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Ainura Kchkynbek Kyzy as the spirit girl Bektoro wishes for someone to love
photo by Makoto Takeuchi

Kenzhegul Satybaldieva sings of
Toshtuk's nine lost brothers
photo by Margaret Morton

Umarbek Kadyrov, as Toshtuk sets out to find his lost brohters
with Kenzhegul Satybaldieva
photo by Makoto Takeuchi

Umarbek Kadyrov & Ainura Kchkynbek Kyzy
photo by Makoto Takeuchi

Umarbek Kadyrov
photo by Margaret Morton

Nurlan Erzhanov as Eleman the father
who gives away Toshtuk's soul
photo by Margaret Morton


world music theatre piece based on a Kyrgyz epic
about a magical and darkly humorous journey
into the Underworld and out into the Cosmos

created by Virlana Tkacz and Kenzhegul Satybaldieva
with Yara Arts Group and Kyrgyz artists
based on the Kyrgyz epic "Er Toshtuk" as recorded by Vasily Radlov

directed by Virlana Tkacz with Kenzhegul Satybaldieva
music by Nurbek Serkebaev, set and lights designed by Watoku Ueno
shadow images by Watoku Ueno and Makoto Takeuchi
cosutmes by Ainura Asanbekova, movement by Shigeko Suga
translation by Roza Mukasheva, Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps
stage manager Sarah V.Michelson, asst stage mgr: Aleksandra Myrna

with: Daniel, Darrow, Eldiiar Dzharashev, Nurlan Erzhanov, Susan Hyon,
Ainura Kachkynbek Kyzy, Umarbek Kadyrov, Kenzhegul Satybaldieva
and Azamat Serkebaev, featuring musician Nurbek Serkebaev

March 27 - April 12, 2009
Thur-Sat 8:00, Sun 2:30
La MaMa Experimental Theatre
74 E 4th St (between 2nd & 3rd Ave) New York City
$18 boxoffice (212) 475-7710



reviewed by Gwen Orel
Backstage, March 30, 2009

“Bet you don't know too much about the culture of Kyrgyzstan (Keer-ghee-stan). Er Toshtuk (air tosh-took), presented by Yara Arts Group, provides a nice taste. The style and story of this highly visual theatre piece really does seem to sit right on the border of Europe and Asia. Virlana Tkacz, who directs this piece with Kenzhegul Satybaldieva, runs the company, which specializes in original pieces that explore contemporary issues by using the materials of Eastern Europe. Er Toshtuk is based on a Kyrgyz epic, first written down in the 19th century but supposedly thousands of years old, in which Toshtuk, a young warrior, goes into the underworld and has adventures before he can marry.

The cast includes two New York–based artists and five from Kyrgyzstan. The fusion is seamless. While most of the dialogue is in Kyrgyz, some is in English. It's integrated so well it neither slows the action nor impedes it, and you will not feel lost. Design helps set the mood: A Kyrgyz musician (Nurbek Serkebaev) sits beneath a sculptured, curlicued white tree accompanying the action through evocative use of traditional instruments. Costumes incorporate Kyrgyz embroideries.

The epic is full of humor and terrific physicality. Azamat Serkebaev, a Kyrgyz actor who plays Chalkyuruk, the Magic Horse, captures horsiness with each whinny, leg kick, and look. His performance ought to be a requirement for every actor in New York, particularly those interested in physical work. When the horse gets homesick and misses his herd, you want to cry too (and give him a lump of sugar). As the bride Kenzheke (and in a few other roles), American Susan Hyon has simple charm. In the title role, Kyrgyz actor Umarbek Kadyrov beautifully conveys callow arrogance growing to courage and gallantry.

Er Toshtuk is a small gem bringing a new flavor to a New York palate."

reviewed by yssi
Here We Go, April 5, 2009

"In Er Toshtuk, the characters and situations get more fantastical as the story goes on. [There’s] a lot of changing characters and symbols, imaginative movements, beautiful music and singing, and seamless switching between two languages ...

Our hero Toshtuk mounts the magic horse, his loyal friend, and they ride so fast that suddenly they're flying in slow motion. The nine shadow puppets of earrings, representing nine daughters, jingle against the backdrop to show girlish giggling. The magic horse, one of my favorite characters, stomps his hooves and whines sadly because he misses home, and it's so persuasive that you lament, too. (And who doesn't want a magic horse as a best friend??) It is the journey that we all want to be on: traveling the world, pushing boundaries in pursuit of honorable things, meeting loyal friends along the way, narrowing the focus on your dreams, and finding yourself victorious in impossible situations…. Like the best tall tales."

Kateryna Borush
Nova Hazeta (New York), April 16, 2009

"This [show] is a significant achievement for Virlana Tkacz and is a visual affirmation that the fusion, which many consider impossible, the search for a meeting point between cultures, is not a hopeless venture."

For more pictures and information on Yara's Er Toshtuk
Yara's book Kyrgyz Epic Theatre in New York: Photographs by Margaret Morton

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