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JANYL (2007)

world music theatre piece based on based on a Kyrgyz epic  
about a woman warrior from the Celestial Mountains 

world music theatre piece based on a Kyrgyz epic 
about a woman warrior from the Celestial Mountains 
created by the artists of Yara Arts Group

and the Sakhna Theatre of Bishkek 
based on the epic "Janyl Myrza" as told by Ibraim Abdyrakhmanov

directed by Virlana Tkacz, designed by Watoku Ueno
movement by Shigeko Sara Suga, photography by Margaret Morton,
video by Andrea Odezynska, translation by Roza Mukasheva,
Virlana Tkacz & Wanda Phipps, techical manager: Oleg Braude 
asst director: Kimberly Miller, stage manager: Olena Jennings

with: Munarbek Alibaev, Baktykul Dzhanibekov, Susan Hyon, Asel Maamytova, Kenzhegul Satybaldieva, Shigeko Sara Suga, Ilgis Zhunusov, featuring Kyrgyz epic singing by Omurzak Kaiypov 
and music by Asylbek Nasirdinov

March 9 - 25,  2007
La MaMa ETC New York

VOICE CHOICE Village Voice March 7-13, 2007 and March 14-20, 2007


The first ever-theatrical collaboration between America and Kyrgyzstan is surely reason to celebrate. But Yara's latest play will probably offer several other delights. It concerns a Kyrgyz legend about a woman warrior with extraordinary aim. Traditional Kyrgyz singing is also featured.  Alex Soloski. Village Voice


Last summer the members of Yara Arts Group from New York traveled to the Kyrgyz Republic on an ArtsLink Awards grant to collaborate with the Sakhna Theatre of Bishkek on a theatre piece Janyl based on a traditional Kyrgyz epic about a woman warrior from the 17th century.

Virlana Tkacz, Yara's artistic director, translated the epic with Kyrgyz poet Roza Mukasheva and American poet Wanda Phipps, as the foundaiton of the play. The Yara and the Sakhna artists researched the story of Janyl in the Kyrgyz landscape. They witnessed an eagle hunt and recorded epic singers and lamenters. Kalkan Keimaly ulu, a direct descendant of one of the characters, took the artists into the high valley in the Tian Shans or Celestial Mountains on the Chinese border and made the story of Janyl Myrza come alive by pointing out the specific sites where various events in the epic took place.

The multi-media play was presented as a work-in-progress in Bishkek last August. Music for the production was created by Sakhna's traditional bard Omurzak Kaiypov and musician Asylbek Nasirdinov. Yara's choreogrpaher Shigeko Suga incorporated movements from archery, horses and eagles. The set projections by the photographer Margaret Morton featured the landscapes of the epic. Yara's actress Eunice Wong and Sakhna's Kenzhegul Satybaladieva portrayed two aspects of the heroine, and an ensemble of ten Sakhna artists played all the other characters.

Work on Janyl continued throughout the fall. Rehearsals resumed in February when four Kyrgyz artists, Munarbek Alibaev, Baktykul Dzhanybekov, Kenzhegul Satybaldieva and Ilgis Zhunusov arrived in New York. They were joined by the Sakhna musicians, as well as Yara artists Susan Hyon and Shigeko Suga. Janyl performs at La MaMa Experimental Theatre in New York March 9-25, 2007. The musicians will perform additional concerts at Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania and in Saratoga Springs.

Next summer Yara artists will present their proudciton of Janyl with Sakhna artists in Bishkek and on tour in the villages and nomadic communities where they researched the production. They are especially interested in creating an outdoor version of the show in the dramatic landscape of Tash Rabat, returning the legacy of this epic to the nomadic communities of Janyl's homeland.


Art from Central Asia is little known or available in America…. I was totally surprised to hear that the Sakhna Theatre of Bishkek was coming to New York…

“Janyl Myrza” is one of the small Kyrgyz epics and relates the story of a woman warrior. The show begins with Susan Hyon, an American actress, who is yanked out of the insane life of a contemporary American girl driven by computers, telephones and blackberries. Although these are not present on stage, the actress clearly and visually presents these through her expressive movements, and amazed us with her plasticity. Then out of nowhere, from long, long ago appears the heroine Janyl dressed in a beautiful Kyrgyz costume as portrayed by Kenzhegul Satybaldieva. Despite all the differences and cultural contrast she is an extension of the American. She enchants her with her movements and something magical happens that unites the times, spaces and spirits of the two women into one heroine.

This is a fascinating concept created by the director which helps the audience understand the ancient epic today. It becomes a part of contemporary reality joining with invisible threads two absolutely different cultures: Kyrgyz and American, East and West.

The male characters are also presented in an interesting way, and are performed with emotional impact, power and inspiration. Dressed in contemporary suits, they reminded me of mid-level Soviet bureaucrats as they intruded into the ancient epic. All male roles are performed by four actors, who in the piece fight, joke, kill and die – in a word behave like warriors. Like the heroine, they all love their homeland.

“Janyl Myrza” exits in several versions that were recorded from different epic singers. This version is based on the one told by Ibraim Abdyrakhmanov – Munarbek Alibaev, who plays six parts, informed me. "In Soviet times Kyrgyz epics were heavily edited by censors, and they were made to serve the needs of the powers that be. Now we can show our epics without cuts as they truly existed. "

“It’s very important for me to present the unique features of the Kyrgyz epic. I have a very strong personal connection to folklore,” says the director Virlana Tkacz. “Previously I worked with Hutsuls from western Ukraine, Buryats from Siberia and Mongolians, and have always tried to present both the wealth passed on through the centuries and its importance today. Our modern spiritual world is enriched by ancient poetry, tales and legends. But oral literature needs constant care. Not just from museums, but attention and daily creative input from all the members of the society."

Visually, the show has a very original design. There are no decorations as such. The Japanese designer Watoku Ueno created an astonishingly airy world, full of the light and space of sublime mountains. The projections consist of photographs of Margaret Morton, who traveled with Yara through Kyrgyzstan and documented both the land and people. Also shown are video-collages by Andrea Odezynska. The production uses the first English translation of “Janyl Myrza” created by Roza Mukasheva, Virlana Tkacz and American poet Wanda Phipps.
by Rafael Nektalov, Bukharian Times (New York) March 23, 2007

photos by Margaret Morton, 2007


Other Yara shows with Kyrgyz artists:

Dream Bridge

Scythian Stones

Er Toshtuk

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