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world music theatre piece – the journeys of

two women become epic descents into the Great Below,

where songs, skills and languages vanish


created and directed by Virlana Tkacz

with Ukrainian & Kyrgyz artists

direction/design by Watoku Ueno, movement by Katja Kolcio

with: Nina Matvienko, Tonia Matvienko, Cecilia Arana,

Kenzhegul Satybaldieva and Ainura Kachkynbek kyzy

Music: Nurbek Serkebaev, Julian Kytasty and

Debutante Hour’s Susan Hwang & Maria Sonevytsky


March 26, 2010 workshop: Ivan Honchar Museum, Kyiv

April 16 - May2, 2010 premiere La MaMa ETC, New York


Sept 9, 2010 at GogolFEST International Festival in Kyiv

Sept 12-16, 2010 at Pasika Theatre Center at Kyiv-Mohyla

Sept 25-28, 2010 at B’Arts Center in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan




PICK OF THE WEEK April 18, 2010

“The performance builds what good theatre should always build: an alternate world that allows us to re-learn and reflect upon the great questions at the core of our being human.” Michael Bettencourt April 18, 2010


“Gorgeous Ukrainian and Kyrgyz traditional songs performed by women with exquisite voices accompanied elegantly by ancient instruments, as well as stunning changes of tone with the contemporary duo “The Debutante Hour” combine to create a beautiful soundscape … "Scythian Stones"is unlike anything I’ve heard before. The voices of Nina Matvienko and Tonia Matvienko (these performers are actually mother and daughter from Ukraine) and Kenzhegul Satybaldieva and Ainura Kachkynbek kyzy (from Kyrgyzstan) are what make this production so worth seeing. The way they are able to build tension vocally clearly comes from a place of deep connection to the songs being performed. The sharp shift in musical tone from the traditional pieces that soar to the upbeat songs that rock really clarifies the plays’ overall message by not making the traditional good and the cosmopolitan bad; rather both are really good, only one is familiar and the other seems to have gotten lost somewhere.”

 Mitchell Conway Nytheatre,com ,April 17, 2010


“One of the most striking aspects of the piece is the set and lighting designed by Watoku Ueno. The raised stage is shaped like a DNA helix to convey the passing of traditions as a parallel to the passing of genes. The stage gives the actors the opportunity to act on both higher and lower levels and creates a simultaneous separation and connection between the Kyrgyz and Ukrainian worlds…. One of the most stunning songs was Tonia singing to her mother, “You have had your time/To look at your own daughter/ Oh, you have already gazed at her.” Her voice resounds rebelliously throughout the theatre… The idea of tradition and its loss resonates with all viewers. As Tonia and Ainura let their hearts guide them away from their mothers, all of us have let our hearts lead us on roads from which no traveler returns, and yet have made it back. “

Olena Jennings, The Ukrainian Weekly, April 25, 2010


"Scythian Stones" can be understood by anyone because its themes touch everyone on the planet….  Only Nina Matvienko could so brilliantly and so meticulously perform the role of the Ukrainian mother – both in terms of her singing and her acting. Kenzhegul Satybaldieva is enthralling as she performs the part of the Kyrgyz mother.”

Kateryna Borush, Nova Hazeta (New York) 22 April 2010


Part of [director Virlana] Tkacz’s mastery is that her productions are original, collaborative efforts where everyone is a part of the creative process. Instead of a script, Tkacz starts with a kernel of an idea and then grows the production from there. “It’s more like gluing things together,” said Tkacz of her directing style. When asked, Ukraine’s vocal treasure Nina Matvienko said that Tkacz is unlike anyone she’s ever worked with in her homeland. “Virlana gives us a little idea and we should find ourselves in this,” said Matvienko, who performed in Tkacz’s latest production, "Scythian Stones".... “She supports, she pushes…This [directing style] is not characteristic in our region.” The collaboration between actors and musicians is one reason why Tkacz has been able to break through the language barrier. Her productions are international in that they are multilingual and understandable to a wide audience because of visual and musical effects. Natalia A. Fedushchak, Kyiv Post, November 18, 2010

Although the avant-garde is usually associated with the search for new forms and often lacking in meaning, the ethno-music theatre piece "Scythian Stones," turned out extraordinarily heartfelt… full of hidden meaning. Two paths intertwine through the stage space and disappear upstage, like two entwined fates… "Scythian Stones" is a simple and moving story about two girls, a Ukrainian and a Kyrgyz, who leave their own homes. The girls abandon their traditional lives, full of ancient rites, magical rituals and set out for the city which strips them of their unique human identity… Two mothers ready their daughters for the long journey, placing simple items (a spindle whorl and a jar) into kerchiefs. The Kyrgyz mother braids coins into her daughter’s hair, while the Ukrainian mother gives her child a coral necklace. The city shines with bright lights, but is actually a lifeless wasteland. The girls lose their mother’s bundles and eventually their souls turn to stone…. Virlana Tkacz wove this theatre piece out of traditional songs and poetry, creating a virtuoso intertwining of lines from the works of Mary Karr, Maria Meyerchik, Yurko Pozaiak and Oksana Zabuzhko. In the final scene she has the actors whirl in front of cool, but unbelievably beautiful stars. The spectators forget they are in a theatre in this culminating moment. “The Universe” and the “Homeland” suddenly become related words, describing a single concept…. 

Olena Morozova, Courier (Kyiv weekly), September 24, 2010

Oksana Zabuzhko’s “Symptoms of Poetry” becomes the coda of "Scythian Stones," a theatre piece built entirely of traditional songs and poetry. Poetry is truly the code of the cosmos that exists between two worlds. Only poetry is capable of saving our soul from a world in chaos. The final mise-en-scene, when the performers whirl in a ghostly dance in front of a projected starry galaxy, is truly unforgettable. At that moment you actually believe that the intimate and inspiring strength of song and poetry can save us from the global wasteland. 

Nadia Sokolenko, Den (Kyiv’s major newspaper), September 15, 2010

Virlana Tkacz, an American theatre director of Ukrainian heritage does not visit Kyiv often. But her shows are always the talk of the town…  "Scythian Stones" is an experimental theatre piece that addresses the globalization process. Songs, traditions, and languages throughout the worlds are disappearing due to the bustle of great cities. Only vague traces remain, reminiscent of the stones carved by Scythians that are now found by archaeologists throughout Ukraine and Central Asia. Virlana Tkacz has become interested in disappearing ancient Ukrainian and Kyrgyz epics and rituals. The show uses Kyrgyz and Ukrainian folk elements…“We never speak. We sing the entire show. A song can be understood without translation. I never felt that they were singing in another language, Kyrgyz, right next to me,” said Nina Matvienko. Their voices truly blend beautifully…. The beauty of the songs disappears when the daughters of both mothers decide to go off into the city and see the world… Virlana Tkacz’s goal was to show that the relationship between mother and daughter is similar among all people. “Women are different in different nations; not just in appearance, but in character and attitude. But they are the same in their love to their children. Every mother wants to keep her daughter close to her. Yet this is impossible – you cannot keep and hold this moment forever. I wanted to show how culture and tradition can be passed on without stifling the children,” explained Virlana Tkacz 

Olena Zhuk, Ukraina Moloda, national newspaper, September 14, 2010



This contemporary theatre creates an alternative world, and uses ancient forgotten rituals to make us think about the point of life, a question facing each new generation… Enchanting Ukrainian folk songs and laments sung by Nina Matvienko and her daughter Tonia are interwoven with Kyrgyz laments. Highlighting the unique features of each folk tradition, the creators of the show at the same time lead the audience to think about the similar roots of humanities problems and feelings, both in the past and today.

Berment Malikova, Vecherniy Bishkek, September 29, 2010


“The splendid actors, the profound script, the traditional costumes, music, both Kyrgyz and Ukrainian folk songs and even sections from a ancient Sumerian epic about the Descent of Inanna (possibly the oldest literary text on earth created over 4,000 years ago) about a Goddess who finds herself in the Great Below, turn this short show (it runs about one hour) into a real work of art. The actors performed all on one breath. Our leading ladies – the amazing singer Nina Matvienko and her daughter Tonia Mavienko, Kenzhegul Satybaldieva, Ainura Kachkynbek kyzy, Maria Sonevytsky and Susan Hwang – leave no one indifferent. They all beautifully unite in the show their vocals performed with such depth,”

Halyna Mykhailyna, Slovo Kyrgyzstana. September 29, 2010


It is amazing how simple is the idea, but how much meaning it conveys, exploring the complicated and basic relationships between mothers and daughters.

Nargiza Ryskulova,” New Star (Bishkek) October 4, 2010.

Other Yara shows with Kyrgyz artists:

Dream Bridge

Er Toshtuk


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