Ukraine and Theater One Year Later

Today, the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the national opera theater of Ukraine held a concert called “Ukraine: Free and Unbreakable,” and the theater community internationally continues to support this nation of 44 million people, which has some 400 theaters. Or had. The Drama Theater in Mariupol had served as a center for cultural activity in that city since it was built in 1960. Shortly after the invasion began, it became a shelter for hundreds of civilians. They were killed when the Russians bombed it.

Below are a handful of examples of the theater support for Ukraine, mostly from the local and U.S. theater community, and the rise in prominence of theater by and about Ukrainian writers and performers.

“Let It Go” March 6, 2022
Seven-year-old Amellia Anisovych who sang “Let It Go” from Frozen in Ukrainian in a bomb shelter in Kyiv, a video of which went viral, touching the heart of the composers of the song.

 She was then invited to sing Ukraine’s national anthem as a refugee at a fundraiser for her home country at a stadium in Lodz , Poland.

Worldwide Readings Project for Ukraine, March 19, 2022
An effort by more than fifty theaters in 15 countries to raise funds for Ukraine, and bring attention to Ukrainian theater featured two new plays on the Drama League Youtube channel, “Return to Sender” by Olga Braga and “Labyrinth” by Oleksandr Viter. “I think there is a rising sense in the artistic community that we need to respond” the Drama League’s artistic director Gabriel Stelian-Shanks said in an interview.

Stars in the House for Ukraine: March 26, 2022
Sixty performers are appeared in an 11-hour telethon (full video in link) to raise awareness, and money for the International Rescue Committee’s Crisis in Ukraine campaign. 

The Suppliants Project Ukraine, October 4, 2022
New York-based Theater of War Productions staged a hybrid production of Aeschylus’ 2,500 year old play performed by seven women from Ukraine and professional American actors Anthony Edwards, Keith David and Tate Donovan, both online and in the middle of the football stadium of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. The point was to prompt worldwide discussion of two central issues in the play that have particular resonance in Ukraine – the plight of refugees, and the invasion by a foreign force. 

Mothermotherland.” January 11-15, 2023
A free production by Slovo, a new Ukrainian and American theater company, that dramatized a novel written in 1924 by a Ukrainian writer named Mykola Khyvylovy, variously translated as “I (Romance)” or “I am (a Romantic)” in which the protagonist is the head of the local secret police (called the Cheka), who sentences his mother to death for the sake of the revolution. 

“Hunger,” January 28, 2023
As part of the annual 1st Irish Festival, director Emma Denson presented a one-time reading of “Hunger,” written by Bohdan Boychuk, a Ukrainian-born New Yorker who died in 2017, a play that dramatizes what has come to be called the Holodomor, the man-made famine in Ukraine in 1932 and 1933 that killed millions of Ukrainians. Why was this in an Irish festival? “Ukraine’s story is Ireland’s story,” Denson told the audience, both countries suffering a genocidal famine at the hands of an empire that was trying to eradicate a people, their culture and their language.

Untitled Ukraine Project, February 1
Sara Farrington’s stage adaptation at New Ohio Theater and online of stories by Ukrainian writer, diarist and photographer Yevgenia Belorusets. Often bleakly comic, the stories begin and end abruptly, depicting the haunting effects of the 2014 Russian invasion on the lives of civilian women

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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