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Dreams of Donetsk, Poetry of Serhiy Zhadan and the War in Ukraine

new theatre piece created by Yara Arts Group
with Marina Celander, Andrew Colteaux, Sean Eden, Chris Ignacio, Julian Kytasty and Maria Pleskevich, plus Melinda Custer, Caitlin Harding, Piotr Gawelko & Lasha Taktakishvilli 
conceived and directed by Virlana Tkacz
poetry & monologs by Serhiy Zhadan
set & light: Watoku Ueno, music: Julian Kytasty
projections: Waldemart Klyuzko, costumes: Keiko Obremski
translations: Virlana Tkacz & Wanda Phipps
photos more photos 
February 20 to March 8, 2015 
La MaMa, New York

Virlana's blog "War Makes a Play"
on the New York Innovative Theatre Awards site

3 Press in New York:

    When I was first told to leave the theater during the beginning of "Hitting Bedrock" I grinned, thinking I’d misheard. A repeated request, however, was hard and clear enough to let me know that this was no joke. That demand was soon made of everyone in the audience, and within a few minutes we were shepherded out of our seats and downstairs into a basement passageway, then relocated to another shadowy space, all while carrying our belongings in bags. 
  This experimental docuplay at La MaMa, which relates stories of Ukrainian war refugees, effectively mimics the confusion felt by people caught in war’s upheaval. 
  “Hitting Bedrock,” conceived and directed by Virlana Tkacz, started out as a relatively benign project. In 2013, the Yara Arts Group traveled to Donetsk, Ukraine, for a theater program that asked residents to describe their dreams for the future. It seemed an interesting question to pose to those who live in an unassuming town known primarily for mining (hence the play’s title), and many were eager to participate.
  War broke out in the country a short time later, and some residents fled Donetsk. The troupe contacted a number of the initial contributors via telephone or the Internet, and their updated stories are occasionally heard here in translated voice-overs, as is poetry by the Ukrainian writer Serhiy Zhadan.
    Marina Celander, as a refugee, and Sean Eden, as a builder who speaks about his projects in Ukraine, are fine actors, and  Julian Kytasty ’s bandura music fosters an aura of menace. Those three and the rest of the cast help convey the mayhem of horrid circumstances, a situation best summed up by a woman who, mired in the country’s chaos, declares: “It’s frightening to see how history is made.” 
‘Hitting Bedrock’ at La MaMa Taps Into War’s Confusion by Ken Jaworowski  3/1/15

    The Yara Arts Group's "Hitting Bedrock" brings a drama to La MaMa ripped from current front-page headlines about the civil war in Ukraine. During this immersion experience, theatergoers watch, listen, participate and learn as they follow the lives of young adults in the vibrant city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. We see their hopes and dreams fade, as a brutal civil war intrudes into their lives and clouds their futures. Audience members are led from their seats through a tunnel around the stage where they are stopped at a roadblock by crude men in balaclavas who order them around and demand their valuables. We hear the sounds of war and violence as we listen to the stories of those caught in its trap. Intermittently, we hear the prose, poetry and music of a rich, local culture. On one side of the stage we see a wooden wall collage reminiscent of Picasso's Guernica. Within the context of La MaMa and experimental theater, this is a timely, vivid and dramatic presentation which brings insight and awareness to the public about this war and all wars. Despite the grim circumstances, it is also imaginative and lyrical with its interspersed eloquent poetry and the beautiful sounds of the bandura (a Ukrainian guitar-like instrument.) … If you want to be challenged about important contemporary issues and have an unconventional evening at the theater, give this one a try. 
Robert Crisco, HiDrama, February 23, 2015

The New York show by Virlana Tkacz is about another Donetsk. The main characters in it are the refugees who dream of returning home and seeing the family, friends and neighbors alive. Serhiy Zhadan wrote about them: "We will never see familiar faces again. We are refugees. We'll run all night." This poem is at the heart of the scenario for the new piece during the war on the eastern front.
   Early on the stage manager interrupts the show and announces that everyone must follow her out of the room. The audience follows her out of the room, downstairs and down a long corridor in the basement where they are transformed into refugees. 
  During one of the memorable moments, the heroine of the show – a refugee, played by Marina Celander, grabs the keys from her apartment: from the front door, the mailbox and two from the door to the apartment, asks the audience "Do you have your keys? Take them out! Get your keys!" She sees a forest of hands with keys and yells" Jingle them! Maybe someone will hear us. Maybe the world will hear us…" 
  This is an amazing show that doesn't let you sleep afterwards.
Kateryna Borush, Nova Hazeta (New York), 3/5/15

Audience Reactions

A must see. A terrific work. 
Adrian Karatnycky, Facebook

I went to the first performance yesterday with two expats from Donetsk. A deceptively plain and strong evocation of how war works 'on the ground'--and of what it really means to be a refugee (how you hold on to your keys, put all your things in one suitcase...) and a volunteer soldier-for-hire. No posturing, no rhetoric, no partiinost'. Another triumph. Highly recommended. Nadia Kizenko, Facebook

"Hitting Bedrock" - a poignant, perceptive, powerful and creative production by the Yara Arts Group at La MaMa Theater, NY. About my hometown, DONETSK, which I feel has been taken away from me. Peter Zalmayev, Facebook.

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