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“We need to lead a cultural dialog with Russia on its own territory”

Pavlo Arie on the premiere of his play Glory to Heroes! and trends in modern dramaturgy
28 October, 10:42

We met with playwright Pavlo Arie in Lviv during the festival “” At that time it was impossible to stage a drama of young authors on the stage of Ukrainian theaters, because conservatism was ruling. Pavlo got a refusal to stage it. His work Glory to Heroes! is dedicated to historical dramaturgy: it’s a dialog between an UPA warrior and a Soviet Army soldier, who by coincidence find themselves in one hospital ward. The premiere of scenic readings of this play has taken place this year. Apart from that, his play received scenic life in Lviv-based Les Kurbas Theater.

Pavlo represented Eastern Europe at the international forum of the festival “Berliner Theatertreffen-2013,” he is a winner of Goethe-Institute grant. Our conversation took place during the dramaturgy festival in Poland, where Pavlo Arie staged a play which asserts that “you cannot rape people.”


This year the play Glory to Heroes! has been presented for the audience in the form of scenic reading. How do you perceive your work and how was it received by the audience?

“Everything has changed. We have created a play in Lviv-based Les Kurbas Theater. This is not a reading, because there is actors’ performance and set design. For the first time we showed this story for the audience before Maidan. Later we showed it during the revolution and at the beginning of October. There will be two more shows: on the elections day and in December. This is unbelievable. The main character in the play is Hania who wants there to be a war between the east and the west. And this is terrible. When I was writing this, I imagined and didn’t even think that we would have a war in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. This cau­ses terrible feelings and I feel scared. I thought that my play lost sense, but it started to live a life of its own.”

Was it your or the theater’s initiative to stage the play?

“This is an initiative of Les Kurbas Theater within the framework of the project ‘Theater of Playwright’ (with the assistance of the program ‘Idea-Impulse-Innovation’ of Rinat Akhmetov’s Foundation ‘Development of Ukraine’).”

But since you wrote it much time has passed, and, taking into account the condition of war these days, haven’t you changed the play?

“I haven’t changed it and I won’t do this. At that time we looked at this problem from a prospect, when we thought what if anything happened, and now from the perspective when it has already happened. And we start thinking why it has happened and what for?”



You spend much time in Europe, in particular, in Germany. What is the reaction of the community at military events in Ukraine?

“It varies. There is normal reaction of people who understand the situation. But there are many Russophiles who use Russian cliches and propaganda. This is one of German diseases. For some reason they think that Russia is always something magnificent and right. They believe the nonsense of Russian TV propaganda. The left-wing and ultra left movements are especially active. They hold various demonstrations, fake exhibits. I could not refrain from reacting when I for the first time saw the phrase that ‘Kyiv junta is annihilating the Russian-speaking population.’ Then it became a shock to me.”

Why is such thing happening? Is this a “financial” question or a bent to the “great Russian culture”?

“I think most of Germans understand what is going on in our country. Germany is suffering, in particular, in terms of economy, but ‘we have to maintain relations with Russia, in particular’: such opinions are present in society. The left-wing organizations are simply crazy. For this is happening because of the fear that America will conquer them and come with a war. Se­condly, this is huge Russian money that gets into the hands of the leftists and pocket journalists. I have noticed that all the political scientists and experts that perform at such fake actions, write articles, using Russian cliches. I have tried to talk to such people, but it is impossible to have a dialog with them. Clearly, these people are ‘versed’ and ‘prepared’ and they don’t want to hear any other opinion. So, I can make a conclusion that Russia has worked with such European ‘experts’ very fruitfully, for a very long time.”


Playwright Tetiana Kytsenko has recently held a reading of the play My police [takes care of] me… at the dra­maturgy festival Liubymivka. This is a social drama based on a documentary story. In your opinion, how interested is Ukrainian audience in the genre of documentary theater? How social is the market of dramaturgy today?

“Unfortunately, we don’t have any theater market today. I know this play by Tania Kytsenko. Young Ukrainian playwrights have created many works like this. They have understood the need to write on real topics that worry the society. And this is good. Another thing is that theaters react to this not actively enough. But still this dialog, or, to be more accurate, a conversation between playwrights of the new wave and theaters has begun to take place. Hopefully, this trend will persist and pro­bab­ly in five years we will be able to speak about some breakthrough.

“I’m speaking above all about the festival “” and “Week of To­pical Drama.” Apart from that in Lviv we have opened the first stage of mo­dern drama on the basis of the municipal Lesia Ukrainka Theater. Since now this venue will be working mainly with mo­dern drama. I think this is a great achie­vement. It was opened by the premiere of the play by Sarah Kane Blasted. We have many plans. In particular, we want to stage the play by Pavlo Yurov and Anastasia Kasilova Novorossia (Pavlo Yurov will be the director). We will stage a full-fledged production of Natalia Vorozhbyt’s play Grain Barns.”

Do you think that this breakthrough has taken place because this is Lviv, and people here are used to experiments, and we have a strong and young community here?

“No, Lviv is a conservative city. However, there are outstanding young people, who are interested in modern drama, there is “Drabyna,” “,” which has been operating for 10 years in this sphere. They have proved that they are worth of attention. Municipality and the Ministry of Culture are actively cooperating with them. And creation of the stage of modern drama was supported on the level of the mi­nistry. But everything that is taking place here is taking place in spite of everything.”


Coming back to the revolutionary topic. In your opinion, what did Euromaidan give to dramaturgy?

“I think this process has influenced every Ukrainian. Of course, this is a very important event for playwrights as well. As for me, I don’t dare write either about Maidan, or the war. Because as for me time should pass for creation of any fiction text. Now texts look false. We don’t have a long enough distance in time which will enable us to do this and analyze. So, documentary theater becomes actual for us. As an example, Natalia Vorozhbyt created with a group of playwrights Diaries of Maidan. This play has been translated into many languages. Besides, the project Novorossia by Pavlo Yurov and Anastasia Kasilova has recently been presented at a festival in Cologne, and soon it will be shown at a festival in Lublin. Such things look very impressive. But writing about Maidan now… In spite of excitement, I don’t dare do this. I have seve­ral ideas how to realize myself in documentary theater, but time will tell.”

As for the Russian colleagues. In Sankt-Petersburg the play Crimea (bas­ed on the opera Residents of Se­vastopol) was shown, where Putin is depicted as a savior of Russian lands. Is any cultural dialog with your colleagues from Russia taking place?

“I don’t communicate with Russian colleagues. And they don’t want it either. Sometimes it seems to me that even the colleagues who support us are doing this in a somewhat arrogant way. I mean this imperial idiotism is plotted in them so deeply that conversations become unpleasant. I support an equal-right dialog, which is why I cannot communicate when there is rhetoric of ingratitude.”

There is an opi­nion that cultural things, exchanges, and joint festivals can change the situation. How much do you believe in this? Are you an adherent of a cultural boycott?

“I think we should lead a more aggressive policy. For we are defending all the time, while we need to be advancing. We need to enter the Russian territory and lead a dialog there on our terms. For example, I can’t understand the policy of the channels of Ukrainian television that are still broadcasting Russian nonsensical series. They are absolutely low-graded things and include hidden propaganda. I think we can buy the European pro­duct. For example, good old Western series. As for Russia, there are good people there, and we should support them and not turn away from them.”

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