Ping Chong and Company and Yara Arts Group to Present UNDESIRABLE. ELEMENTS: UKRAINE in May

Performances take place May 5-14.

By: Apr. 28, 2023
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Ping Chong and Company (PCC) and Yara Arts Group will present Undesirable Elements: Ukraine, the newest work in PCC's Undesirable Elements series, in which real people share their own stories on stage. The production, directed by PCC founder and Artistic Director Emeritus Ping Chong and Yara Arts Group artistic director Virlana Tkacz, explores the experiences of Ukrainian American New Yorkers: Ukrainian identity, immigration, intergenerational connections, the history of Ukrainians in the U.S., and the disastrous effect of Russia's war on Ukraine. Performances take place May 5-14 at the Ukrainian Museum (222 East 6th Street, New York).

In PCC's Undesirable Elements theater productions, local community members tell personal stories of place, identity, and belonging. Unlike a traditional play or documentary theater project performed by actors, Undesirable Elements, presented as a chamber piece of storytelling, is produced with local partner organizations and features local community members as on-stage participants. PCC artists conduct intensive interviews with the local participants and develop the script based on the cast members' experiences. The script is performed by the interviewees, themselves, who have final approval of content.

Since 1992, over 65 Undesirable Elements productions have been made in communities across the country and around the world, exploring issues such as the experience of immigrants and refugees in the U.S., the experience of living with disability, Muslim American identity, and the experiences of survivors of sexual violence. Recent productions have looked at living with chronic illness and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on youth of color in New York City.

Undesirable Elements: Ukraine features Ukrainian and Ukrainian-American performers, musicians, and activists: George Drance, whose grandparents arrived in New York before World War I; Julian Kytasty, whose father arrived with his bandura-playing family after World War II; Lesya Verba, who arrived in New York from Odesa just two years ago; Nariman Asanov, a Crimean Tatar who came to U.S. in the 1990s; and Daria Kolomiec, who was in Kyiv for Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The production interweaves their personal stories and Ukrainian history with traditional Ukrainian music and songs, performed by the participants.

Undesirable Elements: Ukraine features sound by Ernesto Valenzuela, set decoration by Watoku Ueno, and poster graphics by Waldemart Klyuzko. Courtney Golden is the Production Associate.

Undesirable Elements: Ukraine is the result of a three-decade relationship between Chong and Tkacz, who first worked together in the early 1990s, when Chong first created the series. Last year, Chong invited Tkacz to collaborate on a new production about the experiences of Ukrainian Americans. She identified the people who form the cast, and whose stories comprise the script. At the New School in February 2023, a work-in-progress version of Undesirable Elements: Ukraine was presented as part of a symposium celebrating 30 Years of Undesirable Elements.

Performance Schedule and Ticketing

Performances of Undesirable Elements: Ukraine take place:

Friday, May 5, at 7pm

Saturday, May 6, at 7pm

Sunday, May 7, at 2pm (including a post-performance Q&A)

Friday, May 12, at 7pm

Saturday, May 13, at 7pm

Sunday, May 14, at 2pm

Tickets, starting at $17.85, can be purchased here.

About the Performers

Nariman Asanov is a violinist and a leading exponent of the musical tradition of the Crimean Tatars. He was born in Uzbekistan in 1973, the child of community activists who survived the Soviet mass deportation of Crimean Tatars to Central Asia in 1944. His family returned to Crimea in 1988, and he moved to the U.S. in 1994, eventually graduating from the Music Conservatory at SUNY Purchase. He has performed at Lincoln Center, Symphony Space, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as across the country at venues including the Montana Folk Festival and the Richmond Folk Festival.

George Drance has performed and directed in over 25 countries on five continents, at prestigious cultural institutions such as the Metropolitan Opera, The Public Theater, American Repertory Theatre, and La MaMa. He worked closely with Ellen Stewart on The Trojan Women Project. Drance's TV credits include The Daily Show and The Blacklist. He is an Artist-in Residence at Fordham Lincoln Center. His solo show *mark was just at Theatre 315 in April.

Daria Kolomiec has been a Ukrainian cultural activist since the beginning of Russia's current war on Ukraine. She is the founder of the music platform MusicCures, and a DJ and music producer. She collected Diary of War, with firsthand accounts of how people across Ukraine experienced the full-scale Russian invasion in 2022. The stories became podcasts and were translated into numerous languages. English translations of excerpts were read at the Mariupol exhibition of award-winning photographs by Evgeniy Maloletka, presented by Yara. Kolomiec also appeared in Yara's Radio 477!

Julian Kytasty is a third-generation bandura player, singer, and composer. He has since 1980 been based in NYC, where he directs ensembles, teaches, and performs, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. He has collaborated with Yara to create and perform music for theater pieces, poetry performances, and festivals. His work on Yara's 1917-2017 Tychyna, Zhadan, and the Dogs earned him a NY Innovative Theater award for best original score.

Lesya Verba (Performer) is from Odesa, Ukraine and sings traditional music, jazz, and her own compositions. She plays bandura and has been involved in reviving the rituals of southern Ukraine for 30 years. Her visual art has been exhibited at international exhibitions and museums. She arrived in New York in 2021 and has worked as an actress with the Anomalous Co., Ping Chong + Company, and Yara Arts Group.

About the Directors

Ping Chong is an internationally acclaimed interdisciplinary artist, and founder of Ping Chong and Company. Since 1972, he has created over 100 original works for the stage in New York City, and around the world. In 1992, Chong created the first Undesirable Elements production in an ongoing series (over 65 productions) of community-based oral history projects exploring culture and identity. Published works include The East West Quartet and a volume on Undesirable Elements. The first comprehensive volume on his body of work, The Interdisciplinary Theatre of Ping Chong: Exploring Curiosity and Otherness on Stage by Yuko Kurahashi, was released in 2019 and Elizabeth LeCompte, Ping Chong, Robert Lepage: Multi-Media Interrogations edited by Claudia Orenstein, was released in 2021. Ping Chong is the recipient of two BESSIE awards, three OBIE awards, a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, a Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellowship, and the 2014 National Medal of Arts. Chong retired as artistic director of Ping Chong and Company at the end of 2022.

Virlana Tkacz heads the Yara Arts Group and has directed forty original shows at La MaMa in New York that have also been performed in Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv, Bishkek, Ulaanbaatar, and Ulan Ude. She received an NEA Poetry Translation Fellowship for her work with Wanda Phipps on Serhiy Zhadan's poetry. Her production of 1917-2017: Tychyna Zhadan & the Dogs" won the 2018 New York Innovative Theatre Awards for best musical. She is the author of Kurbas: New Worlds, a catalog for an exhibition she curated in Kyiv, and Three Wooden Trunks, a book of poetry.

About Ping Chong and Company

Ping Chong and Company (PCC) creates theater and art that reveal beauty, invention, precision, and a commitment to social justice. Founded in New York City in 1975 by leading theatrical innovator and National Medal of Arts recipient Ping Chong, the company engages multigenerational interdisciplinary artists to build on and expand a prolific catalog-at the root of which is Ping Chong and his singular and visionary body of work. The company's work centers innovation, collaboration, community engagement, and amplifies underrepresented voices. Across nearly five decades, the New York City-based company has now created over 110 original theater productions, ranging from intimate interview-based works to large-scale multidisciplinary projects featuring puppets, performers, and full sound and projection scores. Reaching audiences throughout New York, the United States, and the world, PCC transcends boundaries, exploring interconnectedness of cultures and how intersectional identities are addressed in society.

In January, following the December 2022 retirement of Ping Chong as artistic director and his longtime professional partner Bruce Allardice as executive director, PCC announced a new Artistic Leadership Team: performer and director Nile Harris; playwright, director, and dramaturg Talvin Wilks; PCC managing director Jane Jung; and PCC associate director Sara Zatz. In a new-to-PCC model of collaborative leadership, they are stewarding the Company through a three-year process of developing and realizing a vision for the future of the organization.

pingchong.org

About Yara Arts Group

Yara Arts Group was established in 1990 and is a resident company at La MaMa, the acclaimed experimental theater in New York. Yara has created 40 theater pieces based on extensive research in Eastern Europe, Siberia and Asia, in Yara's signature style of multilingual dialogue and songs supported by evocative visuals.

yaraartsgroup.net

About the Ukrainian Museum

The Ukrainian Museum is the largest museum in North America committed to acquiring, preserving, exhibiting, and interpreting articles of artistic or historic significance to the rich cultural heritage of Ukrainians. Its array of traditional arts and crafts, 20th and 21st century art, and extensive compendium of archival materials make it one of the unique museums in New York City. Each year, the Museum organizes several exhibitions, publishes accompanying bilingual catalogues, and conducts a wide range of public programming, frequently in collaboration with other museums, educational institutions, and cultural centers




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