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sister of a legendary warrior puts on his armor when he is killed

created by Virlana Tkacz, Sayan Zhambalov and Erzhena Zhambalov
with Yara Arts Group and Buryat artists based on a Buryat epic 
costumes, sets and lights designed by Watoku Ueno
music by Emilio "Zef" China and traditional Buryat music
translated by Sayan Zhamablov, Virlana Tkacz & Wanda Phipps
with Andrew Colteaux, Bayarto Endonov, Hettienn Park,

Eunice Wong, Meredith Wright, Victor Zhalsanov,

Erzhena Zhambalov, and Sayan Zhambalov

March, 2004  
La MaMa ETC New York 


“The Warrior’s Sister is based on an ancient Buryat Mongolian epic about the sister of a legendary warrior who puts on his armor to fight his battles when he is killed. Yara Arts Group, directed in this production by Virlana Tkacz, dramatizes the myth using movement, world music, and songs sung in many languages, including the traditional throat-singing style performed by Buryat artists from Siberia. Multilingual, though easily accessible to English-speaking audiences, with a translation by Sayan Zhambalov, Virlana Tkacz, and Wanda Phipps, the performance reminds us of what theater should be and rarely is—the opportunity to step to a world that is virtually unknown to us.

“Like the actors who stand before four rolling and reversible backdrops, we are drawn away from the pulsing beat of contemporary life. The action is set in a time long, long ago, when the grass was always green, when a meal was not simply a meal, but seventy delicious dishes, and a distance is not far away, but it takes eighty years to ride there. With a cast of eight, assisted by musician Emilio China, who also composed the non-traditional music, the simplicity of the approach to an epic tale is what makes it so effective.

“Eloquently narrated by Meredith Wright, the tale is told using music and dialogue, and the movement, by Shigeko Suga, propels the action. The warrior and his horse stride side by side to indicate their forward motion. Two frogs spray lethal poison in an unforgettable, slow-motion frog fight.The Warrior’s Sister (Eunice Wong), a resourceful girl, is able to transform herself into the animals of the forest, and like the rest of the cast, can convincingly assume another shape. One prominent family accepts her as a man, marrying off their daughter to her, a bride with the ability to raise the dead.

“The bride is not the only one with magic in her fingers. All the performers, including Bayarto Endonov, Andrew Colteaux, Victor Zhalsanov, Sayan Zhambalov, Erzhena Zhambalov, and Hettienne Park, deserve mention in a production created by Tkacz, Zhambalov, and Zhambalov. Inventiveness and ingenuity are on display in all aspects of this production, which succeeds at making the unknown familiar to us.”

 Laura Shea American Theatre Web, March 2004

"Siberian folk epics are not your usual New York theater fare. But the Yara Arts Group, which is presenting such an epic through next Sunday at La MaMa Experimental Theater Club in Manhattan, isn't your ordinary troupe. The polyglot group, together since 1990, focuses on original work that illuminates the experiences of life in the East: whether that means Eastern Europe or Siberia.

The latter region, along with its native Buryat artists, is the inspiration for The Warrior's Sister, the group's current production. The multilingual piece is based on a poetic text with the slightly long-winded title of "Alamzhi the Warrior With the Eagle Eye and His Sister Aguy Gokhon" - as dictated by the legendary storyteller Yolbon Shalbykov a century ago. The saga concerns the sibling of a heroic warrior who gathers his armor when he falls and puts it on herself.

What enlivens the piece, which has been adapted and structured in the rehearsal process, is the participation of Buryat performers, vital, living links to a tradition that Yara has been committed to adapting for modern audiences. Like Shalbykov, they hail from the Buryat region near Lake Baikal in Siberia. And they are masters of a form known as "uligers," or Siberian epic song. The four musicians, who also are adept at the haunting glottal ululations of throat singing, work under the collective band name Uragsha and will entertain March 17 at a 7:30 p.m. at opening in La MaMa's Annex, for a show of Alexander Khantaev's photographs of Buryat villages.

"This is stuff that no one - aside from a couple of scholars - is documenting," says Virlana Tkacz, Yara's founder, who first began visiting the Buryat region eight years ago, traveling the area that overlaps Siberia, Mongolia and China. "It's a very interesting traditional culture that is still living - and it's very isolated economically and geographically." As Tkacz notes, however, Yara is not about merely restaging traditional tales as they would be experienced on a long winter's night in one of the coldest parts of the world. "We're contemporary," she says. "This production starts off in a club, but then people step into another world."

Steven Dollar Newsday March 14, 2004

"Yara Arts Group, which is in residence at La MaMa and also works with people from Buryatia, presented The Warrior’s Sister, which is basically fragments from a four-day epic that was recorded in 1903 but is very traditional for that Siberian region. It deals with the sister of a warrior who has to travel all the way to the land of the West to get this wonderful woman who has all sorts of magical powers who can revive her brother. Along the way traveling with her horse, she meets poisonous frogs, a terrible snake, an old man with eyebrows that go down to his feet who tries to kill her with an axe. She manages to get the Beloved back who revives the bones of the brother and everything ends up well. There’s great throat singing, wonderful dance and wonderful movement. The story is narrated in English, which is fortunate for us, by Meredith Wright, who was also the narrator and Penelope for Theodora Skipitares’s "Odyssey." I thought this was really enjoyable; it was one of the better things I’ve seen recently. I love the Buryat group and you should try to see this and any of the other things that are happening at La MaMa."

HiDrama aired March 12, 2004 on channel 57

“The enchanting program begins in what appears to be a modern day disco. Quickly the set changes to a Buryat land where a warrior is being sent to battle. The warrior puts on his armor and ominously says goodbye to his sister. The saga continues when the warrior is found dead and his sister puts on his armor and departs on a journey down “The Khan’s White Road” to seek a legendary maiden with the hope of bringing back her dead brother to life. The piece is complimented with Buryat throat singing with instrumentals, fantastic lighting and brilliant set design by Watoku Ueno. I can’t help wishing that this play had a longer run.”

Roksolana Luchkan Ukrainian Weekly April 11, 2004

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