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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 25 – Sept 28, 2010
Saturday through Tuesday at 19:00
B’Art Center 1 Karasayeva (Druzhba) Street
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (312) 53-17-85 or 53-00-92
FREE but reservations a must
Runs one hour

Yara Arts Group from La MaMa Experimental Theatre in New York will present "Scythian Stones," an original, experimental World Music Theatre piece featuring Yara actors from Ameirca, renowned Ukrainian singer Nina Matvienko, her daughter Tonia and artists Kenzhegul Satybaldieva and Ainura Kachkynbek kyzy from Kyrgyzstan. The production will perform from Saturday September 25 to Tuesday September 28 at 19:00 at B’Art Center 1 Karasayeva (Druzhba) St, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan FREE but reservations a must. (312) 53-17-85. The show runs one hour.

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. In the beginning of September “Scythian Stones” performed to packed houses at Ukraine’s experimental art festival -- Gogolfest in Kyiv and at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy’s Pasika Theatre Center.

“Scythian Stones” 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), Ainura Kachkynbek kyzy (who appeared in Yara’s “Er Toshtuk” in 2008) and Nazira Mombetova (Honored Artist of Kyrgyzstan). Nurbek Serkebaev (from Kyrgyzstan) performs on traditional Kyrgyz instruments, while Julian Kytasty performs on the “bandura,” 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. The production is designed by Watoku Ueno with projections of photographs by Victor Marushchenko and movement by Katja Kolcio. Lights in Bishkek will be by Begaim Turumbekova.

"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 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 ironic songs by 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 one 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 reservation for the shows at B’Art Center 1 Karasayeva (Druzhba) St Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (312) 53-17-85 FREE but reservations a must

"Scythian Stones" in Kyrgyzstan was made possible by Open Society Institute, and at the B’Art 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 Scythian Stones in Kyiv | Kyiv information in Ukrainian
workshop in Kyiv of Scythian Stones March 2010
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