Earlier this year an organization called the Center for International Theater Development (CITD) commissioned a number of Ukrainian playwrights to create new works that, according to their website, “offer a first draft of history through a theatrical lens.” The center then offered the plays to various theater companies throughout the world and, so far, 42 organizations throughout 22 countries have presented selections as part of the Worldwide Ukrainian Play Readings Project.
This weekend Vineyarders will get an opportunity to attend readings of pieces from the project, thanks to the newly formed Circuit Arts organization. On Saturday, July 30, at 7 pm, Circuit Arts (the umbrella organization that encompasses the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, as well as other initiatives) will present a program of readings featuring local actors and directed by Brooke Hardman Ditchfield.
“These plays are about as timely and relevant as it gets,” says Ditchfield. “We selected work that was written directly in response to the latest invasion.
“When there are times of strife, that is when people turn to the artistic community to shine a light on current situations,” Ditchfield adds. “The goal of the [Ukrainian Play Readings] Project was to give a voice to people there on the ground. To have a first draft of history as it’s happening.”
Ditchfield, who came on board the Circuit Arts organization in March as director of theater arts and live events, found out about the project through her association with the Needham-based Arlekin Players. “I was hearing about the plays being done at theaters in New York and D.C.,” she says. “I wanted to bring them to the Vineyard.” All proceeds from the readings will go to Ukrainian aid organizations that have been vetted by the CITD.
Ditchfield says that she was given access to the entire body of work, and that she and her local team of actors read through all of the 92 plays and came up with a selection of five pieces — short plays, monologues, and scenes. The cast will include all of the members of that team: Amy Barrow, Nicole Galland, Chelsea McCarthy, and Mac Young.
The readings will be presented in the air-conditioned upstairs theater at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury. This will be the third theatrical event for Circuit Arts. In May the organization hosted a reading of a new play, titled “A Piece of Silver” by a Wampanoag playwright. That was followed by a hybrid theater/film production created by the Arlekin Players based on Chekhov’s play “The Cherry Orchard.” Ditchfield says that Circuit Arts will continue to offer programming throughout the shoulder season and into the winter months — with a focus on introducing new voices from throughout the country and the globe.
Of the Ukrainian Play Readings Project, Ditchfield says, “I think that it’s important that we keep bringing pieces like this to the Vineyard. Things are going on around the world that it’s easy for us on the Island to lose track of. We need to keep our hearts and ears and eyes open to witness what’s happening in the rest of the world, and to try to help where we can. Theater is a really powerful tool.”
Worldwide Ukrainian Play Readings Project, an evening of short plays presented by Circuit Arts, will take place on Saturday, July 30, at 7 pm at the Grange Hall. Tickets are available at bit.ly/ukraineplays.