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KURBAS: 1920s Avant-garde Theatre in Ukraine, The Ninth Annual Cambridge Vsesvit Evening

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Free Public Lecture as part of the Vsesvit Literary Evening Series with images and wine reception.

The lecture and image presentation will be given by Virlana Tkacz (NYC), theatre director, founder of the New York City Yara Arts Group, cultural historian, curator, author and translator, and Waldemart Klyuzko (Kyiv), artist, designer and curator, who has been nominated for two New York Innovative Awards for his work with the Yara Arts Group. Together Virlana Tkacz and Waldemart Klyuzko co-curated two major exhibitions in Ukraine on Les Kurbas.

Les Kurbas was an innovative director, who staged experimental theatre pieces in Kyiv, Ukraine during the 1920s that challenged and transformed the idea of what is theatre. His work will be discussed together with projections of photographs from his original productions, as well as the installations created by the curators for a recent exhibition.

Kurbas: 1920s Avant-garde Theatre in Ukraine will focus on what Kurbas actually did as a theatre director, concentrating on his experimental work with his company the Berezil Artistic Association in Kyiv (1922-1926). We will focus on three shows that addressed fundamental issues in world theatre. Kurbas’s innovative use of movement to create an exploding factory on stage will be examined in his production of Georg Kaiser’s Gas (1923). In Jimmie Higgins (1923), we will look at how Kurbas integrated film and stage action, to present the thoughts of a character, revealing the inner and outer reality of a human being. Kurbas’s experiments with film made him one of the major artists at the source of the use of multimedia in theatre. We will also see how in his 1924 production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, he had his actors enter the stage as themselves and become the characters in the play in front of the audience, emphasizing the dual nature of the body (person) on stage.

Kurbas collaborated with designer Vadym Meller, who created constructivist sets that resemble sculptures, rather than typical theatre decor. Meller’s constructions formed complex, multilevel places for action that did not adhere to a single-point perspective, but were fragmentary planes similar to those used by Cubists and Supermatist.

In four years the Berezil Artistic Association grew from a small workshop for young actors to an organization with hundreds of participants, which radically transformed Ukrainian theatre. The lecture will also touch on Berezil’s participation in two international exhibitions: in Paris (1925) and New York (1926). The main task of this lecture is to show the innovations that defined Kurbas’s work as one of the outstanding experimental theatre directors of the early 20th century.

Please register by following this Eventbrite link. Seating is limited so please register only for the number of tickets you will be using.

This talk is part of the Slavonic Studies series.

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