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Hitting Bedrock

Dreams of Donetsk, Poetry of Serhiy Zhadan and the War in Ukraine

February 20-March 8, 2015
La MaMa E.T.C. 74A East Fourth Street, New York
Thursdays Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30 PM, Sundays at 2:00 PM
$18, $13 students/seniors
Box office (646) 430-5374,
Running time 70 minutes.

With battles surging daily in eastern Ukraine, Yara Arts Group has chosen to replace its scheduled spring production with "Hitting Bedrock," a new theatre piece inspired by dreams from Donetsk, the poetry of Serhiy Zhadan and the war in Ukraine. The piece, performed primarily in English, will run from February 20 to March 8 at La MaMa Theater, 74A East Fourth Street in New York.

Tkacz and the artists of Yara Arts Group felt compelled to respond to the current situation by mounting a new theater piece inspired by interviews over the past year and a half with young people from Donetsk. Initially dreaming of an optimistic future, they now describe the harshness of war and life as refugees. "Hitting Bedrock" combines these interviews with recent poetry and monologues by Serhiy Zhadan, the most popular writer of the post-independence generation in Ukraine. Yara’s Artistic Director Virlana Tkacz conceived and directed the theatre piece.

"Hitting Bedrock" began in Ukraine in the fall of 2013 as "Underground Dreams." Over 20 Donetsk residents, mostly young people, responded to an invitation by Yara Arts Group to talk about their dreams, for themselves and for their city, for a theater piece at the Izolyatsia Platform for Cultural Initiatives, an art center housed in an old factory complex in Donetsk. They were overwhelmingly positive about their future. Two hundred people attended a workshop performance in October 2013 and a full production was planned for June 2014. But war intervened. 

Like Ukrainians around the world, Yara Arts Group spent the winter watching computers in NY as protests in Kyiv led to the ouster of a corrupt president, who happened to be from Donetsk. But hopefulness was soon replaced by violence. Virlana Tkacz returned to Ukraine on June 8, 2014 to resume "Underground Dreams," only to have the Izolyatsia complex captured by terrorists the next day.  The staff was allowed to leave with some artwork, but the premises were mined.  Tkacz rendezvoused with Izolyatsia director Luba Michailova in Kyiv to continue their project in exile. 

Tkacz and poet Serhiy Zhadan re-interviewed many of the original Donetsk residents via Skype. Some were now refugees in other Ukrainian cities and others were still in Donetsk. They described their new daily realities: searches at checkpoints during morning commutes, trying to concentrate at work while armed men run past your window, the terror of walking through a totally abandoned city, cold sweats induced by loud noises. The theatre piece created at the Les Kurbas National Theatre Center in Kyiv juxtaposed earlier dreams with their present lives.

The core text of the upcoming La MaMa production is an entire new cycle of poetry written by Zhadan inspired by the interviews that has been translated by Tkacz and poet Wanda Phipps The theatre piece has been renamed "Hitting Bedrock" to describe the situation of many residents of the former mining town. During the theater piece, the audience is guided through a basement passageway where the recorded interviews will be heard. They watch a woman pack her all her belongings in two small bags, as they listen to recent stories of the war. The war engulfs their space. Photos:

Poet Serhiy Zhadan calls himself a “post-proletarian punk” and is the most popular writer of the post-independence generation in Ukraine. His work speaks to the disillusionment and ironies following the collapse of the Soviet Union. His readings fill large auditoriums and he performs with rock groups. Zhadan was born in eastern Ukraine in the Luhansk Region and lives in Kharkiv. On March 1, 2014, he was beaten by pro-Russian protesters. His assault created an international reaction.See The New Yorker ( Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps received a National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Translation Fellowship to translate his work. Links to their translations of his work are on

Virlana Tkacz is the founding director of Yara and has created 27 original theater pieces with the company, all of which had their premieres at La MaMa. The music for the new production is composed by well-known bandurist Julian Kytasty. The cast includes Marina Celander, Andrew Colteaux, Sean Eden, Chris Ignacio and Maria Pleshkevich. The set and lights are by Watoku Ueno recipient of several New York State Council Design Commissions. Costumes are by Keiko Obremski. Projections are by Volodymyr Klyuzko, nominated for a New York Innovative Theatre Award for his work on Yara’s “Raven.”

This year Yara Arts Group celebrates its 25-year anniversary.  “Yara at 25: Looking Back/Moving Forward” is currently an exhibition running through March 8 at the Ukrainian Museum in New York. Since 1990 Yara has created 31 international collaborative cultural projects with contemporary and traditional artists from Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Siberia.

For tickets to “Hitting Bedrock” at La MaMa (646) 430-5374 or

Yara’s theatre projects are made possible with public funds from New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by Self-Reliance (NY) FCU, the Coca-Cola Company and the friends of Yara Arts Group.

Read Virlana's "War Makes a Play"
on the New York Innovative Theatre Awards site
Vote for "Hitting Bedrock" as Innovative Theatre New York IT Awards

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