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STRUM UA Theatre to celebrate cultural passion of Ukrainians in Calgary

Calgary is getting a new theatre company that’s not quite like any other theatre company in the city.

STRUM UA Theatre is having its launch party Thursday night at The Collector’s Gallery of Art in Inglewood, where a group of Ukrainian-Calgarian actors will perform some poems and music to celebrate the occasion.

The performance will be in Ukrainian with English subtitles.

The company is being launched by Snizhauna Gukasian-Korobeinkova and Anna Lupeko, two Ukrainian artists who are among the thousands of Ukrainians who have settled in Alberta due to the war with Russia.

Both settled in Calgary 14 months ago and have already acted in a number of shows here, including a Front Row Centre theatre production of A Chorus Line (Lupeko), while Gukasian-Korobeinkova acted in a Workshop Theatre production of Dracula and a Scorpio/Morpheus co-production of Sylvia.

“The main difference between theatre in Ukraine  (is that) we have repertoire theatre where shows are played for years,” Lupeko said. “The troupe is constant and we almost don’t have castings for theatre productions.”

‘Electric flow’

Why STRUM?

“The name of the theatre reflects our aspiration, desire and determination in matters of creation and existence of the theatre,” said Lupeko, in an email reply to a question from CTV News.

”STRUM in Ukrainian Language means electric flow, a stream of water or air, without which life is impossible,” she added. “STRUM in English means finding a melody, the sound of a guitar.

“So in the STRUM Theatre,”she added, “we unite the power of words, the energy of movement and dance, the flow of music and song.”

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The company will also announce their season Thursday night, including a show inspired by the writing of Sofia Yablonska.

One of the inspirations for the creation of STRUM, Lupeko said, was the work of Ukrainian playwright Mykola Kulish.

“He was a Ukrainian prose writer, playwright, (and) pedagogue,” Lupeko said. “Kulish was also profoundly influenced by Ukraine’s leading theatre director, Les Kurbas, who staged several of Kulish’s plays at his Berezil Theatre.

“This theatre was based in Kharkiv where we studied theatre art. Mykola Kulish is considered to be one of the leading figures of the Executed Renaissance; He and Les Kirbas were murdered by the NKVD during Stalin’s Great Terror under Russian control.

“At the time of his arrest, all of Kulish’s manuscripts were confiscated, and most of them were subsequently destroyed,” she added. “Some of his plays were miraculously saved and smuggled into western countries by Ukrainian refugees during the Second World War.”

Ukrainian community growing fast

Lupeko said the Ukrainian community in Calgary is growing fast, and so are the number of artists migrating to Alberta, pointing to the Ukrainian Festival that took place at the start of June in south Calgary.

“Over the course of two days, 1,000 performers took part in a concert program with Ukrainian dances and songs,” she said. “This does not include other artists living and working in the city.

“I think that there are approximately 2,000 Ukrainians in Calgary who are connected with art,” Lupeko added. “Here (there) are Ukrainian dance groups, singers, a choir – but here was no Ukrainian theater in Calgary before, so we are the first to start a new cultural movement in the city of Calgary.”

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The Collector’s Gallery is located at 1332 Ninth Ave. S.E. The show starts at 6:30 p.m. and is followed by an opening reception at 8 p.m. Admission is free but seating is limited so please email  strumuatheatre@gmail.com to make a reservation.

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