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Yara Arts Group receives two nominations for New York Innovative Theatre Awards

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Jeremy Tardy as Ira Aldridge in Yara’s show about the relationship between the African American actor and Taras Shevchenko.

Pavlo Terekhov

Jeremy Tardy as Ira Aldridge in Yara’s show about the relationship between the African American actor and Taras Shevchenko.

NEW YORK – Yara’s Jeremy Tardy has been nominated for Outstanding Actor in a Lead Role and Julian Kytasty for Best Original Music for their work in Yara Arts Group’s “Dark Night Bright Stars” directed by Virlana Tkacz.

The show recreated the meeting in 1858 of Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861), the great Ukrainian poet and painter, and Ira Aldridge (1807-1867), the African American actor who was much honored in Europe. The two great artists, who rose up from serfdom and slavery, could not speak to each other directly, but in one historical moment found a common language in art and song. Their meetings were documented in the diary of Count Tolstoy’s 15-year-old daughter, Katya (Ekaterina Tolstoy Yunge). A selection of poetry by Shevchenko deeply resounded with contemporary events, as did Aldridge’s Shakespearean monologues.

Mr. Tardy’s performance as Aldridge was riveting. He showed audiences the rich palette of his talent and amazing organic acting. Especially memorable in the show was his portrayal of Aldridge’s rendition of Shakespeare’s “Othello” and his moving reaction to Shevchenko’s story.

Mr. Kytasty’s original musical score employed traditional Ukrainian songs which Shevchenko knew, along with songs from the hymnal of AME Zion Church, which Aldridge’s father attended.

Mr. Tardy is originally from Milwaukee and has a B.F.A. in drama from The Juilliard School. His first production with Yara Arts Group was “Fire Water Night,” where he portrayed Luke in this show that re-imagined Lesia Ukrainka’s “Forest Song.” Mr. Tardy’s other theater credits include “Fetch Clay, Make Man” with New York Theater Workshop and “King Henry V” with Classical Theater of Harlem. His film and TV credits include: “Traces,” “War Dogs,” “Bone Tomahawk,” “The Mindy Project” and “Castle.” He currently lives in Los Angeles and appears in the Netflix series “Dear White People.”

Mr. Kytasty’s music features the bandura, a Ukrainian stringed instrument of the lute family. He is a third-generation bandurist born in Detroit and now living in New York. Mr. Kytasty’s music combines a mastery of traditional styles with a distinctly contemporary sensibility. He has worked with Yara Arts Group since 1998, creating music for productions including “Raven,” “Scythian Stones,” “Winter Light,” “Capt. John Smith Goes to Ukraine,” “Underground Dreams,” “Hitting Bedrock” and “1917/2017: Tychyna, Zhadan & the Dogs.”

He composed the award-winning film score for the National Film Board of Canada documentary “My Mother’s Village.” His playing was featured in “The Guide,” Ukraine’s submission to the 2015 Academy Awards. His most recent solo CD is “Nights in Banduristan,” an album of improvisations for Kharkiv-style bandura.

Julian Kytasty in Yara Arts Group’s “Dark Night Bright Stars.”

Julian Kytasty in Yara Arts Group’s “Dark Night Bright Stars.”

“Dark Night Bright Stars” was developed in 2014 by Yara artists and presented at a La MaMa workshop. That spring the show was performed in Ukraine at the American Festival in Odesa and experimental theaters in Lviv and Kyiv with assistance from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.

Yara premiered “Dark Night Bright Stars” in New York at La MaMa E.T.C. June 2016. Yara is a resident company at La MaMa Theatre and since 1990 has created thirty four international cultural projects with contemporary and traditional artists from Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Siberia.

The New York Innovative Theater Awards bring recognition to the great work being done in New York City’s Off-Off-Broadway and honor the artistic heritage of experimental theater, recognizing the unique and essential role it plays in contributing to American and global culture.

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