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Yara Crosses Borders: .... to Donetsk

by Virlana Tkacz

On September 30, right after our American performers were on their way to New York, I got on a train to Donetsk with designer Volodymyr Klyuzko. On the way in Kharkiv we met Mr. Zhadan who was to work with us on our new project Underground Dreams for Izolyatsia, a cultural organization in Donetsk. I had had this idea that I wanted to create a tunnel as an entrance into a show. As you walked through the tunnel you would hear people whisper their dreams and hopes. Mr. Zhadan was going to help us write texts for the workshop – the first draft of this show. He had put up a notice on the web saying that we were going to be in Donetsk and people could come and talk to us about their dreams.

When we arrived at the designated meeting place there was a long line of young people. Serhiy and I interviewed them one or two at time, recording their stories while Mr. Klyuzko photographed them. Most were in their early 20s, were overwhelmingly positive about Donetsk and their hopes, and to our great surprise most spoke to us in Ukrainian. We decided to create an installation based on these interviews. We made cubes with their photographs. As you approached each cube you could hear the stories the people in the photographs told us.

Then we started a workshop for young performers with a local actor, Mykola Huseinov. We met for ten days and worked on the dreams they would relate in the tunnel. I also staged a series of poems about trees with this group. Volodymyr Kluyzko worked on projections, while Yevhen Kopyov did the lights and Mykola Shkaraban, an actor I brought from Kyiv, performed the poetry Zhadan had written for the piece.

Although it had been incredibly cold in the large factory spaces during our preparations, the day of our performance was a beautiful golden autumn day. The audience entered our performance by walking on a path of yellow leaves and into a labyrinth of the dreams of the young people of Donetsk. The tunnel opened into large space lit up by a colorful projection and the performances stripped away the layers of time in the Donetsk steppe, one by one.

After we heard contemporary young people talk about their city and their hopes, there was a scene with an engineer from Wales who arrived in the area in 19th century in which he revealed his dreams of building a new world. Then shots from Dziga Vertov’s film “Enthusiasm: Symphony of Donbas” were juxtaposed with traditional bagpipes. Going back even further in time, there was a scene based on a story from the mediaeval chronicles about steppe nomads in this area and the power of a scent. This led to fragments of poems about trees intertwined with ancient songs. Leaves fell for 150 million years in this area to create the rich veins of coal. But “the growth of 50,000 years is destroyed in a few careless seasons.” In the final moments a small boy claims he saw megaliths in the steppe. Then the gate opened and daylight filled the dream space...

from the Ukrainian Weekly November 24, 2013
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