“Feminists about the war” is a series of informal feminist talks. First-hand testimonies and thoughts of women active in civic activism before and during the full-scale Russia’s invasion are equally important as reports about political decisions.
In this material, you can read the conversation in text format. Also, you can watch the podcast with English subtitles on our YouTube.
What is the Ukrainian theatre doing abroad now? How do you talk about war and keep it in focus? Institutional support from the state: does it exist? What awaits our theatre in the future?
Listen to the tenth episode of the “Feminists about the war” podcast. Our guests:
Anastasiia Kosodii — playwright, director.
Oksana Dudko — historian, theatre researcher, used to organize theater festivals.
Lena Lagushonkova — playwright.
Anastasiia: I am Anastasiia Kosodiy. I am now in Berlin, in my flat next to the subway station Südstern. I’m a playwright. Once in a while, I direct (mostly my own) plays.
I am from Zaporizhzhia. I worked there for some time, from 2015 to 2017, when we had the “Zapozihzhiya new drama” theatre. Then I moved to Kyiv. I was also a playwright in the independent artist association “PostPlay theatre”. Like Lena Lyagushonkova, I am also a co-founder of “Playwright theatre” in Kyiv.
I am currently based in Germany. I am directing and writing a play in the Mannheim National Theatre, but I soon plan to return to Ukraine, got stuff to do there… Like Lena, I am not in Ukraine during the war, but I extensively work with Ukrainian topics, yeah.
Lena: I am Lena Lyagushonkova, I am joined by my cat. I am currently in Warsaw, Poland, on the residency. I left Ukraine on March 5 of this year, yeah. I am now based in Poland and occasionally I visit other countries.
Oksana: I am Oksana Dudko. As everyone has told who and where they are – I am now in the Canadian prairies, in the city of Saskatoon.
I had lived in Lviv for many years, and I had been organizing theatre festivals there: the festival “Ladder” and the festival of the contemporary drama “Drama.ua”, where we organized play readings, theatre performances, and play contests.
Then I moved to Canada, where I currently work and finish my dissertation. I don’t organize theatre festivals anymore. Occasionally I write about theatre, but that’s not what I do for a living. My day job is studying and teaching history. But I teach Ukrainian history in Canadian universities and I use different theatre plays… The last text we worked on with my students was Roza Sarkisian’s play “N–effect”. And now I have about 60 Canadian texts focusing on this topic.
Anastasiia: Before the full-scale war I… I keep calling myself a “playwright”, I work in the theatre, but actually, in Ukraine with rare exceptions the playwright earns nothing, and that’s how it was before. That’s why my ordinary day looked like this: I went to the office, on my office job, I was a content maker for the boring businesses that produced, say, LED screens. I pretended to work there…
OK, well, I didn’t exactly pretend – I genuinely worked there, and in the evening I came home to write fiction and took advantage of the corporative right to unpaid leave.
‘Everything was fine… and then the war hit’
Oksana: I was in Canada when the war hit. I work at the Ukrainian center at Saskatchewan University, and because of that… starting from autumn or winter, I had to provide commentary on all the events happening in Ukraine. That was a bit weird and scary, as both local and non-local media were constantly asking: “Tell us, will the war begin?”.
And that was such a weird feeling: to be abroad and act as an expert, to tell if the war will or won’t start… But even though I studied history and I am teaching it now, at times it was poignantly difficult to perceive and realize that a large-scale war can once again start in Ukraine.
Lena: I mostly think about pre-war life when Facebook sends me memories. Today it reminded me that a year ago I had a premiere at the Vasylko Theatre in Odesa… I didn’t get the money for it, but I believe, they didn’t plan… didn’t plan to pay me, as I no longer work at that theatre… I earned money as a playwright, and when I think of how much I had to work before February 24… even though I also work now – it’s simply incomparable…
If you want to make a living by writing plays, you have to write 24/7, and all this for 5700 UAH per text.
I am being a refugee for the second time, and I knew that a full-scale war was coming… it was only a matter of time. In 2014, I fled Donbas. The war was in the air. On January 24th, 2022 I was in Poland as well. I came to Kraków to see “Dziady” directed by Maja Kleczewska. I also saw a 6-hour-long performance by Krystian Lupa in Teatr Powszechny. We came together with the theatre director, and we’ve been discussing if it was worth, returning to Ukraine, considering the fact that in a month I fled to Poland.
I remember us ordering sushi on February 14th and saying that we are eating these sushi for the very last time.
We also had this festival, remember, Nastya? From February 2 we held a festival in Playwright Theatre, “Festival of the beaver”.
Anastasiia: And my last peacetime photo was probably taken during the fest. Before the war, we’ve been working on establishing the Playwright theatre. It got opened for several times, let’s say, it was slightly ajar. I remember us beginning the co-production with Münchner Kammerspiele at the end of December…
We organized a reading of the Iranian play… which was also an experience so bizarre… as something was already in the air… we received grant funding to make a reading of the text called “Body now and today”. That’s a story about a transgender person in Iran – it was all different in Iran back then. I believed that Ukrainians would be able to understand this story.
The audience was good, they stayed for the discussion, we talked a great deal about theatre taking on educational function among everything else … to represent the new art… Anyway, everything was fine… and then the war hit.
Lena: What does your day look like – after the full-scale invasion…
Anastasiia: In a way, my day is perfect – that’s literally a playwright’s dream fulfilled. You wake up to write the texts – that’s one side of it, of course. There is no office work, no obligations, nothing but that.
Lena: Do you work from home?
Anastasiia: Yeah. The only thing I did, was I got myself a card from the Berlin public library. They have an enormous, multiple-acre coworking, no one bothers you or asks for money – you just sit there among the students and write your texts.
On one hand, to a certain extent, all these texts focus on the same topics, and I’m a bit tired of producing meanings…
That is related to the guilt I feel because I don’t live in Ukraine, but still, I write about it. That’s why occasionally I overcome with the urge to temporarily return to Ukraine, to become entitled to write about what I’m writing about.
‘Talking about the war abroad is our duty’
Oksana: We discussed it with colleagues, about what we should do… With plenty of people – historians, people from the university, many people from the theatre – and came to the conclusion that we will comment on everything Ukraine-related.
If we were to be asked to comment on something, to write, to do, to hold a lecture – we will do it for as long as it will be needed, and that’s our obligation of sorts. How do you feel about that constant need to speak out about Ukraine, both publicly and non-publicly, while being abroad?
Lena: You hit a sore spot with this. I came back from the festival “Boska komedia”, and there was a nice seminar there, but I believe that they misjudged their target audience. It has been a co-production of several festivals, including Boska komedia, and they gathered people and cultural institutions working with foreigners.
They also invited Ukrainian guests, us included. And we came with our performance. And it was painful to listen for two days straight about how poor we are, how indigent we are… For us visiting this festival was akin to a business trip. We’ve been looking for occasions to network with people from the sphere, and for two days straight we’ve been listening to… I had a hard time with that.
I vividly imagine how it was for the girls that came from Kyiv, from Kharkiv – they came there with one sole task – to look for the professional contacts of the theatre directors, so that they could make a stage production in a certain theatre once everything is over. And here she, being a polite person like she is, has to sit and listen like: “Yeah, we are poor refugees, yeah, we need help…”
There was also the event about Ukrainian theatre performances, which was put at the end of the festival program, and no important guests stayed to visit it. Probably, for some time it will be hard for me to discuss Ukraine… I want to talk about abstract topics. Even though feel like I’m obliged to do it: if I won’t speak up, someone else will. Around a month ago I got into an argument, stating that we have to get a grip on these narratives, have to push our own narratives, lest the Russians will quickly do it. That is exactly what happened in the case of Kirill Serebrenikov.
We have to seize the initiative, simply have to do it.
Anastasiia: I am reminded of the discussion that was held in Vienna. Its moderator was of Polish origin but has spent much of her life in Austria. One of the questions she asked was… “Tell us how you were fleeing Ukraine, how does one live through this?” – usually, I am rather okay with such questions. If the question was asked, then I need to answer. You never know – maybe, the audience lacks awareness. Another thing is, that to some extent people come to look at…
Lena: At bizarre creatures…
Lena: But that pissed me off – I was fed up with getting such direct requests for war porn. And so I answered, that if she requires practical advice on how to flee Vienna in the future – that I can tell. If she is in for war porn, I can’t help her.
In Germany, moderator usually asks a few questions. If there is time, there are also two questions from the audience, supervised by the moderator. There were open questions, and I did my best to prepare myself for something fucked up… But then, the audience was really kind and smart. The only question that made my brain short-circuit was this one: How is Ukraine going to deal with the PTSD numerous soldiers of both sexes would have? And how are we going to deal with the surge of domestic violence that will happen in Ukraine after the war?…
First, I’m a playwright, and not a psychologist, I can’t talk about it. I can list some civic initiatives, but my thoughts on this topic are just about as valuable as the thoughts of any member of the audience. Second, it is really sad to hear about the stigmatization of all soldiers, to hear the claims that they all have PTSD and are prone to domestic violence, even though it is not true.
Oksana: The only reason why it was hard for me was the fact that I taught in Canada when the war began. I returned to Ukraine, and that was a double life I lead.
In Ukraine, you share a social circle with colleagues, friends, and acquaintances. Meanwhile, in Canada, everyone will empathize with you, but on the other hand, you will get messages like: “Where is my essay that you have to check in 5 minutes?” “Are you under shellings?” “Please, tell, what’s it like for you there”, “Did the bombs fall on your city or not?”, “Did you get wounded yet?” – with all due compassion and “sensitivity”.
But it was a tad bit exhausting to live this normal life and to respond to the e-mails 24 hours a day, comment with a smile on my face, and connect to all these Zooms at 2 or 3 AM. Now the situation is stabilized, I mean, there is not so much media attention as I got at the beginning of the war. Less of these round tables…
But there is also another thing. This semester I taught a course called “Genocide and mass violence”, and my last lecture on the course was about war. As the course focused on studying genocide, I was curious to talk with the students, to get to know how they perceive events taking place in Ukraine.
Obviously, the students in this course were interested in the topic, they knew a lot about Ukraine, not everyone though. One student told me that their friends thought, that the war in Ukraine is already over. They are surprised that the war is still happening. I wouldn’t make generalizing statements about Northern Americans… like they don’t know where is Ukraine, understand nothing about Ukraine, and are limited intellectually. No, that’s wrong.
But that confirms the fact that there is a deep gap opening, and these are people that stay in this environment and keep up with the news on Twitter or by getting them from friends. They keep following the news. There are also people that were merely interested in the war – like when we were interested in Iranian news. Our interest may subside unless the media will daily bombard us with the protest updates… Maybe, we will stay in this small community and will follow the protests. I don’t even know what to do with this.
On one hand, at first, we were completely exhausted. And now I think that maybe we have to change something and keep talking about Ukraine, but how? Honestly, I don’t know.
‘The motivation to leave Ukraine was the fear of rape’
Oksana: I am thinking, what is feminist about our discussion? What makes your approaches feminist?
Lena: One of my women’s fears, motivations to quit Ukraine was the fear of rape. I talked with other women that fled the country, and that is probably their primary fear.
Anastasiia: I really get you. That was the only thing on my mind during my first two days in Kyiv. I believe that all of us have read enough books about all the previous wars, and…
Lena: Yeah, that was expected…
About the quality of the texts, the subjectivity of Ukraine in the world and the support of the state
Anastasiia: As I collaborate with numerous cultural institutions in Germany, I can say that I saw how they supported Ukraine, when we were losing. It all changed, once Ukraine took the offensive.
Suddenly I saw how increasingly harder it became for them to make a repost on the corporative page on Instagram or to discuss it… not for everyone, of course.
Oksana: Wow. I am shocked, that’s interesting.
Anastasiia: I believe there is a certain-established form of expressing compassion. Like the one which is used towards Iran, as the forces are clearly unequal: there are protesters who are unequivocally right and authorities who aren’t, so everything’s clear.
But once Ukraine takes the offensive and begins to win… I remember talking with my friends from Berlin. They asked me if Ukraine truly took the offensive. And I’ve been like: “Yeah”. Because all of my friends, all of my colleagues were preparing me for the fact that I am here for life. From time to time, we still return to talks like this… “Yeah, Nastya, surely you can think that Ukraine can win. But let’s stay realistic, it is here where you need to pursue a career”.
That’s one side. On another hand, there is something good in these institutions: despite all of that, occasionally they approve long-term projects, and that allows me to keep talking about it. This style of short readings, short discussions, flashes like that doesn’t have a long-term impact. Performances that would be staged, to be put on the repertoire, are way more efficient.
The other thing is, that after the coronavirus, German spectators hardly visit any theatre performances… But this is totally another problem.
Oksana: I remembered how when I was in Lviv in spring, one playwright told me: “My performances would never be met abroad with so much interest and hype as they do now”…
So I thought, how real is this interest? Second is what you, Anastasia, mentioned: the short-term project is one thing. Performances in theatre are totally different… I am curious what you think: if Ukraine is able to transform these flashes in the theatre community “Let’s make a three-day festival of Ukrainian something” into the situation when Ukrainian theatre will be perceived as an equal player… When we’ll be invited to serious events, and not as bizarre creatures (I believe, it was Lena who put it that way).
And in three days we’ll have other creatures, so we’re no longer interested. I wonder if the war changes something about these approaches toward serious collaboration.
Anastasiia: I’m really bothered by it, especially now where readings are held that place the texts of Natalka Vorozhbyt and Neda Nezhdana on one level. In all honesty, one is a worthy author that uses contemporary language to write good texts, while the other one is a scribbler.
I’m just amused when the organizers… I simply can’t understand what’s their problem – they don’t read the texts? They can’t get the context? Do they use a different alphabet? That’s the problem that is still relevant. Even though they make balanced judgments when it comes to other aspects of the text quality.
It also scares me, because were we to accumulate a certain number of events presenting third-rate works, in a year they would say: “Well, these Ukrainians, constantly whining in their texts that seem to be written 20 years ago” – these are not suited for contemporary art. Honestly, I still haven’t come up with a strategy and don’t know how to deal with it. I still get the feeling that this Ukrainian actorness is still quite illusive, at least in Europe.
It exists only in the frame of a certain idea of people affected by war. Lena, you recently put on a theatre performance in Stuttgart…
Lena: That’s a really profound question, and it needs to be formulated. I also have some fresh impressions, I’ve recently talked to Belarusians, and theirs is a really striking example of how the “wave” may settle down, leaving no professionals. Now they have a hard time living. How they can survive as professional playwrights? I certainly don’t want to… I mean, we need to learn from experience…
Our names need to be remembered as the names of the professionals. Other things aside, that’s how we represent Ukraine, that’s how we fight with proverbial “Serebrennikovs”. We don’t want Europe to lament the indispensable “great Russian artists”. It’s especially relevant for the western countries – French, Germany, where it is particularly prominent.
We need to counterbalance them. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the institutions able to support us in our efforts, especially for myself. I would like to feel that I am backed by institutional support, and that it is possible to survive. Surviving as a professional is a matter of life for me.
I am not sure about getting back to Ukraine. I can’t imagine myself there in the next years. Simply because, banal as that may sound, there isn’t any work there.
When I am proposed to organize a reading, I am like: guys, let’s make a performance, we are serious people, we didn’t come here to feed on grants. The first wave of performances, obviously, featured some performances focusing on relevant events, in many Polish theatres. I don’t know how it was in Germany, but they held readings…
They provided funding specifically for the Ukrainian projects, considering that their repertoire is scheduled for 2-3 years ahead – that depends on the theatre. The first performance we organized… we began working on it in April, and of course, it was a performance about the war in Ukraine, and we needed to make it along with women that were on the residency… Not all of them were artists, not all of them were actors. Not only did we need to find a way to incorporate their experience, ranging from singing to visual art – we also needed to make a performance… It was but an accident, but it probably was the most feminist work I ever did in my life.
We realized that the performance can be seen by women with traumatic experiences (that is Western Poland, they don’t have a lot of refugees there), and so we needed to rework that experience. The whole performance is based on the manuals – I didn’t agree to feature outright triggering stories.
One of these manuals explained what to do about rape. I think we had a performance on the 16th, I saw how the audience reacted… I think that we managed to theatrically work with this issue.
The second performance that I worked on after the immigration was the performance “Gorky’s mother” in Stuttgart. In the beginning, it was supposed to be a reading. Germans were easy on us, like: “Take a rest, have fun, whatever will be, will be – you’ll be excused either way, you are Ukrainians, you poor orphans…” But I gathered a solid team, and the team worked really hard, and in 3-4 weeks we showed a full-fledged performance.
I hope it will be… It can’t be part of the permanent repertoire, as it’s really hard to gather a team, but I hope, that it will live a theatrical life. Now I strive to hatch out of that Ukrainian quota. I want to have my own share in it.
I am happy that on April 8 and April 28, I’ll have two premieres in Poland – these are going to be co-productions with Polish actors. I also plan to have projects in other countries… Unfortunately, as I said, I don’t receive any institutional support from Ukraine, that’s true.
Anastasiia: After our reading in London, Oksana Potapova came to me – she’s a prominent feminist scholar, that now resides and studies in London, and carries out her research. Among other things, she asked if Ukrainian culture will be state-funded after the war – and that’s yet another question that is tough to find an answer to.
Everything I managed to answer was that we in the culture sphere somehow made do without state funding… it’s not like we got plenty of it…
Lena: If the state doesn’t get in the way, it’s already good.
Oksana: But I see it as a major problem. I am terribly exhausted, and after 10+ years of dealing with all these theatre things in Ukraine. We started from the student amateur things, with friends, like that. Then we used to say that we would chain ourselves to the table’s leg in some Ukrainian treasury…
I am completely drained. It’s not like I got tired of organizing theatre festivals or theatre projects. We are all tired, it comes with the age… I don’t know. Though I am now getting told that age is a social construct, I really feel it on a physical level.
What I’m getting at: for instance, when you implement a theatre project of some kind… When we organized Drama.ua, at a certain stage, the only thing I could offer to actors and directors was theatre readings. We simply didn’t have the budget for the full-fledged theatrical productions. We could take… For instance, we were interested in inviting Strzępka and Demirski, and we could bring them to our festival in Ukraine because Poles could use grand funds to take them here. But to make, say, to make a theatre production of “The Grain Store”… when I worked there…
Now the theatre has come to the new stage, plenty is done. But back then, you simply lacked the resources. At some stage, you come to the dead-end, as you have plans, and you constantly implement, like, 5% of them. You also can’t make a living with that, and are working on three jobs to be able to earn for your “5% plans”.
I don’t really see any other ways to change it but stringent lobbying, bringing together even people that aren’t exactly on the same page in terms of aesthetics and scraping money from your (or other) state. Now I am simply working abroad, teaching courses, and earning a living. I can now afford to watch any performance that interests me. But aside from writing articles, I don’t do much in the theatre sphere.
For me, that lack of state funding… Yeah, we know how to survive, yeah, we know how to implement a project. But I don’t know where is all this headed?… When I wasn’t able to pay salaries and royalties to actors and playwrights…
Anastasiia: It seriously pissed me off, when you, say, submit a project application to the Ukrainian Cultural Fund. That requires a prepared budget, a complete plan of action – that’s one big work. Then you receive comments from three experts that take three different directions to explain why you won’t get the money – and that repeats every year.
At some point, I realized that I don’t want to do anything… don’t want to ever take any money in Ukraine, because there’s no way to do it. It’s just plenty of stupid work that never leads to anything productive. That’s why I am either a contractor in the projects that get Western funding, or I do it for free.
It is not particularly fun to do it for free, but at least you get the chance to get everything your way, that’s why. So I think that we agree upon that. I am not ready to lobby anything for the state.
Lena: It is not merely a financial question, it is about emotional support. That also raises questions from people from the host country. For instance, at the premiere of my performance in Stuttgart when I was also awarded a prize, Germans asked if someone from Ukraine is to come. Someone from the embassy?… Even my mom didn’t come.
It’s not even the lack of support that you feel. You feel that you are banned, tabooed. And this, well, this is truly horrifying. It’s getting scarier and scarier to return to Ukraine. And it’s just… It may be a phase, and it may pass…
Oksana: Once again, my perspective is highly pragmatic, because I regard theatre from more of an organizer’s perspective, and from the perspective of a person that wrote about theatre as a historical fact. How it happened there… during WWI in Lviv. Which theatres were established there and why, and why during WWII, under the Nazis, we staged “Hamlet”.
But I regard it as more of the fighting for power and resources. When we’ve been organizing a theatre festival, I didn’t regard it as access to power and resources. I’ve been interested in the esthetical dimension,plays I wanted to see on stage, performances I wanted to stage. And then you come to the real world, look at the real directors of the theatres and you realize that for them theatre is nothing but the resource, financial and power resource.
I look back at the fight over the Theatre of Lesya, and it’s just… I mean, it wasn’t weird for us at that stage, but that’s nothing but the fight over one small theatre that lasted for years… And you realize that these people that milked the theatre for so long, that employed so many of their people – they won’t simply pack their things and go.
Lena: I am really sorry for the good people that had stayed and that try to keep up with all of this. I realize that they are even more outnumbered than before – and for me, it’s just…
I could give up long ago, just bail on it. But I want to do something for the benefit of these people, even on a volunteer basis. Even if it seems I wrote off Ukrainian theatre, I haven’t fully done it.
Anastasiia: Before, I had a tough time explaining what does it mean to work in the independent theatre in Ukraine. The way they put it was like: “We get that you don’t earn much, but you still get your salary, right?”.
What salary are you talking about, you just work as a volunteer, and that’s it, no salaries in sight. But now it is even more difficult to explain… For example, my dad is an actor, and he works in the Zapozizhzia theatre. According to him, he receives the same salary as before the war. Theatre somehow managed to organize salary payments. I know how other actors in other theatres live for 1500 UAH per month and don’t complain. On the contrary, they protect the theater’s management. And that’s yet another toxic mode borne from all these Soviet ideas of “master”, of the director of the theatre…
And I am frightened by it when these conflicts start rising to the surface. I don’t know how to explain to my European colleagues how it is possible to live on EUR 50 a month.
‘Radical optimism is our political position’
Anastasiia: Maybe, let’s talk about the best possible perspective that we see for ourselves.
Lena: What can we do? I am really frustrated by how powerless I am. If I can clean the floor and that will cheer me up, I will clean the floor.
Oksana: I, on the contrary, am not frustrated at all. I am simply tired from all this, and I understand that my life won’t be enough. And I will sound like our parents and grannies, but I want to say that our kids will maybe have it better, or someone else’s kids, or, I don’t know, some kids in Ukraine.
But I am also terribly optimistic, because, when we organized our first contest Drama.ua (can’t remember the exact year), I’ve been reading all of these texts… Then the second contest came, then the third one. When I read contemporary Ukrainian plays now and come to the readings, what I see is undoubtedly positive and great dynamics.
What is happening in theatre, the performances that are staged… It’s impossible not to notice. At times it’s difficult to notice due to exhaustion because you don’t even have the energy to notice something positive. But I notice plenty, plenty of stuff, and I like a lot of stuff. However, with all that radical optimism that I believe we have to feel.
Because whenever I speak in public, I keep saying that we have no choice, and radical optimism is our political position.
I am afraid that the war would lead to… I can’t finish on a hopeful note… I want someone from the Ukrainian institute to notice, or someone from the Ukrainian Cultural Fund that seems to fall apart, or, I don’t know, Zelensky… They are bound to notice that people are leaving, right? No one has the energy to return and keep begging the state for this 3000 UAH…
I am convinced that everyone who has left will continue to work for Ukraine, simply because we share the language context. Theatre is a highly language-based phenomenon. Even if you want to get rid of Ukraine inside you, you won’t be able to do it. But the fact that these are people in Stuttgart, London, New York, and Toronto who will watch the best performances, and not the people in Kyiv and Lviv – that’s what bothers me a bit.
But in any case, the Ukrainian theatre will be really good. It is already really good, and it will be even better.
Anastasiia: When I occasionally manage to ignore everything bad that happens around, I think that regardless of everything, Ukrainian culture now has a good chance of integration into European society.
It is clear, that is not as powerful as Russian culture, which is heavily lobbied and backed by huge amounts of money.
But anyway. Many playwrights went through a great school. Many authors didn’t get their plays staged due to the circumstances, and not because of the artistic merit. Now the playwrights are getting the residencies, theatre productions, and an opportunity to work directly with actors, directors — I believe, it really helps a playwright to quickly improve.
That’s why, yes, I am being optimistic. It’s very true, what you, Oksana, said about language context. Because anyway, at least their plays will be staged in Ukraine.
Lena: I shoot for the great feat. My residency lasts one month, I live in the center of Warsaw. I almost translated the text, I only have one scene left.
I am writing a musical about Russian soldiers and their mothers. That was such a controversial topic, we argued over it in Poland, when I presented the projects of the performance at the festival. I also had dozens of heated discussions about this in Germany, but now I have only one scene left. And after Serebrennikov’s performance, I am convinced, that not only I am entitled to do it, but I have to do it. If they were telling the stories about us for so many years, why can’t we ourselves tell about them? Let’s make Europe and the whole world see them through our eyes.
I will have yet another written text, and I will have an opportunity to turn it into a performance and stage it. From December 29 I have a new job in one of the Warsaw theatres…
Anastasiia: You won’t announce where exactly?
Lena: In the Teatr Powszechny.
Anastasiia: Great, so everything’s fine. Oksana, what are you working on now?
Oksana: I am now working on the new course on Ukrainian history. But the war gave me a much-needed push, some dynamics. For 2-4 years I couldn’t go to the theatre. And even when I wasn’t working on theatre projects, still, going to theatres for me was not unlike going to work. Wherever I am — I will go to the theatre and watch the performances. But for two or three years I didn’t want to go to the theatre.
When the war started, I resumed going to the theatres, in Lviv and not only in Lviv. I started discussing theatre with people. Once I returned to Canada, to America, I also saw many pieces here.
I still want to be active in the theatre sphere, it is still interesting for me. Maybe, not in the way I did it before, as it is already impossible, it is already history and past. But I like how the war became my catalyst. When you are in a situation of war, you search for something homely, something that you’re used to it, something valuable. For me, it was theatre.
That’s why I think that I will find a way to be active in this sphere. Right now we are discussing certain plans with my friends. As a historian, I study war and violence, so I have plenty of common topics with my friends from the theatre.
Anastasiia: My most important project now is writing the text and staging it in Mannheim. Really great theatre. Mannheim is a small city near Heidelberg. Unlike Heidelberg, it was heavily bombed during WWII, that’s why one half of it is historical architecture, while the other half is discount Bauhaus.
Their theatre is really good. For the first time, I see a city that harbors respect for theatre that big. If you say in the restaurant that you work in the theatre, you will get compliments…
For some reason, though, it doesn’t convert into the number of spectators, but still, you get this respect. I am also writing a text about war. It feels so weird to write the text and to direct its production at the same time.
German theatre process is really precise and stretched in time. We had the first stage, the so-called establishment of the stage. 30 technicians with sad faces came to listen to what we wanted the scenery to look like… Their faces brightened when they understood that I don’t want to build complex constructions on the stage. In fact, I only need two armchairs, a fridge, a carpet, and a screen. They asked what fabric should cover the chairs, and that was it.
I center texts in my directing practice, so it’s the norm for me. I don’t like current German theatre with its acid colors and gaudy esthetics. We’ll see how it will turn out, but it’s such an interesting challenge for me as a director…
Maybe, the next season will bring plenty of Ukrainian performances, we will come and see them.
Lena: There is no other choice, we simply have to.
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