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My first article: Dzherelo Theatre Studio

Aug 29, 2023 | Featured, Arts & Culture, Ukrainian National Federation

Anna Danylyshyn

Anna Danylyshyn
For New Pathway – Ukrainian News

Короткий коментар

Павло Ґрод, колишній президент Конґресу Українців Канади, а тепер президент Світового Конґресу Українців, в своїх виступах часто повторює, що ми дбаємо про людей в громаді з народження і до самої смерті. В першу чергу тут йдеться про виховання наших дітей в українському дусі. 30 років тому при організації Організації Українок Канади в Едмонтоні був створений дитячий драматичний гурток «Джерело». За цей час в ньому навчались і взяли участь сотні дітей. Деякі вже самі стали батьками і приводять вже своїх дітей. В минулому навчальному році «Джерело» мало декілька вікових груп з загальною кількістю більше 50 дітей. Кожна група в кінці року підготувала свій концерт. В розмові з секретарем нашої організації УНО Юрієм Дмитришиним я взнав, що його донька Анна була в старшій групі і мабуть закінчує свою участь в «Джерелі». Разом з тим пан Юрій сказав, що його донька дуже багато читає, що в теперішній час – велика рідкість. Це мене зацікавило і я попросив пана Юрія поговорити з його донькою. Мене здивувала її доросла мудрість, хоч їй лише 14 років. Я попросив її написати статтю про «Джерело», в якому вона була багато років. Її стаття мене ще більше здивувала і порадувала. Для 14-літньої дівчини це дуже високий рівень. В Едмонтоні кожний рік проводиться фестиваль «Днів Спадщини», на якому біля 60-ти країн виставляють свої павільйони. Я в цьому році відповідав за павільйон «Історії, культури та мистецтва». Я попросив, щоб вона працювала зі мною, зустрічала гостей і розповідала їм про Україну. Вона чудово справилась з цим завданням. Це ще раз підтверджує важливість виховання наших дітей в українському дусі, культурі, традиціях та історії. Пропонуємо читачам першу статтю Ані Данилишин. Першу в її житті.

Микола Воротиленко
Заcтупник голови УНО в Едмонтоні

Nearly everything has changed since I was five years old, but for the past nine years, every Friday night, I am welcomed by the same stage and the same lights. My Friday nights are spent at the UNF hall in Edmonton, rehearsing for the next play with Dzherelo. This is a Ukrainian drama and theatre group which has been around for many years now. I joined Dzherelo in 2014 and ever since then, it has forged endless amounts of fond memories.

At the end of every week, I come to this hall, script in hand, and giddy to see my friends. Walking up to the stage, I hear familiar voices and laughter. Stepping up onto the podium I see a sizable room in front of me, one that houses so many Ukrainian events, and historic heirlooms that the walls are infused with. On either side of the stage there is a portrait of a prominent Ukrainian poet, and across from it is a dainty balcony. The other two walls are covered in tall windows, and draped with thick red curtains. The stage itself only has one row of red curtains, the rest being black. There are dozens of old decorations and props, from previous performances, hidden behind the drapes. For many people there may be nothing special about this hall, but after spending the most part of my life here, the view from the stage brings me a sense of comfort and belonging.

I came to Canada not long before joining Dzherelo, and at that time I was still a timid and nervous little girl with two blonde pigtails in my hair. Part of the reason I joined this group was to work on my ability to speak in front of other people. Stepping into a rehearsal for the first time, I had only one friend there. That day I had also met Pani Alla, who welcomed me to Dzherelo with a warm hug and wide smile. We began practising a play about a baby mammoth who got separated from his mother, and I was given the small role of a bear cub. The lines were small and scarce, but it was more than enough to entice me to stay. Our instructors always made sure that the rehearsal was serious, but fun. They kept a good balance of practice and laughter.

One memory from that play that really sticks out to me is the dress rehearsal. The stage was decorated in big cardboard wave cut-outs that were painted to imitate the sea. Pani Alla was kneeling down by one of the kids helping them with their lines, while my friend and I were passing a soft fabric ball around as we were in our costumes and beside the set. Nobody minded that we were playing with it, but when our turn came, we said our lines with quiet encouragement from the instructors. This is a memory that isn’t big or filled with importance, but that little snippet of the past stuck with me more than my first performance. Honestly, I think that many core memories that play out clearly in your head tend to be small and insignificant, yet the major ones that should stick with you are fuzzy and disoriented.

The following year we did a famous Ukrainian children’s tale about a turnip, and this year I was given a bigger role. My friend and I were narrators and had lots of reading to do.

Tucked away somewhere in my binder full of old scripts, I still have those lines, waiting to be reread. I remember that performance very distinctly, especially sitting on big cushioned velvet chairs while being blinded by stage lights. Thankfully I didn’t have to memorise all my lines, only read them from a fancy book. Throughout the whole performance my palms were clammy, and my knees bouncing, but I was still so proud of myself for pushing through. The rush of adrenaline that coursed through me when I heard the applause had quickly banished the worries I had earlier. So, with a big toothless grin I ran down to my dad as soon as I could, to hug him and tell him how nervous I was. Seeing my parents proud smiles in the audience still happens to be one of my favourite parts of performing.

After a few more years of small roles, and endless rehearsals, Pani Alla gave me the main role in a traditional fairy tale titled “The Twelve Months.” I was ecstatic at this news and took the role very seriously. I worked tirelessly to remember and perfect my lines, spending days chanting the lines under my breath like a prayer. Although I was thrilled with this opportunity a part of me doubted that I acted well enough to get the main role. When I would forget a line during a dialogue in rehearsal, guilt and insecurity instantly took their chance to claw at me. But Pani Alla believed that the nine-year-old me was ready for this, and she made sure I believed it too. She was extremely patient and soft spoken, giving out constant affirmations that it is ok to forget. She was our mentor, but she was also our support as her love towards us reached further than our ability to perform. She cared for all of us, for each differently, but always deeply.

During the premiere for this piece, I was more shaken than ever before. In the opening act I had to sing with my partner, and I remember hearing the panic in my voice when I forgot the lyrics to the song. The microphone was set too loud, my fear too overpowering, and my voice too meek. When I walked off the stage I was almost in tears. But as much as I wanted to restart the show, or sit down and wallow in pity I knew I couldn’t afford that. I would rather feel embarrassed for not giving a good performance in the first scene, than feel guilty for ruining the show for everyone. So, I gathered up the last remnants of courage that I had and walked out again, for another dialogue. This time the scene went well, and some of my fright withered away. All the other acts went by smoothly, everybody giving the audience their most believable performance. In the end I heard applause from the crowd, and watched their delighted smiles. That moment, gratitude to Pani Alla for giving me this chance coursed through me.

Truthfully, my favourite role wasn’t my first one, or when I played the main character. It was playing the role of a snake with one of my best friends. Her and I dreamt of roles that we could play together for ages, and last year our little wish became reality. Pani Alla assigned us the roles of snake sisters who portrayed the villains in the story. That year Pani alla also announced that it was her last play with Dzherelo and that she would be resigning after. At that moment I realised how much I took her presence for granted. It never occurred to me that she would leave this group. Because to me Pani Alla and Dhzerelo belonged together, and separating them went against all logic. But she made her decision, and I couldn’t change it.

While preparing for this play my friend and I enjoyed every moment we had on stage together. We worked together great and had a perfect dynamic, on and off stage. During rehearsal we would have to take breaks because something was too funny, or we would go through a scene over and over again because the rhythm was off. When it was time to perform, we were more than prepared, and that was the only play where I had little to no anxiety beforehand. It was beautiful, but most importantly I had my family, my friends, and my mentor to savour the moment with.

The next semester I walked in, script in hand, excited to see my new teacher. She gathered everybody up and told us about her plans with Dzherelo. She was ambitious, with a whole new perspective, and set of ideas. They were admirable, and piqued everybody’s interest. Our new teacher is Pani Svitlana, she draws with sand and has mastered her craft. She began incorporating sand drawing into our rehearsals, and performances. The public likes this and it gives our group an authentic aspect. But as this semester goes by, I realise more and more how much I miss having Pani Alla around. I like Pani Svitlana, her work ethic and visions for Dzherelo, but after growing up with Pani Alla this is a big shift. She has taken on a key role in my life, and her leave was a bigger change than I anticipated it to be. Right now, we are getting ready for a performance that alludes to the current war in Ukraine. It is almost the premier night and I am excited to show the audience our newest production.

Dzherelo has changed considerably in the past year, even if people are unwilling to admit this. It has taken on a new perspective and vision, one that I unfortunately cannot see myself in. I will be thrilled if the recent changes bring on more success for this drama club, as Dzherelo’s story is far from finished. It is yet to be filled with many memorable performances and good memories. But I will be ending my chapter of Dzherelo’s story now, while I still love it. Perhaps I am a coward for not being able to adapt to this change, and perhaps I will regret my decision in the future, but as of now it seems correct. This theatre club has not only taught me how to act, it provided me with endless lessons on the importance of community, self-confidence, friendship, and dedication. So, to anybody who has recently joined or is thinking of joining, I hope that Dzherelo will bring you as much happiness as it brought me.

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