LESIA UKRAINKA (born Larissa Kosach (1871-1913), grew up at a time when it was illegal to write and publish in Ukrainian. She wrote fiery poems as a girl and later created poetic modernist dramas. Dmytro Czyzhevkiy, wrote that: "if any Ukrainian works can speak to humanity at large, they are certainly Lesia Ukrainka’s poetic dramas." At a time when most Ukrainians were impoverished villagers, Lesia Ukrainka was the daughter of a judge and a writer, and grew up surrounded by major figures in Ukrainian arts and sciences. She was well-educated, and made numerous trips to Europe and the Middle East. Her earliest dramatic works reveal an affinity for Ibsen. Many of her poetic dramas drew their themes from the spiritual history of the world. They examined the historical process and how individual aspirations operate within societal constraints. Her later works, such as Forest Song, reveal a unique voice and strong female-centered sense of drama and relationship to nature. Virlana Tkacz
Yara Arts Group created four theatre pieces based on Lesia Ukrainka’s play Forest Song:
In 1993, Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps created an award-winning English translation of the Ukrainian verse play and presented the first workshop at La MaMa. Yara's Forest Song workshop (1993) at La MaMa program | photos
In the spring of 1994, Yara traveled to Lviv and created the bilingual “Yara’s Forest Song,” which was shown at the Kurbas Theatre in Lviv and at La MaMa. "Yara's Forest Song" (1994) Lviv program | photos & "Yara's Forest Song" (1994) LaMama program | photos & video
In 2013, Yara created the immersive “Fire Water Night” at La MaMa. "Fire Water Night" (2013) at La MaMa program | photos & video
In the winter of 2021, Yara created virtual events about each of these versions. These include original participants, photos and video from the shows. They can be seen any time for free - Virtual event on Lesia Ukrainka & "Forest Song" program | video - virtual event
Virtual event on Yara's Three "Forest Songs" (in Ukrainian) | video - virtual event
In June 2021, Yara created "Virtual Forest Song" click for more on event, for program for the full video
Forest Song (translated by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps)
Act 1 Luke & Sylph
(Luke grabs the Birch tree and pulls out a knife)
Sylph: Don’t. Don’t cut! Don’t kill!
Luke: I only want to get some sap
For syrup from this tree
Sylph: Don’t you dare! It’s her blood.
Don’t make my sister bleed!
Luke: You call this birch your sister? Who are you?
Sylph: Sylph, a forest nymph.
Luke: (looking at her carefully)
You're a forest nymph?
I heard about you from the old folks,
but I never thought I'd see one.
Sylph: Did you ever want to see one?
Luke: Sure, why not? But, you look like a real girl...
Well, like a lady.
How come your eyes aren't green?
(LUKE looks closely at her.)
Well, now they're green... but they were
blue like the sky... And now they've turned gray,
like clouds... No, now they're black,
or maybe brown... How strange you are!
Do you think I'm pretty?
Oh, how would I know!
Well, do you?
Luke: (more embarrassed)
What a question!
Act 2 Field Nymph & Sylph
Sylph: I'll reap.
(SYLPH bends over the rye and swings the sickle. The FIELD. NYMPH emerges out of the rye.)
Field Nymph: Sister, please, don't destroy my beauty!
Sylph: I must.
I've been forced into rows, restrained.
All my flowers that once blazed free like stars,
ripped out of the rye!
Once poppies burned here red like flames.
Now look even the last traces their blood has dried up...
Sylph: Sister, I must! Your beauty
will return even more stunning next year,
but if my happiness fades now
it will never rise again.
What sorrow! My hair, my golden hair
My youth and beauty condemned to death...
Sylph: Your beauty was not fated to live long,
it grows to die.
It's useless to beg.
If not I, someone else will cut you down.
Look, sister, how the wind runs,
runs across the rye.
Let us enjoy this paradise,
while the sun still shines,
while the rye stands tall,
while the inevitable hasn't yet come!
A moment, a brief moment! Just an instant, please!
Then my beauty will abandon me
will fall by itself.
Sister, don't be like winter,
who doesn't listen, just descends!
Sylph: I would gladly do what you ask,
but my freedom to do so has disappeared.
Field Nymph: (whispers to SYLPH)
Doesn't it sometimes happen in the field
that a hand is cut with a sickle?
Sister, take pity on me.
A small cut will be enough.
Surely, my beauty is worth a single drop of blood?
Sylph: (cuts her hand with the sickle. Blood splatters the FIELD NYMPH's golden hair.)