Stepping Out of the Shadow: Ukraine Known on Its Own Terms – Meighen Forum at Stratford Festival, Sept. 23, 2023

Update: Subsequent posts are entitled:

Reading series of plays-in-translation features some of the best of Ukraine’s theatre, created since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion – Stratford Festival, Sept. 23-24, 2023

Many Russian studies programs have engendered serious academic ignorance – regarding Ukraine and its neighbours: Tomasz Kamusella, New Eastern Europe, Aug. 11, 2023.


Recently I have finished reading The War Came to Us: Life and Death in Ukraine (2023) by Christopher Miller.  The book highlights the Euromaidan Revolution in Kyiv of 2013-2014 and the geopolitical events that have followed. Among other books about Ukraine I have read is Voices From Chernobyl: the Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster (2006) by Svetlana Aleksievich. As well, I have read Grey Bees (2022) by Andreĭ Kurkov. I have also begun to read Ukraine’s Maidan, Russia’s War: A Chronicle and Analysis of the Revolution of Dignity (2019) by Mychailo Wynnyckyj. That book may take a while.

View of Avon River from interior of Tom Patterson Theatre. Jaan Pill photo

Recently I attended a Meighen Forum panel presentation about the war in Ukraine. Among other things, the panelists spoke about the world history of cultural imperialism, and the divergent cultural histories and identities of Ukraine and Russia. I found the panel of much interest. I learned many new things: things which I would not have learned – at least, not with quite the same sense of immediacy – just by reading about them. After the panel, I became (through some online reading after the event) aware of what verbatim theatre entails. An interesting and highly relevant theatrical genre. The panel was well worth the $16.95 price of admission.

Information display – Stepping Out of the Shadow panel event at Tom Patterson Theatre, Sept. 23, 2023. Jaan Pill photo

It was a hybrid event: three of the panelists were there in person, and two attended remotely from London, England. Because the sound system was in all respects absolutely first-rate, the voices of the two speakers from London came across as clearly as did the voices of the speakers who were there in-person.

QR Codes – Encountering Ukraine weekend event, September 2023. Jaan Pill photo

QR Codes (photo on right)

Left to right, clockwise, the links are:

Cassandra – A Dramatic Poem

An Anthology of Modern Ukrainian Drama

A Dictionary of Emotions in a Time of War: 20 Short Works by Ukrainian Playwrights

Bad Roads

Additional resources of interest include:

Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine

Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies

Ukrainian New Drama after the Euromaidan Revolution

Description of Stepping Out of the Shadow panel event at Tom Patterson Theatre, Sept. 23, 2023. Jaan Pill photo

Stepping Out of the Shadow: Ukraine Known on Its Own Terms

The text on a display poster (photo on right) for the panel (I’ve made some minor spelling adjustments) reads:

The Meighen Forum

Supported through an endowed gift from Kelly & Michael Meighen and the T.R. Meighen Family Foundation

Encountering Ukraine: Readings in Solidarity

War. Witness. Heroic resistance. From the early 20th century to today. Ukrainian playwrights have epitomized their fellow compatriots’ distinct grit, humour and imagination through challenging and troubling times. Curated by Ukrainian-Canadian artist and activist Andrew Kushnir, this reading series of plays-in-translation represents some of the best of Ukraine’s theatre and showcases how artists help define and defend the culture of a people.

Stepping Out of the Shadow: Ukraine Known on Its Own Terms

Series curator Andrew Kushnir will lead a dialogue with guests on how Ukraine has been historically impacted by cultural imperialism, how artists have been critical of Ukraine’s fight for independence and freedom, and what solidarity can look like on the cultural front of this war.

View from entrance to Tom Patterson Theatre; Avon River in background. Jaan Pill photo


Andrew Kushnir (He/Him) is an award-winning playwright, director, and activist who lives in Toronto. He is artistic director of the socially engaged theatre company Project: Humanity, a leading developer of verbatim theatre in Canada. This past season, Andrew directed the world premiere of Casey and Diana at the Stratford Festival and had his latest play, The Division, produced at the Criminal Queerness Festival at Lincoln Center (New York). This November, Andrew will direct the North American premiere of Bad Roads by Nataly’a Vorozhbit at Crow’s Theatre. A proudly queer Ukrainian-Canadian, he founded the We Support LGBTQ Ukraine Fund, which has raised over $125,000 for NGOs and activists meeting the needs of LGBTQ+ Ukrainians trapped or internally displaced by war. To learn more: Andrew is the inaugural recipient of the Shevchenko Foundation’s REACH residency for the arts.

Stepping Out of the Shadow event was at the Lazaridis Hall, the exterior of which is at the centre of the photo. Jaan Pill photo

Mariya Khomutova is a Ukrainian actor and playwright. She started her theatre studies in Odesa at the age of 12. She graduated from the Kyiv National Theatre University in 2012 and worked in two repertoire theatres in Kyiv. The play First Métis Man of Odesa, which she co-wrote and performed in with her husband Matthew MacKenzie, received three Dora Awards (2023) in the Independent Theatre section, and brought her an Outstanding Performance nomination. After February 24, 2022 Mariya concentrates her theatre work around promoting contemporary Ukrainian playwrights voices to the world theatre community.

Marko Robert Stech is a writer, literary scholar, and specialist in the history of culture. He holds PhD in Slavic Studies and MASc in Engineering from the University of Toronto. He works at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) of the University of Alberta and University of Toronto. He is Director of CIUS Press and Scholarly Publications, responsible for the Press, the Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine (as Editor-in-Chief), and two scholarly journals, East/West: Journal of Ukrainian Studies and Ukraina Moderna; he is also Project Manager of the Hrushevsky Translation Project. Marko is the author of the award-winning Ukrainian-language novel Voice (Holos), a book of essays entitled Essays in Search of Sources (Eseistyka i poshukakh dzherel), an experimental novel The Undying (Nevmyrushchi), and numerous other essays. He is compiler of the literary legacies of Ihor Kostetsky, Iurii Kosach, and Emma Audiievska, and other Ukrainian authors.

Molly Flynn [Birkbeck University of London; attending the Stratford panel remotely] is a Senior Lecturer on the BA Theatre & Drama and BA Theatre Studies and English, MA Text and Performance, and MA Dramaturgy programs. Her current research is on Ukrainian theatre since the Euromaidan Revolution (2014), with a particular focus on documentary forms and political performance practices. She is also the author of Witness Onstage: Documentary Theatre in Twenty-First-Century Russia (Manchester University Press, 2020). Molly’s work has appeared in journals such as TDR, New Theatre Quarterly, RiDE: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, Problems of Post-Communism, Open Democracy, and Calvert Journal.

Uilleam Blacker [attending the Stratford panel remotely] is Associate Professor of Ukrainian and East European Culture at University College London. He has translated the work of many Ukrainian authors. His translation of novels by Taras Prokhasko and Maik Yohansen will be published in the Harvard Library of Ukrainian Literature series. His translations have appeared in many anthologies and journals including The White Review, Modern Poetry in Translation, and Words Without Borders. He has written for The Atlantic, The Times Literary Supplement and The Literary Review, among others. In 2022, he was Paul Celan Translation Fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna.

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