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Graphic: Waldemart Klyuzko with drawing by Hryhoriy Narbut

1917/2017: Tychyna, Zhadan & the Dogs

June 9-25, 2017
Thurs, Fri & Sat at 8:30 PM, Sun at 4:00 PM
La MaMa's Ellen Stewart Theatre
66 East 4th St, New York City
tickets or (212) 352-3102
$25/ $20 students & seniors. (limited $10 early bird tickets available on-line)
Runs 60 min. 

NEW YORK, May 16 -- From June 9 to 25,La MaMa and Yara Arts Group will present "1917-2017 Tychyna, Zhadan & the Dogs,"a new theatre piece with poetry which examines what individuals do when a society crumbles. The show was conceived and directed by Virlana Tkacz using the poetry of Pavlo Tychyna (Ukraine’s greatest 20th century poet), Serhiy Zhadan (Ukraine’s greatest 21st century poet) and the songs of Zhadan’s rock group Zhadan and the Dogs. The show is introduced by a live installation featuring New York poet Bob Holman performing his own poems inspired by Timothy Snyder's book “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century." The show is performed in English, while Zhadan and the Dogs sing in Ukrainian. It will be staged in La MaMa’s Ellen Stewart Theatre, 66 East 4th Street (near 2nd Ave., Manhattan), Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30 PM and Sundays at 4:00 PM.

In 1917, there was great hope in Kyiv as the Russian Empire disintegrated, but then a series of invasions led to twelve changes of government in three years. Pavlo Tychyna, Ukraine's greatest 20th century poet, watched people in Kyiv struggle with chaos and tyranny and wrote a collection of twelve poems, "Instead of Sonnets or Octaves." That collection, translated by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps, provides the main text of the piece.  It is punctuated with songs by Zhadan & the Dogs, a Ukrainian nine-member rock group led by Serhiy Zhadan.  Zhadan is famous for his poetry and songs about everyday people caught in today's conflict.  The group hails from Kharkiv, a city close to the war zone in eastern Ukraine.

Director Virlana Tkacz created the piece with artists in Kyiv using the twelve Tychyna poems as text. She then had Serhiy Zhadan and his band, Zhadan & the Dogs, burst through the scenes, supplying high-energy songs that propelled the piece forward. Reviews from the performances in Kyiv praised the production as wonderful to behold and so relevant to contemporary events as to be painful.

For the New York premiere at La MaMa, a lobby installation will open the show featuring Bob Holman performing his own poetry inspired by Snyder's book "On Tyranny," as well as readings by Yara artists of Tychyna's and Zhadan's poetry. The piece itself is an intense hour-long performance in three sections with Tychyna's twelve poems performed in English and a coda by Zhadan. The performers stand against a wall that runs across the entire stage and serves as a projection surface. They are on a hill watching the sunrise, their texts drawn from Tychyna verses. Some see "radiant furrows plow into the clouds" and "hear fanfares." Others realize that "Those are not fanfares; they're trumpets and guns." In the following scenes hope for change persists, despite arrests and changes in government. But all is shattered by the order, "Get dressed for the execution." The wall, with a projection of Tychyna's face, moves forward and splits open to reveal Zhadan & the Dogs, performing their rock song "Fight for Her."

Music for the Tychyna scenes is by bandura virtuoso Julian Kytasty, who combines a mastery of traditional styles with cross cultural experimentations. Performers include Yara's Marina Celander, Sean Eden, Rob Feldman, Darien Fiorino, Christopher Ignacio and Maria Pleshkevich. Set design is by Watoku Ueno, lighting design is by Jeff Nash, costume design is by Keiko Obremski and projections are by Waldemart Klyuzko.

"1917-2017: Tychyna, Zhadan & the Dogs" was conceived and directed by Virlana Tkacz, Yara's artistic director, who has created 30 original theatre pieces at La MaMa. With Wanda Phipps, she translated the poems for the New York production. They were awarded the National Theatre Translation Fund Award, translation grants from NYSCA and a Poetry Translation Fellowship from the NEA for their work with Ukrainian poetry.

Established in 1990, Yara Arts Group ( is a resident company of La MaMa, the home of experimental theatre in New York. Yara's theatre pieces are based on extensive research in Eastern Europe, Siberia and Asia, presented in its own signature style of multilingual dialogue and songs supported by evocative visuals and documentation. Yara has worked with Serhiy Zhadan since 2004, most recently on "Underground Dreams" (2013-14) and "Hitting Bedrock" (2015).

Yara's "1917-2017: Tychyna, Zhadan & the Dogs" was made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts and New York City Department of Culture, as well as Self-Reliance (NY) FCU and friends of Yara Arts Group.

"The songs are sung with wild energy and provoke a flurry of emotions"... It was great to realize how relevant the events on stage are for us today, even if this realization is painful."  Showbiz (Kyiv) September 21, 2016

"You could hardly wish for a better way to experience poetry today….The scenes are dynamic and change constantly, jumping like an electrocardiogram: life, death, despair, love, war, terror – all together... Quiet lullabies are cut off by gunshots; the light flight of a paper airplane is next to terror and executions. The one hundred years between the two poets dissolve in the light of the stage…" Olena Maksymenko, Ukrainska Pravda, September 22, 2016

"The green grass of a fragile future grows on ground fertilized by hard emotional times. What a concise, enchanting experiment in musical theatre."  Sept 21, 2016

"Yesterday I was at an incredible event. These are poems they did not teach you in school… a virtuoso performance on the bandura, created an unbelievable production of highest quality. The effect was enhanced by beautifully selected projections. I was very moved." 

La MaMa is dedicated to the artist and all aspects of the theatre. The organization has a worldwide reputation for producing daring performance works that defy form and transcend barriers of ethnic and cultural identity. Founded in 1961 by award-winning theatre pioneer Ellen Stewart, La MaMa has presented more than 5,000 productions by 150,000 artists from more than 70 nations. A recipient of more than 30 Obie Awards and dozens of Drama Desk, Bessie, and Villager Awards, La MaMa has helped launch the careers of countless artists, many of whom have made important contributions to American and international arts milieus.

La MaMa's 55th season celebrates the creative and collective histories of La MaMa's local and global communities. Since its beginning, La MaMa has forged creative partnerships with artists based in different parts of the U.S., Europe, Asia, Africa and South America.  In recent years, these long-term relationships have taken on new life through distance collaborations over the Internet.  The 55th season embraces new pathways forged in performance and technology to connect the myriad experiences, politics, conflicts, aesthetics, intimacies and dreams of people and communities participating in an increasingly globalized world.

Pavlo Tychyna's first collection of poetry "Clarinets of the Sun" (1918) brought him instant recognition as the major Ukrainian poet of his time. His second collection, "The Plow," confirmed Tychyna's position in Ukrainian culture. After the publication of his third collection, "Instead of Sonnets or Octaves," he suffered immediate repercussions and never republished or even mentioned that book again. From 1920 to 1940, Tychyna worked on a monumental epic he called "Skovoroda: A Symphony," after his spiritual father Hryhoriy Skovoroda, an 18th century poet and philosopher, but the work was never completed. In 1927 the Communist Party attacked Tychyna's works. After several years of silence, he published a very ambiguous collection, and then in 1934 published "The Party Leads" to redeem himself. All his poetry after this confirmed his position as the official ode writer for Stalin and Socialist Realism in Ukraine. Tychyna even censored his own early work. He lived in Kyiv and in addition to Slavic languages, he was fluent in Georgian, Armenian, Turkish, Arabic and Hebrew. His biography and English versions of the poems can be found at Tychyna (

Serhiy Zhadan is the most popular writer of the post-independence generation in Ukraine. He is often referred to as post-proletarian punk and his readings fill large auditoriums. He lives in Kharkiv, but was born and raised in the Luhansk Region, scene of the crisis in eastern Ukraine today. He is the author of twelve poetry collections including "Ballads about War and Reconstruction," "History of Culture at the Turn of This Century," and "Templars." His prose works include: "Depeche Mode", "Voroshilovgrad" (named Book of the Decade by BBC in Ukraine) and "Mesopotamia" (translation forthcoming from Yale Press). He has received numerous fellowships and awards and his work has been translated into German, English, Polish, Serbian, Croatian, Lithuanian, Byelorussian, Russian and Armenian. Translations of his work by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps have appeared in many American literary journals and next year Yale University Press will publish them as a book of collected poems. Since 2007, Serhiy Zhadan has been the front man and lyricist for the rock group Zhadan & the Dogs, which has released four CDs. His biography, music and poetry translations can be found at Zhadan (

Timothy Snyder is an American author, historian and academic specializing in the history of Central and Eastern Europe, and the Holocaust. He is The Housum Professor of History at Yale and a member of Committee on Conscience at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. He knows eleven European languages which enable him to use primary and archival sources. He is the author of several books including "Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin" (winner of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Literature Award, Hannah Arendt Prize, and Leipzig Book Prize) and "Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning." His latest book "On Tyranny: 20 Lessons from the 20th Century" is a New York Times Best Seller.  In this pocket-sized paperback, Snyder offers plain and doable lessons on how to preclude, or at least impede, a country-wide repression of our lives and souls.

Bob Holman is a New York poet most often connected with the oral tradition, spoken word, hiphop, slams, and poetry films. He has published sixteen books of poetry, most recently "Sing This One Back to Me". He has directed Poets Theater productions including: "Girls on the Run" by John Ashbery, "Paid on Both Sides" by W.H. Auden (sets by David Hockney), "Clear the Range" by Ted Berrigan and "4 Plays" by Edwin Denby (sets by Elizabeth Murray). He created the award-winning PBS series, "The United States of Poetry," and hosted a documentary on endangered languages, "Language Matters," on PBS. He is founder of the Bowery Poetry Club and will be teaching at Princeton in the fall. He created the lead role in Yara's "Capt. John Smith Goes to Ukraine," performing it in Ukraine and at La MaMa in 2015.


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