Compagnie suisse romande de création, transmission, production, médiation et recherche en spectacle vivant
"Le théâtre pour expérimenter non seulement l'humain, mais ses interactions possibles avec son environnement. Relationnel, spatio-temporel, émotionnel ou encore physique. Le théâtre pour explorer la complexité de l'être, au-delà des frontières. Frontières géopolitiques, frontières artistiques, frontières intérieures. Décloisonner pour mieux se positionner. Sortir de la zone de confort pour mieux sentir ses limites, en comprendre leur nécessité ou leur présence désuète. Enfin, le théâtre pour préserver la beauté. Terme subjectif, mais valeur essentielle d'une humanité unie, tolérante et bienveillante. Toujours avec une touche de poésie, une touche d'humour et une écoute de l'instant présent. Le théâtre, une expérimentation de la notion de liberté, de pair avec une certaine forme d'humilité. Face à soi, face à l'autre, face à la vie."
Readings live at ProEnglish Theatre Kyiv, staged online by international directors
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Article by Madeleine Bongard written on July 6th 2022
Since February 24th some things became habits.
It became a habit to receive notifications on a daily basis about air raid alarms. It became a habit to tell Ukrainian friends « Be safe » or « Have a safe night ». War somehow became a habit.
Probably that the fight we lead in the field of performing arts, together with Ukraine, over the borders, these days, is the one of not getting used to this habit.
My name is Madeleine Bongard. I am a Swiss actress, also working as a director and author. I lead a theatre company called Dyki Dushi, created after my first trips to Ukraine, six years ago. Dyki Dushi means « savage souls » in Ukrainian. Since the beginning of the large-scale invasion, me and my team we try to be as active as possible with and for Ukraine. We organise a daily digital flashmob Dance with Ukraine, we hold conferences in Switzerland about Performing arts in war time : a weapon for democracy, we promote Ukrainian festivals like GogolFest by performing shows that we used to present there in Ukraine, etc. And one day came this proposition made by ProEnglish Theatre to stage readings of Ukrainian playwrights. I jumped on the occasion to be close to this creative vitality that is to be felt everywhere in Ukraine and to contribute, over-the-borders, to build another stone of resistance.
Our performance was planned for Sunday the 26th of June 2022.
On that June 26th in the morning, the same as on February 24th, I suddenly woke up, without any alarm clock, and I saw a message. In February, the message was saying « Has anyone else but me heard these loud sounds of explosions ? » This message had been posted on facebook by a friend who lives in Kyiv. The war had started. On June 26th, the day of the presentation of War. Ukraine. Texts 2.0 the head of Kyiv based ProEnglish Theatre, Alex Borovenskiy, wrote a message on our whatsapp group of international directors participating in these staging readings. At 5.44am CET he wrote « 4 missile hits on Kyiv, 6am in the morning. Apparently Putin doesn't like stage reads ». Immediately I gathered the actresses of my stage reading in a Messenger group and asked them how they are. « Explosions in the city center this morning, right ? You ok ? » And the answers, the amazing answers I received, sounded like « Yes, I will see you at 10am for rehearsals. But if there will be an air raid I will stay in the shelter here, sorry » Yeah they start to make fun about it. Another one : « We are already here at the theatre. The theatre has been the first place where we go because it is a shelter. So yes I guess we will not cancel anything. The only thing I don't know is how much audience we will have. This is unpredictable. But I think the fact that we do it has even more meaning. So of course we won't cancel anything. »
Alright. Then, let's go.
10am Ukrainian time, 9am in Switzerland.
We meet online with the actresses and the technicians and we go through a technical runthrough. As if nothing had happened. Everyone is here and works. And then, after the runthrough, comes the time of feedbacks. At some point I see all the faces a little bit distracted and I ask :
- Do you still hear me ? Is the connection still good enough ?
- Yes of course. Sorry, it's just that we have new air raid alarms and we just heard another explosion.
I am sitting in front of my computer and the weird thing is that it feels just like an information. It is their reality. It is the reality. For now. And fighting to stop this reality and to shift it into something enlightening is exactly why we are working, as artists, to create the reading of this text : Rediscovery, by Volodymyr Serdiuk. Yes, there is a reason to fight, there is a reason to make art. And that's something Putin didn't plan. Because when Ukraine will win, we all will. From what I know from Ukraine, I feel that Ukrainians will have entered such a shift of human paradigm after the war, and they will have taken us with them in this evolution, that there's gonna be a 'before' and an 'after' in humanity. And working in the art field right now, these days, creating, going through texts, through body expression, through feelings, participates in that fight. Because performing arts are a weapon in this war, in this terrorist war. It's a weapon for peace, for freedom, for democratic values, for beauty, for the right to be.
So we chose to dive into this text by Volodymyr Serdiuk. At some point he named it « Reopening » and then he came back to its first title « Rediscovery » because it is a metaphore : this story is the one of a sailors' crew that discovers America. Like once Christopher Columbus did. And on their journey they go through many different experiences, dark ones and beautiful ones. They experience loneliness, enlightment, mirages and fighting. They go deep down into feeling the values of life. And, mainly, they experience the connection to inner worlds. These connections to inner worlds is how the main character in the book survives to the difficulties of doing this trip on this boat.
Volodymyr Serdiuk wrote that novel in 1994. And as he says : « This text is dear to me like a hard-born baby which you love most. These were hard times with no electricity, no money, no friends or relatives nearby. I did not have enough wood to heat my room that Winter. And the days were too short while the nights were too long. I could do nothing but stay in bed and think about the Outer World full of light warmth and music, where people don't travel to War but to amuse themselves. One day I began to meditate if the World feels me, that lost and lonely cooling body having no other dreams but just to survive. And, miraculously, that same night I began to receive those bright pictures and scenes which I evidently had to put down, because the World answered me this way. And that was the way of Support. During two weeks I was waking up to dictate a single sentence or a short dialogue which, frankly, I would not have been able to imagine before. When batteries were low I would write some letters in my hand flashlight and would fall asleep again, covering my head with a blanket. And while sleeping I would luckily dream of those Warm Seas I did not see before and then I felt I was not alone. When the story was finished, the Spring began and I put my pages with writings on a line across my room, walking between hanged pages, deciding which of them to be first, third or forty sevens. This way that small novel was born. Never after was I lucky again to have such an experience like this one. (...) I was feeling the whole World during those two weeks. I received the Answer that the World loves me. And I keep that feeling even now. »
So we grabbed this possibility Volodymyr Serdiuk's text was offering to come back to organicity. Organicity of words but first of all of movement, of breathing, of connection to imagination. And we chose the energy of love, of rap, of flow, of poetry, to create this play. Fifteen minutes before the show, when the actresses were in the backstage, beautifully prepared and made up, we connected online and I told them « You know what ? Now let go. You know the structure, just dive in it ! Let go of everything and just enjoy this moment on stage, celebrating life ! » I was so nervous, behind my screen. Like I have rarely been. I was nervous for them and I remember having wondered how I had even been able to be myself so many times so relaxed as an actress just before to go on stage. Yes, on Sunday 26th I was really nervous. I could feel that the reason why we were doing this was important – especially on that day where buildings around the theatre had been bombed. And I was so proud of them, of each actress. Of Iryna Gulevska, Kateryna Hordiienko, Olena Kurta, Tatyana Krulikovskaya and Anabell Sotello Ramirez. Also of Mikhailo Dziuba who was in the team but had to cancel his participation because he got injured a few days before the show in a motorbike accident.
The streaming was a little bit unstable, therefore I could not see everything. But I saw them start, and Iryna walked in, and just before doing her first action, which was to switch on a metronom, she had to stop because there was a technical problem (I don't know what it was). Everyone started to
speak, the technicians, Alex, as if the play had been pressed on 'pause'. And Iryna, very professional, stayed there, not moving, in great beauty, waiting until she could move on. Then the first sound of the play started slightly too quickly. The actresses were not ready. They were supposed to be on stage when the first sound starts, but they weren't yet. Without any words, their bodies understood how to respond to that. They naturally jumped into the second action of the structure and showed how beautiful art can be when a whole team listens to each other and to a situation.
When I saw this beginning, I thought « They are full on track ! There we are, with beautiful actresses who are giving everything they have. » And as a matter of fact, Volodymyr Serdiuk, who was in the audience on that day, said after the play: « The show was like a prayer. » And it is true that the actresses connected to that level of vibration where each word, each action, each sound was a prayer – until that moment where, to finish the play, each one of them lit up a candle.
Rediscovery (or Reopening) is a prayer for beauty, for poetry, for life.
It is a prayer for resistance.
The actresses had planned a Ukrainian flag to be shown during the bowing, at the end of the play. So we had them with the flag and the candles in their hands, there on stage, in Kyiv, having pushed up this story of rediscovering the inner Worlds, reopening the right to feel alive, in every cell, with joy, with love, with action. They had uplifted it. They had allowed it to happen.
I know that for each one of them this day was a very impactful one, maybe one of the most important days since the beginning of this large-scale terrorist invasion led by Russia in Ukraine. On that day, the most aweful and the most beautiful feelings came mixed up together, and fear was taken out of them in order to move them into a strong determination to be in action, to be in the doing. And somehow for me as well. Yes, it also uplifted me to that level of reunderstanding that love is an action. And as a friend of mine from Kyiv said on that day : « Yes, love is an action. But love is also a choice. And love is a responsability. »
Rediscovery reopens to the choice we can make, any time, to take our next action. Art is love. Love is action. Action is presence. And presence is resistance.
So ... what will be your next action ?