OTHERWISE [А ИНАЧЕ]
Centering on intergenerational trauma in refugee experience, “OtherWise” is a multidisciplinary production that investigates and responds to Soviet-era bard songs of oppression and hope through dance. This project is currently in development, and is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, and The Boston Foundation "Live Arts Boston" Grant.
OtherWise is a multidisciplinary performance production investigating intergenerational trauma through the lens of the Soviet-era bard movement. Drawing upon and interpreting the songs of iconic bards such as Bulat Okudzhava, Vladimir Vysotsky, Alexander Galich, and Yuri Vizbor, the theatrical production fuses dance, music, and spoken word to illuminate a unique refugee experience. Directed by Ilya Vidrin, collaborators include singer/song-writer Alec Hutson, Soviet scholar Dr. Vera Koshkina, violinist Daniel Kurganov, dramaturg Valeria Solomonoff, cinematographer Sue Murad, and creative producer Jessi Stegall.
As a first-generation artist, Ilya draws on personal experiences grappling with how to make sense of living at the intersection of multiple identities and with how to celebrate cultural heritage given the collective and individual traumas that are still throbbing within the community. Character development emerges from text-based analysis and embodied exploration of themes drawn from the poetic texts, including love of land, uncertainty for the future, nostalgia for the past, distrust of the government, humor as a coping mechanism, and community healing. Ilya has been particularly drawn to how this work can illuminate the expressive possibilities of the folk genre. OtherWise investigates and builds on the social power of music and dance - not only for promoting courage, understanding, and vulnerability within the community, but also as a tether to a home that no one truly wanted to leave. The aim is to foster community healing, demonstrate the sublime power of poetic practices, and mobilize efforts to uphold the values of the bard movement including self-expression, accountability, and mutual understanding.
Despite the promise of equality in communism, the Soviet Union was a tumultuous time for many. As organized religion was officially banned by the government, individuals and families were unable to practice their faith. Designated as a separate nationality on passports and all legal documents, Soviet Jews faced systemic oppression as they sought education, jobs, and even living accommodations. In response to the hardship, subjugation, and even censorship, a resistance formed around authentic, creative expression. Calling themselves “bards”, a small group of artists composed allegorical poems of thinly-veiled struggle and hope. These poems were set to simple chord structures, generating songs that could be learned and shared with others in the community. Because political protests against the Soviet Regime were illegal, this music was performed in secret. Shared exclusively by word-of-mouth and unsanctioned underground performances, accessing these songs was difficult – many ended up using discarded x-ray films as substitutes for vinyl discs on which to record and share this music. It is these songs and these stories that we respond to through the creation of an evening-length production “OtherWise”.
We see this project as more than simply “translating” our experience through performing arts -- it is an opportunity to process, reflect, and share together within and beyond our community. Our process invites the voices of community members to share their experience living within oppressive regimes. With the support of community partners, including the Jewish Arts Collaborative, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Boston's Temple Israel, and Boston's Russian-Jewish Moishe House, we will offer opportunities for the public to engage through open rehearsals, immersive workshops, and informal showings. We acknowledge the risks in taking on this subject matter, in the ways it can be triggering and exclusionary. By making our creative process open to the public, we hope to encourage vulnerability, courage, and community healing.