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RAVEN (2011)

Exploring the unknowable boundaries 


Performance inspired by the poetry of Oleh Lysheha

created by Virlana Tkacz

with Yara Arts Group and Ukrainian artists

with: Andrew Colteaux, Maren Bush, Sean Eden

and Kat Yew music Alla Zagaykevych,

songs: Aurelia Shrenker & Eva Salina Primack (Ash)

sound Tim Schellenbaum, movement: Shigeko Suga,

projections: Waldemart Klyuzko & Mikhail Shraga

April 8-24, 2011 premiere La MaMa ETC, New York


March 10-14, 2011 workshop: Pasika Theatre Center, Kyiv

with Andrew Colteaux, Larysa Rusnak, Victoria Kudriavtsev 

and Mykola Shkaraban | photos

June 22-23, 2011 Kurbas Theatre in Lviv | photos


Nominated for Innovative Projection Design

for New York Innovative Theatre Award


photographs by Lee Wexler


Read more about Oleh Lysheha and see the translation of his poem "Raven"




Raven incites this ensemble to glorious flight….  Complimenting the vivid imagery of Lysheha’s words and the translation by creator / director Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps is the set, bare with the exception of a screen on wheels designed by Watoku Ueno/Aki-ology. Corrugated plastic on one side and sleek, shiny sheets of plastic on the other, it acts as a rich textural landing for the vibrant video projections of designer Mikhail Shraga and alternately splits the space, rotates to generate a spiraling sense of confusion. The path flown by Raven is, by turns, intoxicating in both its simplicity and complexity. I encourage you to follow where it leads.

Amy Lee Pearsall, April 9, 2011


Julian Kytasty played a melodic solo on the bundura that was like an incantation to call the raven.           Mr. Colteaux plays the man who meets the raven and Sean Eden plays Ivan, a friend.  Maren Bush plays a woman painting a wall that may never be finished.  There are two extreme moments of the tension in the piece: the appearance of the raven and the death of the Ivan’s wife…. There is a translucent wall in the middle of the stage.  Ivan and his wife find themselves caught on two sides of the wall unable to reach one another as the wall spins.   

            Waldemart Klyuzko and Mikhail Shraga’s projections, which included floral and forest imagery, helped to create a natural atmosphere. The projections were especially effective when projected on the raven’s white dress. The movement created by Shigeko Suga worked especially well to create the character of the raven played by Kat Yew as the raven moved together with Colteaux to portray a bind between bird and man. In Yara’s “Raven,” the boundaries between nature and humans were explored through spoken word, music, and movement.

Olena Jennings, The Ukrainian Weekly, April 24, 2011


At certain moments we hear a voice repeat certain phrases in Ukrainian; this is wonderfully performed by Olga Shuhan, a veteran of Yara shows. There are also traditional and sacred songs performed by Ash/AE. There are brilliant projections by Waldemart Klyuzko and Mykhail Shraga that bring a lot of color to the performance: a branch with peaches, the light lavender of the iris, the lush tree branches in the forest, the tall yellow trunks of the pines and the beautiful stagnant lake… The projections of Ivan’s wife on video over the image of the forest and on Kat Yew’s dress are great. This is a show you can and want to watch many times. Each time you discover something new, as I can testify.

Lydia Korsun Chas I Podii, April 27, 2011


The simplicity of the presentation is what caused my wonderment.…  This goes back to an even deeper, genetic imprint that we all possess - of sitting in the dark, maybe around a campfire, listening to a story being told, mesmerized by the flame and the tone of the teller.  Pure, simple – and very powerful!  It was this change, from the ordinary to the extraordinary, from the real to the altered state, almost instantaneously, and then just as suddenly back to the ordinary, which made me wonder what I had just experienced.

             “Raven” is artistic director Virlana Tkacz’s twenty-first production with the Yara Arts Group.  Each is a veritable witness of the directorial talents of Virlana Tkacz, of her style and her ability to take the Yara Arts Group and create a magical event that captures you and does not let you go. 

Ihor Slabicky, America, May 14, 2011


The performance piece relies heavily on imagery to tell the story.  The projections by Waldemart Klyuzko and Mikhail Shraga create a natural atmosphere with floral and forest photography.  In the center of the stage there is a translucent wall where the shadow of the raven first appears to actors Andrew Colteaux and Sean Eden, a man searching for meaning in nature and his friend Ivan... The wall is later illuminated with many different projections that alienate the actors in their search for the raven and for one another.  The raven, played by Kat Yew, wears a white dress that also acts as a surface for the projections and makes the raven seem unattainable.  The face of a woman played by Maren Bush also appears as a projection throughout the space. Choreography by Shigeko Suga turns the actors’ bodies into part of nature.  There is an especially striking scene when the raven moves fluidly with Colteaux.

Olena Jennings, Nth Word, April 14, 2011


Poet Oleh Lysheha and director Virlana Tkacz are a duo of like-minded artists. Both are uniquely talented, with original world views and styles, both are representative of a modern world culture that extends beyond national borders. At the same time, both introduce Ukrainian culture to the world.

Lidia Korsun, Svoboda, May 6, 2011



Perhaps the most amazing thing about Raven is the magical and masterful way the poetry has been transformed into stage reality. If I had to provide examples of the most organic translations from one form of art into another, Virlana Tkacz’s theatrical “re-readings” of modern poetry would certainly be on that list.

            Virlana Tkacz is interested in the deepest and most universal elements of folklore -- what unites traditions that at first glance seem totally unrelated. Often, this involves attempts by various cultures in their own unique ways (with their own particular sounds, rhythms and melodies of language) to approach the essential existential questions -- the meaning of life, the secrets of love, hate, death and birth. These questions resound in each culture, although of course, no culture has the ultimate answer. I would venture to suggest that what draws Virlana Tkacz to Lysheha is his orchestration of the “archaic.” This production of Raven must be seen since it is impossible to describe in words this theatre piece where the play of light, shadows, music and movement are so essential.

Roksoliana Sviato, Kinoteatr (Kyiv) No 3, 2011


A philosophical work, full of images, Raven intertwines music (electronic music and music on traditional instruments), folklore (prayers, American chants, Ukrainian folk songs and children’s rhymes), movement, and incredibly beautiful projected images that include live video. By creating across the borders of languages and cultures, between the borders of the contemporary and the archaic, Virlana ultimately presents a diverse range of images. Raven speaks to our desire to explore the unknown. Sharply delineated details from everyday life transform to reveal the true nature of reality. Birds, trees and fruit bear messages for the careful observer. The forest protects the secrets of the invisible path. Oleh Lysheha speaks in very simple, but deep images.

Lviv doesn’t often see the type of theatrical experiment shown by Virlana Tkacz and her Yara Arts Group. They are definitely worth seeing – don’t miss them the next time this theatre comes to town.

Natalia Dudko, Ratusha (Lviv) June

Video of apple scene from "Raven" in Lviv with Andrew Colteaux and Larysa Rusnak 

Other Yara shows using text by Oleh Lysheha:

Dream Bridge 2012

​Swan 2003

Flight of the White Bird 1999

Virtual Souls 1997

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