Slovo. Theater Group
Slovo. Theater group is a group of Ukrainian and American artists is creating a theatrical performance revolving around the topic of Motherland. We are increasing the visibility of Ukrainian culture in the USA and stimulating dialogue between Ukrainians and Americans.
Slovo. Theater Group was founded in April of 2022 to fight against oppression of Ukrainian culture by promoting Ukrainian culture abroad.
In 2021, Pittsburgh-born and Paris-based playwright Audrey Rose Dégez applied to residency Slovo, an artistic residency in the historic Slovo Building in Kharkiv. Her project proposal was to write and workshop an original work based on Mykola Khyvylovy's 1924 novella I am (a Romantic) and around the topic of “Motherland.” Khyvylovy lived, worked, and ultimately committed suicide in 1933 in Slovo Building as a protest against Soviet extermination of Ukrainian artists and intellectuals. Dégez was accepted for a residency in September and October of 2022.
The Russian invasion of February 24th rendered the original project idea impossible, but through the generosity of a large number of private and institutional supporters, Audrey Rose was able to bring the project to the United States. In April, she selected 5 Ukrainian artists from Kharkiv to join her in Pittsburgh for a unique 5-month artistic residency, during which the group would devise an original piece based on Khyvylovy’s novella. On July 13th, she left her home and husband Louis in France and returned to her Motherland with their 6-month old daughter Lili Maritchka to prepare for the project. On August 14th, she was joined by Daria Holovchanska, Yuliia Linnik, Maksym Panchenko, Olesia Zakharova, and Veronika Shuster in Pittsburgh and over the last 5 months the group has been devising the performance.
mask maker, lighting designer
LILI MARITCHKA DÉGEZ
Mothermotherland is a devised performance that explores motherhood, motherland, and Ukrainian and American experience through the lens of Mykola Khyvylovy’s autobiographical short story I Am (a Romantic). Written in 1924, the short story follows I, the head of the secret police (the Cheka), who must decide, with the help of his comrades: Dr. Tahabat, Andrusha, and the degenerate Sentinel, whether or not to execute his own mother to protect his idea of a commune beyond the hills. This performance was developed through a co-writing process by members of Slovo. Theater Group. The performance was devised in the styles of Les Kurbas (theatre of movement and gestus), Jacques Lecoq (physical theatre), and post-documentary theatre. In this piece, there are multiple realities existing and overlapping with one another; there are the actors and their personal experiences, the actors playing themselves and their personal stories, there are the characters of I Am (a Romantic), and there is Mykola Khyvylovy.
“Now, in the Ukrainian-russian War, not only lives are at stake but also the past, present, and future of Ukrainian culture. After the full-scale invasion on 24 February, 2022, Slovo. Theater Group was founded as a means of promoting Ukrainian culture abroad and stimulating dialogue between Ukrainians and Americans. We are exploring how theatre can be a tool to fight against cultural oppression by putting the oppressed culture in the spotlight and creating documentary materials to help that culture persevere.”
— Audrey Rose Dégez
1922: Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic joins the Soviet Union. A soviet initiative called Ukrainization encourages creation in the Ukrainian language and sparks a cultural renaissance. Les Kurbas founds Berezil theatre in Kyiv.
1925: A petition from a group of artists for housing support in Kharkiv is accepted by the government and plans for Slovo Building begin.
1926: Berezil theatre moves to Kharkiv.
1929: Construction of Slovo Building is completed. The building has a kindergarten, solarium, and phones in every apartment. The phones quickly become a tool for soviet surveillance.
1932-1933: Holodomor, the great starvation. Somewhere between 3.5 and 7 million Ukrainians are starved to death by soviet forces. Ukrainian writer Mykola Khyvylovy visits the villages and witnesses the famine firsthand.
May 13th, 1933: Mykola Khyvylovy invites his friends to his apartment in Slovo Building, walks into the back room, and commits suicide. He does this as a protest to the arrest of his friend and colleague Mykhailo Yalovy; Yalovy’s arrest and subsequent assassination being one of the first of what would lead to an entire generation of executed Ukrainian artists and intellectuals.
1933: Les Kurbas produces Maklena Grasa by writer Mykola Kulish and they are sent into exile.
November 3rd, 1937: the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, 1111 prisoners, including Kurbas, Kulish, and Yalovy, are executed in Sandarmokh together.
Between 1933 and 1941, almost all Ukrainian artists and intellectuals are assassinated.
Mothermotherland is presented in partnership with coLAB Arts. Thank you to all of our sponsors and a special thank you to:
James Miller, The Posner Foundation, Allan Holt, The Wilke Foundation, JP Morgan Charitable Giving Fund, Larry Lebowitz and Carrie Thompson of Denton's, Cohen & Grigsby legal practice, Louis Dégez, and David & Dawne Hickton