The Forest Song represents the crowning achievement of Lesia Ukrainka’s mature period and is a uniquely powerful poetic text. A play in three acts, it seemingly breaks with her intellectually charged social and cultural themes, which range from feminism and the deconstruction of patriarchy to the workings of colonialism, even in antiquity. Here, the author instead presents a symbolist meditation on the interaction of humanity and nature set in a world of primal forces and pure feelings as seen through childhood memories and the re-creation of local Volhynian folklore. The play unfolds in spirited dialogues between characters from Ukrainian mythology and people of the land: Old Man River, the Nymph, two water spirits, Uncle Leo, Luke, Sylph, and the peasant woman Kylyna and her mother-in-law. The Forest Song is a testament to the power of love to overcome differences and bring loved ones back from the dead.
Lesia Ukrainka (pen name of Larysa Kosach-Kvitka, 1879–1913) was one of the most prominent Ukrainian writers, poets, playwrights, literary scholars, and activists of the late nineteenth–early twentieth century. Along with Taras Shevchenko and Ivan Franko, she forms the triumvirate of Ukrainian national poets. Ukrainka was well-known for her feminist and progressive views, which found representation in her own works.
Virlana Tkacz heads the Yara Arts Group and has directed forty original shows at La MaMa Experimental Theatre in New York, including three productions based on Lesia Ukrainka’s The Forest Song. She received an NEA Poetry Translation Fellowship for her work with Wanda Phipps on Serhiy Zhadan’s poetry.
Wanda Phipps is a writer and translator living in Brooklyn, a founding member of the Yara Arts Group, and recipient of awards from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the National Theater Translation Fund. She has curated reading series at the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church and written for Boog City, Time Out New York, and Paper Magazine.
George G. Grabowicz is Dmytro Chyzhevs'kyj Professor of Ukrainian Literature in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University.