24 February is when the greatest anxieties of the twentieth century came back, with the word WAR accompanying innocent people permanently. As curators of the show How War Changed Rondo / Війна, щозмінилаРондоduring Little Warsaw Autumn, but also as parents, your friends and acquaintances, we reflected on how to discuss war with children. How to speak about something that even for us, adults, is impossible to fully grasp—unthinkable. How to talk about the greatest evil that man can do to man?
Art people can talk about war using artistic means. But can Art at all overcome evil and war in a sphere as delicate as a child’s psyche and perception? Is it not too subtle a tool? Do evocative images, poignant tales, or even the most extraordinary musical phrases protect from destructive hardware?
We know for one that Art is the quintessence of constructiveness, the exact opposite of war—the synonym of destruction. It is creation, with building at its source, uniting, combining elements that seem uncombinable, as in the tale about the typical town of Rondo, authored by Andriy Lesiv and Romana Romanyshyn, in which many outstanding creatures and their talents, deeds, and ideas combined into a community to overcome war. The power of creation and good fights against war, not against man—it does not destruct what developed or was built over long years but strive to halt the barbarian march of destruction.
In the Ukrainian duo’s tale, war changes Rondo—the eponymous town. Yet the final shape of this change is influenced by Art. Not only art in the common term, but the intelligent emotional power consisting of constructing, combining, linking, gluing together, building—uniting.
We believe that inviting Ukrainian authors Andriy Lesiv, Romana Romanyshyn, costume director Yasya Khomenko, composer Bohdana Frolyak, and actor Mariia Senko, who have created this show together with Polish artists, is the accomplishment of this idea: a meeting of talents, hopes, dreams and energies that can unleash the good.
Robert Drobniuch and Anna Kierkosz, curators
The plot of the book How War Changed Rondo includes a wide spectrum of images and emotions that are reflected in the show’s music. These include subtle lyricism and tenderness (images of owers), on the one hand—helplessness, and on the other, the strength of the protagonists (Danko, Fabian, and Zirka) faced with the aggression and evil of War as a personification of the horrible act of violence and terror. Music creates a canvas for these images, which are expressed through the language of music: a combination of transparent, melodious fabric with dramatic episodes filled with complex harmonies and sonoristic effects. The combination of acoustic instruments (string trio) and electronics offers many opportunities to show various states and moods, yet the role of music is not purely descriptive. Music is, alongside choreography and scenography, one of the strongest elements of this show.
The show is based on a book expressing the artists’ opposition to the aggression of Russia on Crimea in 2014. It has received many awards, notably the prestigious Bologna Ragazzi Award 2015. Musical form determines the structure of the entire show, to which Ukraine’s leading composer, Bohdana Frolyak, was invited. During work on the show, she has been an artist-in-residence in Warsaw.
The eponymous Rondo is a ower town: an idyll where residents care about each other, listening to owers in the orangery performing works by Mozart. All changes when War comes to Rondo, touching each resident, destroying everything on its path, including owers—the symbol of town life. Children protagonists: Fabian, Danko, and Zirka, find themselves in a particularly dificult position.
In Anita Piotrowska’ show, the main thread is memory. Fabian looks for his lost diary, trying to remember the city as it was before the war. Does memory about the town allow us to find ourselves in a new reality?
The book was originally published by Ukraine’s The Old Lion Publishing House. The Polish translation was published by Krytyka Polityczna Editions. The Polish translation was published by Enchanted Lion Books.