A LIGHT FROM THE EAST
& IN THE LIGHT(1990-91)
Kyiv 1920/New York 1990 They dream of a new world on stage
created by Virlana Tkacz, Wanda Phipps and Watoku Ueno
poetry by Taras Shevchenko & Pavlo Tychyna
Les Kurbas's diary & memoirs of his actors
translated by Virlana Tkacz & Wanda Phipps
plus our own dreams and obsessions
directed by Virlana Tkacz
music by Roman Hurko
set & lights by Watoku Ueno
costumes by Carol Ann Pelletier
dramaturg: Wanda Phipps
with: Jason Bauer, Sean Eden, Amy Grappell, Timothy Greer, Shona Tucker, Peter McCabe & Rebecca Moore
asst. director: Jessica Balboni, stage manager: Tamara Ivanochko
New York - La Mama E.T.C. November 23 to December 9, 1990
with: Jason Bauer, Sean Eden, Amy Grappell and Shona Tucker from Yara Oleksi Bohdanovich, Larysa Nedin, Mykola Shkaraban & Olesya Zhulynska from Kiev, Sergei Berezhko & Stepan Pashichnik from Kharkiv and Maryana Sadovska from Lviv
stage manager: Dorian Yurchuk, video: Christian Moore
Ukraine - production at Franko Theatre in Kyiv, Shevchenko Theatre in Kharkiv, Kurbas Theatre in Lviv August - September 1991
with: Jason Bauer, Sean Eden, Amy Grappell, Timothy Greer, Jessica Hecht, Peter McCabe & Rebecca Moore
stage manager: Hayley Schwartz, asst director: Alexandra Aron
New York - workshop at La Mama First Street March 9 - 11, 1990
Skovoroda section from Yara's In the Light in Kyiv, Ukraine -- August1991
A LIGHT FROM THE EAST Press
"Director Virlana Tkacz has fashioned a mesmerizing collage of text and images gleaned from Les Kurbas's diaries, real memoirs of his actors and poetry by Taras Shevchenko and Pavlo Tychyna, two of Ukraine's most beloved poets... The result is a fascinating amalgam of historical narrative laced with fine acting and a simple but moving musical score written by keyboardist Roman Hurko, with accompaniment by harpist Odarka Polanskyj... Actress Rebecca Moore, who acts as a kind of lecturer here, is a constant presence who reminds us that the cast of New York performers share the same dream as that of their Kiev counterparts from the past: Kurbas's dream that art could indeed lead us to a more illuminated future. Moore, along with actress Shona Tucker, drives the point home with remarkable poignancy when they harmonize together in haunting song... This play tells us that Kurbas's dream is still alive. The times are essentially no different... A Light From the East is a welcome statement indeed, renewing our faith in art's mandate to reveal the truth of ourselves."
Tom Wachunas, Villager, November 29, 1990
"Kurbas's story unfolds in A Light From the East (Yara Arts Group at La Mama), a production that reflects the theatrical values he espoused and hints at the historical events -- revolution, chaos, starvation -- that provided a context for his work. Archival photos, newspaper headlines, and diary entries are laced through the more abstract, dreamlike reveries, providing the tension that leaves the characters debating whether Kurbas is to be remembered for his visions or for his tragically real death at the hands of Stalin... The play's 'docudream' genre is very effective."
Karen Houppert, Village Voice, December 18, 1990
"The old 'garde' meets the new in this ambitious project conceived by Virlana Tkacz with the Yara Arts Group, based on the memoirs of an avant-garde theatre troupe that performed in Eastern Europe in the 1920s" Downtown, November 28, 1990
"A minimal and every effective set by Watoku Ueno... The music by Roman Hurko, a talented composer from Toronto is unforgettable, especially the songs near the end which are truly inspired... we must note the sensitivity with which Kurbas's dreams are portrayed by these actors -- all of them young Americans of various backgrounds... In A Light From the East Kurbas continues to live. We must applaud director Virlana Tkacz and her artistic group for their success. They have truly enriched us all."
Vira Kaczmarska, Svoboda, January 15, 1991
"The American actors (from non-Ukrainian backgrounds) interact very naturally with the taped texts in Ukrainian and the music. This is a penetrating look at the era, without romanticism or sentimentality... And Kurbas's era speaks to us."
Larysa Onyshkevych, Suchasnist, March 1991
"Yara is one of a rare breed -- a performance group that creates a true cultural exchange, a dialogue between East and West, on stage... This dialogue is effectively illustrated in A Light From the East. The highly kinetic plays contains startling shifts in time and perspective. Individual scenes contrast contemporary American actors discussing their personal experience of theatre in East Village coffee shops with their Ukrainian compatriots, also engaged in artistic debate decades ago amidst the desperate circumstances of revolutionary turmoil. The dreams of today's young artists are layered into a collage that provides a future for the dreams of the past. Shona Tucker offers an arresting performance of a haunting number from Skovoroda's 'Garden of Divine Songs' that casts a spell on the audience."
Peter Bejger, Ukrainian Weekly, June 16, 1991
"This collective creation, directed by Virlana Tkacz, is a landmark in theatre history as a performance about the experimental theatre movement in Ukraine.... The form of A Light From the East is both complex and lucid. It moves between the poles of history and dream.... The form is almost Pirandellian. Seven avant-garde actors are in search of their artistic ancestors. The old avant-garde is merged with the new. .. The texts of the piece are from Kurbas's diaries, but he is not dramatized; his presence is paradoxically felt through his absence... The movement of the actors reifies their movement through time, spanning silent movies, still life, dance theatre, and post-modernist performance. There are many deeply moving sections in this production... The members of the Yara Arts Group are competent performers... Their intensity and poetic authenticity... give us light from the east: the power of the artistic and political dream in history and the history of the theatrical dream."
Melinda Jo Guttman, Soviet and East European Performance, spring 1991
"In an exceptionally subtle and spellbinding production Virlana Tkacz had managed to transform the pre-Berezil experiences of Les Kurbas and his small group of actors into a unique contemporary theatre piece.... Virlana Tkacz stages the poetry (performed in Ukrainian and English) as rhythmical sound experiences, and as visual presentation -- the inner rhythm, the inner music of each poem is conveyed through the movement and the rhythm of the body...Roman Hurko's music organically fits into the structure of the show and is one of its unifying elements... The conceptual complexity of A Light From the East demanded a uniquely inventive approach to stage design. Watoku Ueno, who is Japanese, found a solution that is spare, precise and subtle... The Yara actors: Jason Bauer, Peter McCabe, Rebecca Moore, Timothy Greer, Amy Grappell, Sean Eden and Shona Tucker were excellent in their roles."
Maria Rewakowicz, Svito-vyd (Kiev-NY), No. 1991
"Superb direction, talented performances by the young actors and perfect musical and technical accompaniment, create an exceptional experience... How fortunate what this multicultural collective is engaged in such interesting and beneficial work. The presentation of In the Light here in Ukraine is of even greater benefit because it has impact on many people precisely because in it young Americans of Eastern and Western European, Asian and African heritage are seen to be interested in Ukrainian art and engaged by it."
Ivan Luchuk, Ratusha (Lviv), September 2, 1991
"Kurbas's life was cut short, but his theatrical dreams are being tested on the stage in front of our eyes... The past and the future find closure here, within us, the audience."
Rivne, October 5, 1991
"Virlana Tkacz and her co-workers wanted to capture what you can't find in books -- the power of the dream. Here theatrical lives flow one into another, events become universal, and a new experimental world theatre is created."
Natalia Chechel, Suchasnist, December 1991
"In addition to presenting an intellectual analysis of the past, the show made us feel these events in our hearts... perceive them no longer as something alien, apart. History was becoming part of today... The past should leaven the subconscious, that is how it becomes "present" today. This is of great importance now in Ukraine where for so long politicians had tried to erase the history of entire generations."
Vadym Oryshchuk, Nashe zhyttia, April 1991
"Recently, we the first international joint project in Ukrainian theatre history: the Yara Arts Group headed by Virlana Tkacz from La Mama ETC in New York worked together with Ukrainian actors on In the Light.... this was a dynamic, multilayered collage.. we saw how a young theatre group "created itself," how new ideas and dreams were born and tested."
Halyna Lypkiv, News From Ukraine (Kiev) November, 1991
"In the Light, as the Ukrainian version of the show was called was created by the director and was the reflection of the director's inner world, her personality, her emotions, her flaws; a reflection of the complex labyrinth of her soul. She strives towards the eternal -- to unite the past, present and future. Many epochs, cultures and people come together in the sophisticated polyphonic structure of the show... We, ourselves, are also present in the play, searching for our history in a New York coffee shop, and in places dear to every Ukrainian. In the show we hear the pates voice of Roman Cherkashyn, another actor from the Berezil Theatre, one more link to Hirniak, Kurbas and history. We reflect on the past give life to the dream, and project the dream into the future. All these layers of In the Light embody Virlana Tkacz's image of Kurbas, her experiences of theatre, history, time and space. The show is a penetrating look at the essence of Kurbas's ideas and hopes. Director Virlana Tkacz has also captured the spirit and the atmosphere of the times in which this prominent innovator and his collaborators worked... Another achievement is the powerful result of Virlana's collaboration with composer Roman Hurko from Canada. The emotional and spiritual spectrum of the music enriches the show. The musical imagery is based on Kurbas's thoughts about poetry, as well as Virlana's experimentations with poetry in Performance. Poetry and music, so essential to Les Kurbas, are infused into the story of his life and assume a crucial place in the show. The most emotional and powerful moments of the show are the scenes in which historical facts are interwoven with poetic images, and visuals are accompanied by music...'Time measure, space and number...' that's how Virlana ends her poem. Her spirit is inseparably tied to her work, her theatre play-poem. The final words of the show are: 'I had this dream. I saw us in the future.' The past is inseparably bound to the future."
Dmytro Kotelenets, Slavic and East European Performance, fall 1992
NEW YORK workshop
"I was enchanted... director Virlana Tkacz created a dynamic and unique production... Here reigned delicate refinement and harmony... Roman Hurko's music was very rich... The production, designed by Watoku Ueno, was infused with a sense of light and ingenuity... a talented group of young actors."
Bohdan Boychuk, Svoboda, April 26, 1990
"One of her most interesting projects developed in the summer of 1989 when she directed a theatre workshop on Les Kurbas, staging Shevchenko's lyrical poem, 'The Sky's Unwashed,' as a performance piece using music, sound, drawing and dance-like movement. Because of the inspiring response to this piece from both the audience and the actors Ms. Tkacz became fascinated with the idea of using language as a sound-track for a performance piece. In this case, she will be using two languages, Ukrainian and English. The actors will bring to life the poetry, in English translation, and the original poetry in Ukrainian will be presented on tape. 'I believe that the essentially bilingual nature of the performances will open our material to a broader audience. It will reveal the power and beauty of Shevchenko's and Tychyna's verse to those with no previous exposure. At the same time it will allow those familiar with it to see it in a new and different light. Kurbas's thoughts on nature and creativity which originally inspired the concept of this production, will be presented and will also serve as the guiding method.' said Ms. Tkacz."
Marta Kolomayets, Ukrainian Weekly, February 25, 1990