Yara Arts Group and The Ukrainian Museum in New York present a series of virtual events this fall on world epic song traditions and the work of Zenoviy Shtokalko who brought Ukrainian epic songs (dumas) to New York in the 1950s.

Yara’s Traditional Music: Bandurist Zenoviy Shtokalko” is a four-part series on Zenoviy Shtokalko: We start with "Zinoviy Shtokalko: Instrumental Music," a look at the bandura, its history and styles with Julian Kytasty and Dmytro Hubyak. Watch Video.

Next we will look at Shtokalko's development of narrative tales, then his experimentation music and poetry, culminating with an event featuring his performances of Ukrainian epic songs (dumas). Hosted by Julian Kytasty and Virlana Tkacz, the events feature special guests from US, Canada and Ukraine. They will be live-streamed in September and October. After their premieres, they can be seen anytime. Yara’s virtual events are all free and bilingual (Ukrainian-English).

Zenoviy Shtokalko was an immigrant from Berezhany, and a virtuoso bandura player who came to New York in the 1950s. He recorded several records for Surma, most of which were released after his death in 1968. He also left a treasure trove of basement tapes which have influenced major bandura players in New York and Ukraine.

In July 2020, Yara created "Zinoviy Shtokalko: Bandurist," a virtual event that was an introduction to Zinoviy Shtokalko’s work. Virlana Tkacz told his story, while Julian Kytasty, a master bandura player, shared recordings and played work influenced by Shtokalko. Watch Video

In late October and November, “Yara’s Traditional Music: Epic Song Festival” will feature several events on epic songs throughout the world. The Kyrgyz have preserved the largest number of known living epic songs. Yara’s Kyrgyz epic event will feature Kenzhegul Satybaldieva and Nurbek Serkebaev singing excerpts of such Kyrgyz epics as Janyl Myrza and Er Toshtuk. This August, Yara created the virtual event “Kyrgyz Epic at La MaMa: Yara’s Er Toshtuk.” The artists who created the show Er Toshtuk in Bishkek with Yara's Virlana Tkacz and Kenjegul Satybalbieva told how they created a modern theatre production based on an old Kyrgyz epic and brought it to La MaMa in 2009. This virtual event is bilingual (Kyrgyz-English), with video clips and many photographs, and accessible to all. It can be seen on Yara’s webpage. Yara has also invited morin khoor player Dimitri Ayurov to sing Buryat Mongolian epic songs and hopes other artists who perform epic songs from throughout the world will join the festival virtually.

“Yara’s Traditional Music Series ” is made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, NY Bandura/Bandura Downtown and friends of Yara Arts Group.


world music theatre piece based on a Kyrgyz epic 
about a magical and darkly humorous journey 
into the Underworld and out into the Cosmos

created and directed by Virlana Tkacz with Kenzhegul Satybaldieva

with Yara Arts Group and Kyrgyz artists 

based on the Kyrgyz epic "Er Toshtuk" as recorded by Vasily Radlov
music by Nurbek Serkebaev, set and lights designed by Watoku Ueno
shadow images by Watoku Ueno and Makoto Takeuchi
cosutmes by Ainura Asanbekova, movement by Shigeko Suga
translation by Roza Mukasheva, Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps 
stage manager Sarah V.Michelson, asst stage mgr: Aleksandra Myrna 

with: Daniel, Darrow, Eldiiar Dzharashev, Nurlan Erzhanov, Susan Hyon, 
Ainura Kachkynbek Kyzy, Umarbek Kadyrov, Kenzhegul Satybaldieva 
and Azamat Serkebaev, featuring musician Nurbek Serkebaev 

March 27 - April 12, 2009
La MaMa Experimental Theatre  program

workshop in Kyrgyzstans:

May 23-July 13, 2008 at B’Art Center in the capital city - Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan 
July 16-19, 2008 at Village Cultural Center, Kara Suu, Celestial Mountains
September 8, 2008 at the 3rd National Theatre Festival in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan

Photographs by Margaret Morton

Yara's book Kyrgyz Epic Theatre in New York

PRESS in New York

“Bet you don't know too much about the culture of Kyrgyzstan (Keer-ghee-stan). Er Toshtuk (air tosh-took), presented by Yara Arts Group, provides a nice taste. The style and story of this highly visual theatre piece really does seem to sit right on the border of Europe and Asia. Virlana Tkacz, who directs this piece with Kenzhegul Satybaldieva, runs the company, which specializes in original pieces that explore contemporary issues by using the materials of Eastern Europe. Er Toshtuk is based on a Kyrgyz epic, first written down in the 19th century but supposedly thousands of years old, in which Toshtuk, a young warrior, goes into the underworld and has adventures before he can marry.
     The cast includes two New York–based artists and five from Kyrgyzstan. The fusion is seamless. While most of the dialogue is in Kyrgyz, some is in English. It's integrated so well it neither slows the action nor impedes it, and you will not feel lost. Design helps set the mood: A Kyrgyz musician (Nurbek Serkebaev) sits beneath a sculptured, curlicued white tree accompanying the action through evocative use of traditional instruments. Costumes incorporate Kyrgyz embroideries.
     The epic is full of humor and terrific physicality. Azamat Serkebaev, a Kyrgyz actor who plays Chalkyuruk, the Magic Horse, captures horsiness with each whinny, leg kick, and look. His performance ought to be a requirement for every actor in New York, particularly those interested in physical work. When the horse gets homesick and misses his herd, you want to cry too (and give him a lump of sugar). As the bride Kenzheke (and in a few other roles), American Susan Hyon has simple charm. In the title role, Kyrgyz actor Umarbek Kadyrov beautifully conveys callow arrogance growing to courage and gallantry.
     "Er Toshtuk" is a small gem bringing a new flavor to a New York palate."
Gwen Orel Backstage, March 30, 2009

"In Er Toshtuk, the characters and situations get more fantastical as the story goes on. [There’s] a lot of changing characters and symbols, imaginative movements, beautiful music and singing, and seamless switching between two languages ...
    Our hero Toshtuk mounts the magic horse, his loyal friend, and they ride so fast that suddenly they're flying in slow motion. The nine shadow puppets of earrings, representing nine daughters, jingle against the backdrop to show girlish giggling. The magic horse, one of my favorite characters, stomps his hooves and whines sadly because he misses home, and it's so persuasive that you lament, too. (And who doesn't want a magic horse as a best friend??) It is the journey that we all want to be on: traveling the world, pushing boundaries in pursuit of honorable things, meeting loyal friends along the way, narrowing the focus on your dreams, and finding yourself victorious in impossible situations…. Like the best tall tales."
yssi Here We Go, April 5, 2009

"This [show] is a significant achievement for Virlana Tkacz and is a visual affirmation that the fusion, which many consider impossible, the search for a meeting point between cultures, is not a hopeless venture."

Kateryna Borush, Nova Hazeta (New York) April 16, 2009


Yara Arts Group

306 E 11th St #3B

New York, NY 10003 USA

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