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memories and dreams of water 

conceived and directed by Virlana Tkacz
created with the Yara Arts Group and Nina Matvienko
composer: Genji Ito, 
design: Watoku Ueno, choreography: Shigeko Suga 
English translations: Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps 
Ukrainian translations: Oksana Batiuk and Virlana Tkacz

NEW YORK at La Mama Experimental Theatre January 27-February 12,1995
with: Cecilia Arana, Oksana Babyi, Karen-Angela Bishop, Yunjin Kim, Nina Matvienko and Shigeko Suga | photos


KYIV April 12-14, 1995 at the Fourth Berezillia Arts Festival of Experimental Theatre

with: Cecilia Arana, Karen-Angela Bishop, Nina Matvienko, Larysa Nedin, Olya Radchuk, Natalka Shevcehenko and Shigeko Suga

work-in-progress performance: January 8, 1995 at "Dakh" Art Center in Kyiv

with: Cecilia Arana, Karen-Angela Bishop, Nina Matvienko, Larysa Nedin and Natalka Shevchenko


“Waterfall/Reflections.".. is a theatrical enchantment given cohesion by choreographed movement and by music on a prodigious scale: there are about 15 songs in 70 minutes...The play really explores the power of folk tale and myth through a wide range of traditional Ukrainian songs and melodies, along with several modern Ukrainian and American poems. These are all accompanied by delicate, understated musical arrangements by Genji Ito... All six women in the cast sing, and they sing well. And one cast member, Nina Matvienko, who is a renowned performer of traditional song in Ukraine, can produce the kind of thrill one expects only from superb operatic sopranos.” 
D.J.R. Bruckner, New York Times, February 4,1995

“A journey that lingers, sings and then turns the lights up, leaving the audience dizzy and breathless... Centered around a group of six women, "Waterfall/Reflections" searches traditionally coded women's metaphors and different ways in which women come to knowledge... As much as the production is about sharing stories, it also unearths women's history and the recovery of "herstory." Acting as a lecturer, Yunjin Kim is brilliant as a pedantic college professor. Balancing her performance, Cecilia Arana and Oksana Babyi are pleasures to watch as they act out enthusiastic young children, inquiring into the world through their grandmother's (Shigeko Suga's) eyes. More than a character, Nina Matvienko, the play's mysterious woman of song, is allusive of a goddess-like dignity that Waterfall/Reflections wishes to recover.” 
Ray Uzwyshyn, The Washington Square News, February 3, 1995

“This performance was Yara's most impressionistic work yet, and one which should not be missed ... 'Waterfall/Reflections' is a powerful piece which reaches deep into the audience's feelings, memories, and reveries of their cultures. Particularly moving is the continuity of the performance through traditional Ukrainian folk songs and new songs composed on traditional themes. The elegant minimalistic stage sets, designed by Watoku Ueno, set the tone of the performance. 'Waterfall/Reflections' is an artful meditation on the dual nature of universal symbols which exist everywhere and are most apparent in traditional rituals... 'Waterfall/Reflections' is also an homage to grandmothers, the family elders through whom storytelling and folklore are preserved, who pass down to us our identity and connection to history. Nina Matvienko's soprano gently carries and shapes the movement of the entire performance, and lingers long in one's memory after the performance.... Cecilia Arana and Karen-Angela Bishop too have truly great voices and their versatility in singing alongside with Ms.Matvienko in traditional folk singing styles, in Ukrainian, was breathtaking. These three sirens captivated the entire audience for an hour, and when it ended, we all knew that we had just witnessed something rare and very significant. 'Waterfall/Reflections' is a completely transcendental experience for the viewer because it refers to various cultures for meaning of the deeper inner reality in all of us. And paradoxically, in that context it presents Ukrainian folklore in a deeper and more meaningful way.” 
Thaya Salamacha, Ukrainian Herald, March 23, 1995

“'Waterfall/Reflections' celebrates the importance of water, makes us aware that water was there at the moment when our world was created. It draws new poetic images and inspires us. Genji Ito's musical arrangements contribute to the great success of this production. Yara actors Karen-Angela Bishop and Cecilia Arana turned out to be wonderful singers of our ancient folk songs, and moved us deeply. Nina Matvienko, whose unique voice sounds like a mournful oboe, was full of melodies and a natural performer. The audience was enchanted by the heartfelt renditions of ancient Ukrainian songs, which were like a breath from centuries past in this modern production. The Yara Arts Group and director Virlana Tkacz deserve sincere congratulations for such an original show.”  Daria Hordynska-Karanovych, America, June 7,1995

“This theatre piece with music gives us the opportunity to experience the best of Ukrainian folk culture presented by actresses who are not Ukrainian. The production provokes its audience to reflect and meditate [on how this ancient culture integrates with the cultures of the actresses who are from a variety of heritages], while Nina Matvienko gives the piece a cultural authority that is so rare today.” 
Olha Kuzmovych Svoboda, February 4, 1995

“The show provoked me to reflect on the beginnings of life and on the cosmos. It captures your heart... it is a true work of art both unique and authentic... This poetic theatre piece pulsates with complex polyphonic rhythms, delicate vocal and acting nuances modulated by the director... Yara has its own sense of taste and is skilled at maneuvering "on the razor's edge." Each actress plays herself and brings something from her own life, infused with her own heritage... Songs pour forth like water in a stream becoming a symbol for the passing of time.” 
Liubart Lishchynsky, Svoboda, February 4, 1995

“At the unique heart of this theatrical piece are Ukrainian traditional rituals and ancient songs which use water as a symbol for purification, beauty, and the feminine principle. By going through the rituals of purification and renewal and by looking into their own family histories, as well as poetry, the women find both their own identity and the universal similarities that unite the various traditions and myths. But the show itself is not just a ritualistic event; traditional elements are interwoven with aspects of contemporary life... The voice of Nina Matvienko provides the show with a compositional unity. She is joined on stage by Karen Angela Bishop, Cecilia Arana, Oksana Babyi, Yunjin Kim and Shigeko Suga, all excellent singers and good actresses.... This show has the greatest impact of all of the multilingual pieces Virlana Tkacz has created to date with Yara. The songs here speak even without words, the rituals create their own magic and enchant the audience without logical explanations. When at one moment the entire ensemble sings in full voice, forte, you feel the goose bumps rush up your spine. The other element in the show that deserves special mention is the beautiful acting by Karen-Angela Bishop. Her delicate lyrical magnetism adds another dimension to the show." 
Bohdan Boychuk, Svitovyd (Kyiv) No. 3 1995)

“We began with the thought: "What is ancient?" And we decided that perhaps the oldest action was the morning ritual of putting water on one's face... Humanity has been doing it for thousands of years, perhaps millions. So the focus is on recovering that ancient memory: What is it that you remember when the water hits your face? Your childhood? Your grandmother? “ 
Virlana Tkacz, interview in Ukrainian Weekly, April 9,1995

“'Waterfall/Reflection's was a meeting place of the world's cultures, all of which agree on this: Life is Water and the Song's source is Woman.... The play is an appeal to humanity for the preservation of ancient culture, of nature. If everything about our civilization abuses nature, nothing will be left of us but arid rocks and there won't be anyone to dig them up and decipher how we live.... It struck me that here in this city, in New York, is a woman, Virlana, who through her play holds the frail tree of life in her hands. She extends it to her audience as a message of hope and a message of remembrance.” Nina Matvienko, interview in Ukrainian Weekly, April 9,1995


PRESS on KYIV work-in-progress showing at the "Dakh" Art Center January 1995 

“Waterfall/Reflections by the American director Virlana Tkacz presented at the "Dakh" Art Center was a unique, magical and mysterious piece .... I was most impressed with Cecilia Arana, an Armenian-Peruvian woman of extraordinary bearing and great clarity of movement. I was also very impressed with Karen-Angela Bishop, an African American and the great-granddaughter of American slaves. Her unusual voice was an organic complement to that of Nina Matvienko as they sang Ukrainian folk songs... I believe that, in addition to their very interesting theatricality, Virlana Tkacz's experiments also have important psychological and cultural aspects: she and her actors find in Ukrainian songs, stories, legends and literary texts those elements which people of other cultures understand and find important. At the same time, the director seeks to communicate that which is uniquely Ukrainian and the actors are obviously fascinated with it. Their work becomes a dialogue between present and past, among different cultures, creating a very interesting model of human understanding.” 
Ludmyla Taran, UN I AN (Kyiv), No. 3,1995

“Ukrainian songs enable us to enter into the mind of one character and discover memories there that resonate for all of us... A world is created on stage in which one woman looks into a mirror and experiences the ancient aspect of her own self, her own previously unknown ancient roots. The audience in Kyiv stayed after the show for a discussion. Professor George Grabowicz, from Harvard University and visiting Kyiv, very accurately noted: "The fragmentary nature of this production reveals to us, in a unique way, the oldest elements of Ukrainian culture. As she examined prehistoric moments, Virlana Tkacz, consciously or unconsciously, must have felt that the most universal elements of Ukrainian culture are song, ritual and women. I want to stress the importance of the female aspect of the show. If feminism has a deeper meaning, beyond its contemporary polemical nature, then it lies in that it is humanity's source of life. And this rings very deeply in this show.”
Ruslan Leonenko, Svoboda, January 25,1995


“A must-see is the Yara Arts Group's 'Waterfall/Reflections,' created by Virlana Tkacz with the renowned Ukrainian singer Nina Matvienko.” 
Natalia Olynec, Economic Review, April 3, 1995

“Originally, we planned to do three shows in Kyiv, but these were sold out immediately. The festival requested that two more shows by added and we agreed. The production was very well received. The reaction to 'Waterfall/Reflections' was particularly strong among women in Ukraine. On several occasions after the show the audience members sat down around the table used in the last scene and told stories about their own grandmothers. These were unforgettable moments.” 
Virlana Tkacz, Our Life, July August 1995

“At the 4th Arts Berezillia Theatre Festival 46 theatres from Ukraine, as well as theatres from England, Germany, Lithuania, Italy, Russia, Switzerland and America played to sold-out house. In 32 days 1,500 theatre artists performed over 50 shows in 19 venues all over Kyiv to an audience of over 18,000. Among the participants was the Yara Arts Group from New York, which performed their new show 'Waterfall/Reflections'.... everyone was enchanted by what they saw... A waterfall of voices, applause and revelations... Have you ever thought about the roots of your family, about the women, about beginnings, about rituals and customs related to water which gives life to everything? Have you thought about what unites Americans, Africans, Ukrainians, Spaniards, Armenians, Georgians and others?... The answers to these questions are in song in this show: songs in Ukrainian and English, ancient songs, songs almost forgotten, and new ones... What unites these American and Ukrainian women, what is the basis of their mutual understanding and allows them be such sensitive partners on stage? A sense of history and understanding, their own memories, and the spirit of light that unites people who live with others in mind. Everyone was moved by this show.” 
Larysa Nedin, Nashe Zhyttia, September 1995

“The show boldly sets out to create a dialogue between ancient Ukrainian folklore and contemporary American and Ukrainian poetry. Then it takes on the difficult task of making itself comprehensible simultaneously to American and Ukrainian audiences. Virlana Tkacz is unique in that she strives to have the language itself be understood, and does not merely rely only on stage metaphors. She wants to return to the word its power as repository of ancient memory. What is most ancient to humans? At what point in the past was everything shared by all, understood by all? These questions provided the creative impulse for the show 'Waterfall/Reflections.' Water is the main symbol in the show. Water gave rise to life and is essential to ancient folk rituals from times when human language was in direct dialogue with the language of water, wind and trees. Water is the element that retains memories. In the show water speaks to a human, to a contemporary American woman, Karen, who just woke from a strange dream. She lifts the water to her face. In linear time only a moment passes, but this moment contains eternity. The unfolding of this single moment is the essential action of the show, built on poetic rather than dramatic structure. For Virlana cultures do not exist as separate isolated lakes, but as a single ocean from which you can draw the type of cultural wealth that is evident in this piece. Nina Matvienko's unique voice gives birth to the music of the show. The highlights of the piece are the duets Nina Matvienko sings with the American actress Karen-Angela Bishop, 'the great-great granddaughter of American slaves Ellen Saunders Cherry-Hardy and Wright Cherry,' as the program notes. Karen shares with us her great talent, her memories about her ancestors and the history of her people. At certain moments in the show Nina's and Karen's voices flow in a bilingual-bi-cultural stream, becoming a single breath. This takes place not only thanks to the powerful talents of the performers and Virlana Tkacz's direction, but thanks to their humanity: to the love and mutual understanding among these artists as people.” 
Olena Levchenko, KinoTeatr (Kyiv) No. 1,1996

Finale of "Waterfall/Reflections" 1995 La MaMa

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