ER TOSHTUK (2009)

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

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
"ER TOSHTUK" -- PICK 

“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

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