Yara Arts Group, a resident company of La MaMa Experimental Theater in New York, will perform “Dream Bridge” April 27 to May 13. The work is an original, experimental theater piece featuring Yara artists from New York, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine. The production, created by Virlana Tkacz, is based on a Ukrainian poem “Dream” by Oleh Lysheha and uses fragments from Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” (mentioned in the poem), as well as the dreams and nightmares of the participants.
It features Kyrgyz traditional music, as well as an electronic score by Kyiv composer Alla Zahaykevych. Interweaving performances in English, Ukrainian and Kyrgyz, “Dream Bridge” is highly visual show and completely accessible to all audiences.
The core text of “Dream Bridge” is the poem “Dream” by Ukrainian poet Oleh Lysheha and its English translation by Virlana Tkacz and American poet Wanda Phipps. Oleh Lysheha is acknowledged by many to be the best contemporary poet in Ukraine, a “poet’s poet.” In 2000, he was awarded the PEN Translation Prize for his book published by Harvard University Press. For their translations, Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps have won numerous awards and prizes, including the coveted National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Translation Fellowship.
Yara Arts Group is presently in Kyiv, spending much of March working on the production. Yara actors Andrew Colteaux, Brian Dolphin and Christopher Ignacio and Artistic Director Virlana Tkacz are rehearsing at the Pasika Theatre of Kyiv Mohyla, where they will perform the piece March 27 and 30. The cast also includes Kyrgyz actors Kenzhegul Satybaldieva, Ainura Kachynbek kyzy and Ukrainian actor Mykola Shkaraban. Last July, Yara worked in Kyrgyzstan to create the first draft of “Dream Bridge.”
Virlana Tkacz, creator of “Dream Bridge,” writes, “For several years, I have been interested in creating a piece based on dreams. Our dreams can bring to light the mystery which swirls silently inside. At night, our brains, freed of their burdens, soar like music. Space turns fluid, as we swim through the universe and through time: into our past and even the future. Dreams become bridges into our childhood, where we can find answers to life-long questions, or stumble upon new enigmas.”
The play’s company includes Watoku Ueno, recipient of NEA/TCG design fellowship and the current NYSCA design commission, Yara artists Andrew Colteaux, Brian Dolphin and Christopher Ignacio, Kyrgyz actors Kenzhegul Satybaldieva and Ainura Kachkynbek kyzy and musician Nurbek Serkebaev, who performs on traditional Kyrgyz instruments. The production has recently received the Edith Lutyens and Norman Bel Geddes Design Enhancement Fund grant from ART/NY for projections by Mikhail Shraga, last year’s Innovative Theatre Award nominee.
Oleh Lysheha’s poetry has been central to several of Yara Arts Group’s productions. In 2003, Yara staged his poem “Swan” at La MaMa and at Harvard. Dzvinka Matiash, a critic of Komentar, wrote, “The production of ‘Swan’ is a virtuoso translation of Lysheha’s text – it is not simply a literary translation into English, but rather a translation of poetry into the languages of music, light, image, movement of the human body, human voice (that can sound sharp, hoarse, strained, tired, lonely), and of course, stage space… This is what art should be like – in the glare of the stage lights you suddenly see the essence.” Last spring, Yara created a new theater piece based on Oleh Lysheha’s poem “Raven.” NYTheatre.com (Amy Lee Pearsall) wrote, “‘Raven’ incites this ensemble to glorious flight. The path flown by ‘Raven’ is, by turns, intoxicating in both its simplicity and complexity. I encourage you to follow where it leads.”
Virlana Tkacz, director of this piece, is the founding director of Yara Arts Group and has created twenty two original theater pieces with the company, all of which had their American premieres at La MaMa in New York. The Village Voice described Yara’s production of “Circle” as “stunningly beautiful work that rushes at your senses, makes your heart pound, and shakes your feelings loose.” Off-Off Online (Michael Bettencourt) labeled Yara’s “Scythian Stones,” with the world renowned Ukrainian singer Nina Matvienko and Kyrgyz artists, “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.”
Yara Arts Group, founded in 1990, is a resident company of La MaMa Theater in New York. The troupe transforms original material into experimental theater productions in a signature style that uses multilingual dialogue and music supported by evocative visuals and projections. Timely issues are explored through the diverse cultural perspectives of the group’s members, bringing 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 eleven pieces based on materials from Ukraine and Eastern Europe, six theater pieces with Buryat artists from Siberia, three with artists from Kyrgyzstan and two based on Japanese material.
La MaMa E.T.C. will present “Dream Bridge” April 27- May 13, 2012 in its First Floor Theater, 74 East 4th Street. The schedule is Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Sundays at 2:30 PM. Tickets are $18 general admission, $13 students/seniors; the box office number is 212-475-7710, www.lamama.org.