BRAMA Theatre Events Workshops Translations Series Newsletter Calendar Store Yara Home

Scythian Stones

world music theatre piece – the journeys of
two women become epic descents into the Great Below,
where songs, skills and languages vanish

Sept 9 Thursday 16:00 at GogolFEST Dovzhenko Studio 3rd Pavilion, tickets on sale
Sept 12 to 16, Sun-Thu at 19:00; except Wed at 16:00 with Kyiv-Mohyla PASIKA Theatre Center, Illinska 9, Kyiv
-- Free, reservations (044) 425-2154;

Yara Arts Group from La MaMa Experimental Theatre in New York will present "Scythian Stones," an original, experimental World Music Theatre piece featuring renowned Ukrainian singer Nina Matvienko, her daughter Tonia and artists from Kyrgyzstan and America. The production will perform at GogolFest on Thursday September 9 at 16:00 at the Dovzhenko Studio and then from Sept 12 to 16 with the PASIKA Theatre Center at the University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy on Illinska Street 9 in Kyiv.

The production, created by Virlana Tkacz features Ukrainian and Kyrgyz traditional music, as well as modern music, design and movement. Interweaving performances in Ukrainian, Kyrgyz and English, "Scythian Stones" remains completely accessible to all audiences.

"Scythian Stones" premiered at the world renowned La MaMa Experimental Theatre in New York. The production was wonderfully received by American audiences and critics. Michael Bettencourt 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.” The Huffington Post featured a 9 minutes video that includes an interview with the director and clips from the production.

The production features singers Nina Matvienko (regarded as the "Voice of Ukraine" and has appeared in Yara's "Waterfall/Reflections" in 1995), her daughter Tonia Matvienko, Kenzhegul Satybaldieva (who played the title role in Yara's "Janyl" in 2007) and Ainura Kachkynbek kyzy (who appeared in Yara’s “Er Toshtuk” last year). Nurbek Serkebaev (from Kyrgyzstan) will perform on ancient instruments, including the “kyl-kiyak”(a small, bowed, unfretted fiddle with two strings and a plaintive tone), the “chopo cho'or” (a pottery ocarina), the “temir o komuz” (a metal jaw's harp) and the “jygach ooz komuz” (a wooden jaw's harp with one string, unique to Kyrgyz music, which sounds like throat singing). Julian Kytasty performs on the “bandura,” while The Debutante Hour (Marusia Sonevytsky and Susan Hwang), a New York girl group with musical roots in American country, blues and the occasional Carpathian Mountain stomp are featured in the second half. Yara artists working on the piece include: Cecilia Arana. The production is designed by Watoku Ueno with projections of photographs by Victor Marushchenko and movement by Katja Kolcio. Lights in Kyiv will be by Ievhen Kopiov.

"Scythian Stones" constructs parallel journeys for two young women, from village life and nomadic tradition into the city. Their separate journeys become epic descents into the Great Below- the modern global desert where songs, skills and languages vanish, leaving behind only mute markers like the Scythian Stones found today throughout the grasslands of Ukraine and Central Asia. The production incorporates traditional songs from Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan into the structure of an ancient Sumerian epic about the Descent of Inanna (perhaps the oldest piece of literature on Earth, dating from 2000 BCE, about a goddess who goes to the Great Below). Virlana Tkacz says, “Epics are usually male stories about growing up, but not this one. We wanted to do an epic story about a woman, and examine how quickly so many cultures are disappearing today. The piece imagines an alternative ending, linking the past with a future in which poetry would carry the familial into the cosmos.” Also included is the modern poetry by Oksana Zabuzhko and Yuko Pozaiak and the music of Debutante Hour.

New York Critic Michael Conway wrote: “Gorgeous Ukrainian and Kyrgyz traditional songs performed by women with exquisite voices accompanied elegantly by ancient instruments, as well as stunning changes of tone with the contemporary duo “The Debutante Hour” combine to create a beautiful soundscape … “Scythian Stones” is unlike anything I’ve heard before. The voices of Nina Matvienko and Tonia Matvienko (these performers are actually mother and daughter from Ukraine) and Kenzhegul Satybaldieva and Ainura Kachkynbek kyzy (from Kyrgyzstan) are what make this production so worth seeing. The way they are able to build tension vocally clearly comes from a place of deep connection to the songs being performed. The sharp shift in musical tone from the traditional pieces that soar to the upbeat songs that rock really clarifies the plays’ overall message by not making the traditional good and the cosmopolitan bad; rather both are really good, only one is familiar and the other seems to have gotten lost somewhere.”

Tkacz says, "Tradition is not static, it's constantly evolving, and we are asking, ‘How do you engage people today to create a link to the future?’" All of her theatrical creations to-date have been new works that contain fragments of ancient art forms, but none of them have tackled this question so directly.

Virlana Tkacz and Watoku Ueno are founding members of Yara Arts Group and have created twenty original theater pieces with the company, all of which had their American premieres at La MaMa. Reviewing "Circle" (2000), a collaboration with theater artists of the Buryat National Theater (near lake Baikal), The Village Voice (Eva Yaa Asantewaa) called the production "a stunningly beautiful work that rushes at your senses, makes your heart pound, and shakes your feelings loose." Reviewing Tkacz's production of "The Warrior's Sister" (2004), based on a Siberian epic, Laura Shea wrote in American Theatre Web, "Multilingual, though easily accessible to English-speaking audiences, the performance reminds us of what theater should be and rarely is—the opportunity to step in to a world that is virtually unknown to us." In 2009, when Tkacz created “Er Toshtuk” with Kyrgyz artists, Backstage wrote, “The epic is full of humor and terrific physicality... the performance ought to be a requirement for every actor in New York, particularly those interested in physical work.”

Founded in 1990, Yara Arts Group, 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 ten pieces based on materials from Ukraine and Eastern Europe, including: "A Light from the East,” "Blind Sight," "Yara's Forest Song," "Swan" and "Waterfall/Reflections." The last of these was developed with folk singer Nina Matvienko, and The New York Times (D.J.R. Bruckner) called it "a theatrical enchantment given cohesion by choreographed movement and by music on a prodigal scale." Yara has also created six theater pieces with Buryat artists from Siberia, three with artists from Kyrgyzstan and two based on Japanese material.

For times and locations of these events, please check For reservation for the shows with the PASIKA Theatre Center at the University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy call (044) 425-2154.

"Scythian Stones" at Gogolfest was made possible by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation through US Artists International in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and at the PASIKA Theatre Center with the support of the friends of Yara Arts Group Yara Arts Group, a resident company of La MaMa Experimental Theatre in New York.

For pictures and reviews of Scythian Stones at LaMaMa April 2010
For information on workshop in Kyiv of Scythian Stones March 2010
For more on Yara's theatre events

If you would like to be included on our mailing list
send us your name and full postal address

or write to:

Yara Arts Group
306 East 11th St., #3B
New York, NY 10003 USA

Phone/Fax: 212-475-6474

Let us what you think of our work and site.

Top of page | Arts & Culture | Yara Homepage
Copyright (c)1995-2009 Yara Arts Group; all rights reserved. Photo by Victor Marushchenko.

BRAMA Home -- UkraiNEWStand -- Community Press -- Calendar
Advertise on BRAMA -- Search BRAMA
Copyright © 1997-2011 BRAMA,, Inc. All Rights Reserved.