal experience.  With this, the presentation transformed from the passive to a frenzy of activity.  The projected images showed the forest they were in, first on the back screen, then on the moveable screen. Choreographed by Shigeko Suga, the actors begin to spin the screen, the images projected on it distorting space and time, compressing it and expanding it.  The woman in white arrives.  Through the screen, we see her in her human form and simultaneously as the raven.  The narrator tries to touch her fingertips with his, vainly trying to touch a shadow.  Ivan hears a woman calling his name - perhaps it is his wife?  Or is it the woman in white, the raven?  The screen spins and spins, images of the forest, flashing, changing shape and perspective.  Ivan and man who touched the raven are now on either side of the screen, close, yet each deep within his own experience.  This extraordinary forest engulfs the audience until we are part of their dream, experiencing their separate realities. As their visions left them, the activity on stage subsided and they were once again sitting on a log in the forest.  They speak; each acknowledges that something extraordinary did take place. Neither is quite sure if it was real or a dream; both agreeing that maybe they should not to mention this again.
            The simplicity of the presentation is what caused my wonderment.…  This goes back to an even deeper, genetic imprint that we all possess - of sitting in the dark, maybe around a campfire, listening to a story being told, mesmerized by the flame and the tone of the teller.  Pure, simple – and very powerful!  It was this change, from the ordinary to the extraordinary, from the real to the altered state, almost instantaneously, and then just as suddenly back to the ordinary, which made me wonder what I had just experienced.
             “Raven” is artistic director Virlana Tkacz’s twenty-first production with the Yara Arts Group.  Each is a veritable witness of the directorial talents of Virlana Tkacz, of her style and her ability to take the Yara Arts Group and create a magical event that captures you and does not let you go. 
Ihor Slabicky, America, May, 2011

The performance piece relies heavily on imagery to tell the story.  The projections by Volodymyr Klyuzko and Mikhail Shraga create a natural atmosphere with floral and forest photography.  In the center of the stage there is a translucent wall where the shadow of the raven first appears to actors Andrew Colteaux and Sean Eden, a man searching for meaning in nature and his friend Ivan... The wall is later illuminated with many different projections that alienate the actors in their search for the raven and for one another.  The raven, played by Kat Yew, wears a white dress that also acts as a surface for the projections and makes the raven seem unattainable.  The face of a woman played by Maren Bush also appears as a projection throughout the space. Choreography by Shigeko Suga turns the actors’ bodies into part of nature.   There is an especially striking scene when the raven moves fluidly with Colteaux.
Olena Jennings, Nth Word, April 14, 2011

Poet Oleh Lysheha and director Virlana Tkacz are a duo of like-minded artists. Both are uniquely talented, with original world views and styles, both are representative of a modern world culture that extends beyond national borders. At the same time, both introduce Ukrainian culture to the world.
Lidia Korsun, Svoboda, May 6, 2011

Reviews and photos of Yara's Raven -- Pasika Theatre Center, Kyiv
Reviews and photos of Yara's Raven -- Les Kurbas Theatre, Lviv
press release about Yara's Raven -- Kyiv & Lviv June 2011
poem "Raven" by Oleh Lysheha translated by Virlana Tkacz & Wanda Phipps


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