Thursday, January 29, 2015

Counting Sheep: A Dinner-Theatre Revolution!

A shot of the action from the Opening Night of Counting Sheep.
Photo by Marichka Melnyk.
For months, a few friends of mine have been buzzing about, posting mysterious photos of chopped herbs and police shields, secretively plotting and assembling what has emerged to be an entirely fresh and enthralling entertainment experience, and a ticket hotter than a bowl of borshch. Тhis interactive dinner production is not only musically and visually fantastic, but for those of us with a connection to the current situation in Ukraine, deeply poignant and emotionally informative in its representation of the 2014 Maidan revolution.

Counting Sheep, directed and written by Mark Marczyk and Marichka Kudriavtseva is brought to life by their network of incredibly talented friends in Kosa Kolektiv and Lemon Bucket Orkestra. The multi-media dinner-theatre format stimulates the senses as the minimal narrative allows your emotions to guide you on a journey through the Maidan and the shock, pain, anger, resistance, hope and complex emotion that has begun to forge a new identity for the Ukrainian nation. With the audience placed in the middle of the room, one is engulfed in the action and is invited to participate and interact with the cast.

A snapshot of the traditional Ukrainian
Christmas Dinner "Свят Вечір"
meal the play centres around.
Photo by Marichka Melnyk.

For those peering in from outside the Ukrainian community's understanding of the situation, some reviews claim the story flew over their heads. But for those of us who spent the better part of last winter glued to our screens, watching live feeds of the Maidan and relentlessly sharing and posting news and developments, Counting Sheep has managed to capture those feelings and bring them all together in one evening of performance that lets us relive, and remember, what it is that millions of Ukrainians took to the streets for.

Marichka Melnyk, journalist for CBC Radio, and lucky opening night attendee described, 

"You see it all over again, those images that some of us got to know so well last February but you become it too -- you feel, viscerally, what it was like to ride that life or death rollercoaster of events and emotions. And again, there is little talking -- just shouting, chatter and song. But you get it. And more importantly, you feel it."

A dramatic scene unfolds as Christmas dinner
becomes a police plate.. (state?)
Photo by Marichka Melnyk.
Yuriy Diakunchak, Director of Marketing for UCU, also was in attendance on opening night, and observed an interesting metaphor in the varying levels of audience participation; 

"Some [of us] got right into it, reaching for bricks and throwing them like we meant it. Others threw one to try it out and stepped back. Some passed the bricks to the throwers, supporting the action but from the sidelines. Others simply watched. I don't know if that was the intent, but it was surprisingly reflective of how the actual situation appeared to unfold. I know some of us in the diaspora wished we were able to do more, but our community has done a great job so far, and in addition to donating proceeds toward first aid kits, Counting Sheep is also generating awareness around a conflict that is becoming increasingly more important for not only Ukrainians, but the entire world."

Some of the cast hanging out after the show.
A few months ago the UCU Spotlight shone on
 Stephanie Turenko, wearing the blue hat in this
photo by Marichka Melnyk. 
Some of us in the diaspora were able to travel to Ukraine during this time period and experience the Maidan firsthand - and if my own personal experiences on the Orange Maidan in 2004 were even a morsel of what 2014's Maidan was like, then I can only imagine what gifted storytellers such as Mark Marczyk and Marichka Kudriavsteva will be able to convey about their experiences through folk songs, first-hand video, and drama.

The Ukrainian Credit Union is a very proud sponsor of Counting Sheep, and even though the show is currently sold out, we will be sure to advise if any additional dates are added.

In the meantime, a collection of cool links to check out that can give you a taste of what Counting Sheep is all about!

The official website at has lots of great info on the story, performers, artists, and inspiration behind the project.

Counting Sheep's official instagram account at is great for behind-the-scenes and candid photos of the cast!

The official facebook page:

A collection of articles written by Marczyk about his time on Maidan, as well as a preview piece from NOW magazine:

And don't forget to check out our UCU Spotlight on Stephanie Turenko, chef in Counting Sheep's kitchen!

A very big thank you to Marichka Melnyk for sharing her beautiful photos and thoughts with us!

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