VIRTUAL FOREST SONG
the first human enters a primeval forest, and nature reacts
includes scenes from “Forest Song” by Lesia Ukrainka. translated by Virlana Tkacz & Wanda Phipps, Native American, English & American poetry, plus traditional songs from Ukraine
directed by Virlana Tkacz
movement: Shigeko Sara Suga
costumes: Keiko Obremski
projections & graphics: Waldemart Klyuzko
video & images: Evgeniy Maloletka & Jim Krantz
singer: Iryna Voloshyna, flute: Ihor Didenchuk
bandura: Julian Kytasty, sound: Maksym Lozynskyj
translations: Virlana Tkacz, Wanda Phipps & Oksana Batiuk
literary manager: Oksana Lebedivna
casting & coordination: Martin Nikolov
technical manager: Darien Fiorino
live-stream: Chris Ignacio/La MaMa
with Sanskar Agarwal, Andrew Colteaux, Darien Fiorino, Silvana Gonzalez, Akiko Hiroshima, Chamaya Moody, Martin Nikolov Nam Pham, Masha Pruss, Shigeko Sara Suga, Shona Tucker, Iryna Voloshyna and Georgia Waehler
Presented on Zoom on June 25, 2021
Dedicated to Ellen Stewart, the mama of LaMaMa and all Yara artists who worked on previous versions. In memory of Genji Ito.
Read fragment from our translation and about Lesia Ukrainka
PRESS in NEW YORK
The production of Yara Arts Group’s “Virtual Forest Song” directed by Virlana Tkacz is not the first time she tackled an adaptation of Lesia Ukrainka’s classic play. It is, however, different from the previous productions of “Forest Song” by Yara Arts Group in that it took place on Zoom. This format is especially appropriate for the show. It emphasizes the connection between nature, humans and technology. The space between the Zoom boxes becomes fluid as actors reach across boundaries.
The production begins with the image of an oak. The Zoom box is almost eclipsed inside the oak’s largess. Andrew Colteaux narrates the viewers’ way into the forest, which includes the trees sycamore, birch and willow, all played by actors. They are all trees that feel and experience as much as people. Nature is personified.
The only humans in the show are the ones that threaten the existence of nature. Luke played by Sanskar Agarwal is in the forest to get some syrup from a birch and later to chop trees for fences, but he is overcome with his love for Sylph played by Georgia Waehler, the forest nymph. His love interferes with his ability to work.
Ukrainian is spoken by Birch (Masha Pruss) and by the widow (Iryna Voloshyna) that replaces Luke when he no longer has the emotional strength and focus to do his job. The Ukrainian spoken by Birch is both a poem and an affirmation. The text is echoed in English in a translation by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps, offering a seamless connection.
There are startling photographs when trees burn and Sylph seems caught in ashes. This leads to a beautiful folk song sung by Iryna Voloshyna and Julian Kytasty who also performs the song on the bandura. The photographs and the video of burnt and ruined homes in the war-torn regions of eastern Ukraine by Evgeniy Maloletka cause viewers to feel a pang of sadness.
One of the memorable scenes occurs when the so-called water brats become excited about drowning Luke. The movement by Shikego Suga is both natural and dizzying as the water brats move to swallow Luke who has threatened the forest’s life and, at the same time, we as the viewers are enveloped by the water.
This author felt she was part of the performance. In “Virtual Forest Song,” it seems that technology is controlled. Zoom is used to manipulate and used to the benefit of the acting. Actors in this performance are Sanskar Agarwal, Andrew Colteaux, Darien Fiorino, Silvana Gonzalez, Akiko Hiroshima, Chamaya Moody, Martin Nikolov, Nam Pham, Masha Pruss, Shigeko Sara Suga, Shona Tucker, Iryna Voloshyna and Georgia Waehler.
The performance begins and ends with a flute playing, creating a frame that leads the viewers into the enchanted forest. Lesia Ukrainka suggested the melodies to her play. They are performed by Ihor Didenchuk, of Go A, Ukraine’s stunning entry in the Eurovision competition that took place this past spring.
Olena Jennings, Ukrainian Weekly, July 18, 2021.
Yara’s Theatre Projects: Forest Song
Yara Arts Group from La MaMa Experimental Theatre in New York present a series of virtual events on Lesia Ukrainka’s “Forest Song.” In 1993 Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps created an award-winning English translation of the Ukrainian verse play. Yara created several theatre pieces based on this drama. The first was a workshop at La MaMa in 1993. Then there was “Yara’s Forest Song,” a bilingual show at the Kurbas Theatre in Lviv and at La MaMa (1994.) The third was the immersive “Fire Water Night” in 2013.
Now, in June 2021 a preview of Yara's new version "Virtual Forest Song."
Virtual event on Yara's Three "Forest Songs" (in Ukrainian) | video - virtual event
In February, 2021 Yara launched a new virtual series celebrating our work with Lesia Ukrainka's play "Forest Song" written in 1911. The first part, Yara’s Theatre Projects: “Forest Song,” included a short introduction to Lesia Ukrainka’s work. Then Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps talk about their translation, and discuss the show with designer Watoku Ueno and actress Shona Tucker, who took part in the first reading of the play. They were joined by Jude Domski and Kateryna Slipchenko, who served as literary managers in New York and Lviv, as well as Ukrainian translator Oksana Batiuk, who was at the first rehearsals in New York in 1993. Together, they discussed how Ukrainka’s text transformed into “Yara’s Forest Song.”
For the second part of Yara’s Theatre Projects: “Yara’s Forest Song” director Virlana Tkacz showed photographs and video from “Yara’s Forest Song” in Lviv and at La MaMa in New York in 1994. She talked to the actors from Yara and the Les Kurbas Theatre in Lviv who worked on the bilingual production.
Part three was about Yara’s immersive theatre piece “Fire Water Night” which performed at La MaMa in 2013 and used parts of “Forest Song” as text. Director Virlana Tkacz showed photographs and video clips and then talked to designers Waldemart Klyuzko and Zhenya Kopiov about how space was used in the production. Costume designer Keiko Obremski and choreographer Shigeko Suga talked about their work. Then they were joined by actors Jeremy Tardy, Jenny Leona, Marina Celander, Yarko Dobriansky, Akiko Hiroshima, Tamar Ilana, J. Moliere and Masha Pruss.
In "Yara's Three Forest Songs" director Virlana Tkacz speaks in Ukrainian about these three productions, showing photographs and video clips from the shows.
“Yara’s Theatre Projects ” virtual events are all free and can be viewed at an time on www.yaraartsgroup.net. They are made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, Self-Reliance (NY) FCU and friends of Yara Arts Group.