Preview: Counting Sheep

The Lemon Bucket Orchestra Torontos sixteen piece, Juno-nominated, Balkan/Klezmer/gypsy/party punks have always been theatrical. Whether the group is.


The Lemon Bucket Orchestra Torontos sixteen piece, Juno-nominated, Balkan/Klezmer/gypsy/party punks have always been theatrical. Whether the group is playing a sold-out show at the Opera House or leading an impromptu parade down Queen West, the band engages their audiences like only they can. There are sing-a-longs and crowd surfers, belly dancers and megaphones.

So perhaps it isn’t so surprising that this month, the band is putting on a play.

Counting Sheep, written by Lemon Bucket frontman Mark Marczyk and singer/ethnomusicologist Marichka Kudriavtseva, fictionalizes the playwrights first hand experiences at Maidan Nezalezhnosti known as the Maidan Kievs central square, during 2014s political turmoil in Ukraine.

The production is billed as a fully interactive experience. Counting Sheep features video, music and food to tell its story. Each show is catered by Chef Dan Ihnatowycz and Shamez Amlani of La Palette, and limited to an intimate audience of thirty per show.

We spoke to playwright/director/performer Marczyk about his experiences in Ukraine and the inspiration behind his new play.

GI: You were in the Ukraine for a lot of last year. What prompted your decision to go?

MM: Originally I was there for work. I had been hired to score a film. I arrived on the 22nd of January, which was the first day people had died on the Maidan. I wanted to go down and see what it was all about.

I went and checked it out and I was completely blown away by the scale, the organization, and the warmth of the people that were there. I was intrigued by all of their stories: how they interacted with one another there, why they came to the square, what they wanted out of it. Im not talking about the political leaders or the most active protesters Im talking about people who were cutting sausage, shoveling snow, or standing guard at one of the barricades.

I wanted to share their stories. I decided that after my work on the film I would start writing every single day. I would stay in Ukraine and start writing whatever I was experiencing, and what the people were experiencing. I posted on my Facebook as a blog and as a journal a few of those pieces got picked up by news sources and by literary journals [including NOW see both here]. That encouraged me to keep going.

GI: Did you feel like you had a role to play?

MM: For me I knew I wanted to be involved in this movement by using the skills Ive developed over the last few years which is music and storytelling. I put together a project with Marichka Kudriavtseva, who I met while I was over. Shes a musicologist, singer, and a writer. I brought a few of the guys from Lemon Bucket to do a tour of the Ukraine that would take us around the country. It started on the square, to familiarize everyone with what was going on, and then we spent the month traveling around the country to support people who had been effected by the war. Wed use music as a platform. We would get them engaged and when they were engaged we would have themshare their stories so that we could share them with other people.

GI: Youve covered the Ukrainian conflict through blogs, music, and on social media. Why did you want to use theatre to tell this story?

MM: Theatre is really great because it invites people into an experience. The way that were doing Counting Sheep is interactive immersive theatre. Its not that there is people sitting in an audience and there are people on stage: were inviting people to come and sit at a table as the actors. Were inviting them to be part of the transformations that happen to that table over the course of the play. We also included a bunch of source video that came from the Maidan because thats the way that ordinary people were experiencing what was happening.

We could have just as easily put up the video and sung the songs were going to sing and it might have been very powerful but it wouldnt have the same effect as asking people to participate. We wanted people to be involved in the various things that both Maria and I were involved in.

GI: Do you view Counting Sheep as an opportunity to teach people about whats happening? Is there a greater goal?

MM: I wouldnt say that were trying to teach anyone anything. Its an invitation into a feeling or an experience that myself and thousands of other people have felt during the revolution. There was a whole range of emotions that we went through in that time. Everything from the most intense joy and togetherness to complete devastation and utter terror. Those people who have been to a Lemon Bucket show know that our goal is to get you to feel. With Lemon Bucket we focus on those moments of celebration but we also try and celebrate more intimate and quitter moments. With Counting Sheep we want to expand the range of what we invite people to feel.

Counting Sheep plays from January 22 to February 1. For tickets visit www.countingsheepkoljada.com.

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