NEW YORK – La MaMa and Yara Arts Group will present “1917-2017 Tychyna, Zhadan & the Dogs,” a new theater piece created by Yara filled with poetry and music about what people do when a society falls apart. The show was conceived and directed by Virlana Tkacz, using the poetry of Pavlo Tychyna and Serhiy Zhadan and the songs of the rock group the Dogs.
The show will be performed in English by Yara’s New York actors, who will appear in the show with Mr. Zhadan and his band, the Dogs, who sing in Ukrainian.
Ms. Tkacz and Wanda Phipps have translated into English the poetry that is used in the show. As Ms. Tracz describes it: “We took 12 poems written in 1920 by Pavlo Tychyna (Ukraine’s greatest 20th century poet) about the reactions of individuals to a world crumbling around them and created theatrical scenes where the poems serve as the text. Then we had Serhiy Zhadan (Ukrainian’s greatest poet of the 21 century) and his rock band Zhadan & the Dogs burst through these scenes.”
Yara’s “1917/2017: Tychyna, Zhadan & the Dogs” opens with an installation in the lobby that is an introduction to the show. This section features Bob Holman, who introduces the context and performs his own poetry inspired by Timothy Snyder’s book “On Tyranny: 20 Lessons from the 20th Century.”
The theater piece itself is an intense hour-long performance in three sections and a coda. The performers stand against the wall that runs across the entire stage and is also a projection surface. They are on a hill watching the sunrise. Some see “radiant furrows that 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, who will perform live in the production. Zhadan & the Dogs is a post-proletarian rock band from Kharkiv with Mr. Zhadan as its frontman. Their hard-driving song “Fight for Her” propels the characters outside themselves.
Music for the production is also provided by Julian Kytasty, who combines a mastery of traditional bandura style with cross-cultural experimentations. The performers include Yara’s Bob Holman, Marina Celander, Sean Eden, Robert Feldman, Darien Fiorino, Christopher Ignacio and Maria Pleshkevich. The set is by Watoku Ueno, light by Jeff Nash, costumes by Keiko Obremski, projections by Waldemart Klyuzko.
“1917-2017: Tychyna, Zhadan & the Dogs” was conceived and directed by Ms. Tkacz, Yara’s artistic director, who has created 30 original theater pieces at La MaMa. The show was developed in Kyiv at the Kurbas Theater Center with Ukrainian actors; it was performed at the Lviv Publishing Forum, Gogolfest and the Mala Opera in Kyiv.
Established in 1990, Yara Arts Group is a resident company at La MaMa, the acclaimed experimental theater in New York. The company has created 34 theater pieces based on extensive research in Eastern Europe, Siberia and Asia in Yara’s signature style of multilingual dialogue and songs supported by evocative visuals and documentation.
“1917-2017 Tychyna, Zhadan & the Dogs” is at La MaMa’s Ellen Stewart Theatre, 66 E. Fourth St. (near Second Avenue) in Manhattan on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30 p.m., and Sundays at 4p.m. from June 9 through June 25.
The production is made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, New York City Department of Culture, as well as Self-Reliance New York Federal Credit Union and friends of Yara Arts Group.