Baruch Performing Arts Center with
Blessed Unrest and Teatri ODA of Kosovo
Present the World Premiere of
April 25 – May 11, 2019
Baruch Performing Arts Center, along with New York-based theater company Blessed Unrest and Teatri ODA of Kosovo, will co-present the World Premiere of Refuge from April 25 – May 11 @ 7:30, with a variable weekly schedule and a 5pm performance Sun May 5 (Opening Night April 27) at Baruch Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Avenue (25th Street between Third and Lexington Avenues), NYC. Performances are at 7:30pm Monday-Saturday, with opening night on April 27 and an added 5pm performance on Sunday, May 5. Tickets are $16-36 and may be purchased at www.baruch.cuny.edu/bpac.
A deathbed confession launches a young Jewish woman on a journey of discovery to a remote Albanian village. What she finds reveals both the truth of her family’s escape, and those who risked everything to provide them with refuge.
NYC-based Blessed Unrest teams up with Teatri ODA from Kosovo and musicians from Metropolitan Klezmer for this world-premiere devised physical-theatre piece based on actual events. During World War II, thousands of Jewish refugees were harbored by families in Albania, most of whom were practicing Muslims. Despite Nazi occupation, no Jews were taken to concentration camps from Albania, and it was the only country in Europe with more Jews at the end of the war than at the beginning. The Albanians took in people with whom they did not share language, religion, or culture, sheltering them as honored guests and defending them with their lives. Refuge shines light on this little-known history, with the current backdrop of anti-Semitic attacks, the refugee crisis in Europe, and our own nation’s attempts to close our doors to refugees and migrants.
Refuge is the third original play created by the two companies since 2005. They have toured together six times through the Balkans, in Western Europe, and in New York, including the first-ever US/Kosovar theatre project in the United States. Their production of Doruntine was awarded first prize at the 2016 Secondo Festival in Zurich, Switzerland. Following its world premiere production at Baruch Performing Arts Center, Refuge will tour to Western Europe and the Balkans in 2020.
Refuge is co-created by Blessed Unrest and Teatri Oda, co-directed by Jessica Burr and Florent Mehmeti, with text by Matt Opatrny and Florent Mehmeti, and live music by Metropolitan Klezmer featuring Ismail Butera, Debra Kreisberg, & Eve Sicular. The creative team includes Set Designers Teddy Jefferson & Sonya Plenefisch, Costume Designer Caitlin Cisek, Lighting Designer Jay Ryan, Sound Designer Adrian Bridges, Production Stage Manager Darielle Shandler, Assistant Director Ben Peterson, and Dramaturg Julia Levine. The cast includes Eshref Durmishi, Daniela Markaj, Nancy McArthur, Becca Schneider, Ilire Vinca, and Perri Yaniv.
Jessica Burr (co-director) founding Artistic Director of Blessed Unrest, was honored with the 2011 Lucille Lortel Award from the League of Professional Theatre Women, in recognition of her work and Blessed Unrest’s body of work. She received the 2013 New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Choreography/Movement. She was a featured panelist in the 2016 Brave Summit, a forum of women leaders, experts, and scholars to drive cultural change. Burr has directed and choreographed numerous productions for Blessed Unrest since 1999 including The Snow Queen (2018 IT Award winner for Outstanding Production), This Is Modern Art (New York Theatre Workshop), Body: Anatomies of Being (New Ohio/IRT Theatre Archive Residency), Lying (2015 IT Award nominee), A Christmas Carol, Eurydice’s Dream (2013 IT Award winner for Outstanding Movement/Choreography), Doruntine (First Prize, 2016 Secondo Festival, Switzerland) and The Sworn Virgin (in NYC and on international tours, co-directed with Florent Mehmeti of Teatri Oda, Kosovo), The Storm, ArtCamp SexyTime FootBall, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Measure for Measure, and the 365Days/365Plays Festival(with Public Theater). Burr has taught at Prishtina University (Kosovo), Texas Tech University, Presbyterian College (SC), Centenary College (NJ), Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, and to school groups visiting New York including from Seoul Institute of the Arts (Korea). She has taught and directed five original devised physical theatre pieces at Western Washington University and Stephens College (MO), and directed Burn, Crave, Hold at Eastern New Mexico University. She is a proud member of the League of Professional Theatre Women. Burr graduated from Bard College with degrees in Theatre and Dance, and then became a traveling street performer, living and working on sidewalks from Scotland to Morocco. After a year spent teaching in Poland she returned to New York and founded Blessed Unrest.
Born in Kosovo, Eshref Durmishi is one of the country’s most established actors working across television, film & theater. He gained international acclaim playing the lead role in the Greek / German film Eduart. He produced and starred in the Oscar-Nominated short film Shok, which portrayed elements of his life. He performed in both Doruntine and The Sworn Virgin with Blessed Unrest and Teatri Oda.
Daniela Markaj graduated from the Faculty of Arts, Pristina University. She’s been part of several plays, performances, movies and TV series, to mention: The Hypocrites or the English Patient (Multimedia); Trojan Women (La Mama); Shtëpia pa Dritare, Gazetarja e Kulturës Vetëvritet (National Theatre of Kosovo); Lufta e Tretë Botërore (ODA); Bits and Pieces (Artpolis); Nursery Crymes (Mischief La-Bas). She performed at the 2018 HAPU festival with Ups and Downs, the first dance theatre company in Kosovo.
Nancy McArthur is a New York City-based actor, musician, & teaching artist. Born in Washington, D.C., she lived in Turkey, Greece, Switzerland, and Thailand. Recent credits include: Athens on the Half Shell (LaGuardia Performing Arts Center), This Is Modern Art (NYTW), The Snow Queen (New Ohio), and Shenandoah (Prague Fringe). Nancy holds a BFA from the Experimental Theatre Wing at NYU, Tisch. This will be her third show with Blessed Unrest (previously: This Is Modern Art and The Snow Queen, winner of the 2018 NY IT Award for Best Production of a Play).
Florent Mehmeti (co-director) has 18 years of experience as a theatre professional and is fluent in English, Albanian, and Serbo-Croatian. He earned a BA in Theatre and Film Directing from the University of Prishtina. He served as Manager for PR and Development at the National Theatre in Prishtina from 2000-2002. He co-founded Teatri ODA in 2003 and also co-founded the Contemporary Art Centre in 2002, both in Prishtina. He was the founder of HAPU – a festival for art in public spaces in 2015 in Kosovo, and was the initiator and currently president of Cultural Forum – a network of independent cultural organization in Kosovo. Artistic work in theatre includes: Little Red Riding Hood in Danger (2000-2001 – street theatre for children, performed over 200 times in different locations in Kosova); The Rose Tattoo (2001, National Theatre Prishtina); Vagina Monologues (2003, ODA Theatre Prishtina, the play that launched ODA Theatre); Three Fat Germans (2004, ODA Theatre, a comedy generated from a laboratory with the artists); American Buffalo (2006, ODA Theatre, in English with Albanian subtitles); The Town is Growing (2007, ODA Theatre Prishtina); MadHouse (2007, Tetovo Theatre, Macedonia); Illyrian-Roman War (2008, ODA Theatre); Doruntine (co-production of ODA Theatre & Blessed Unrest of New York, USA. 2008, 2015 in New York; 2009 on tour in Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia; 2016 winner First Prize Secondo Festival, Zurich, Switerland) Albanicum (2009, Tetovo Theatre, Macedonia); Picnic on the Battlefield (2009, ODA Theatre). Film and television work includes documentaries, short fiction, sitcoms and other TV programs. He has been actively involved in the law making and cultural policy making process, and initiating, managing and supervising many cultural and artistic programs for more than 20 years.
Matt Opatrny (playwright) is a co-founder and Managing Director of Blessed Unrest. With Blessed Unrest Matt wrote The Snow Queen (2018 Innovative Theatre Award winner for Outstanding Production and nominee for Outstanding Script) Burn, Crave, Hold (2008 Innovative Theatre Award winner for Outstanding Production and nominee for Outstanding Script) and Body: Anatomies of Being, adapted A Christmas Carol,co-wrote The Sworn Virginand Doruntine (with Lirak Çelaj of Teatri Oda, Kosovo, first prize winner at 2016 Secondo Festival, Switzerland), co-wrote Eurydice’s Dream and ArtCamp SexyTime FootBall, and co-adapted Lying and Certain Things Which I Will Call Sacred. He has performed in international tours of The Sworn Virginand Doruntine, has performed Off-Broadway with the Roundabout and Mint Theater Companies, and has extensive regional credits. Opatrny co-created and leads Blessed Unrest’s training program. Matt has taught at Prishtina University (Kosovo), Western Washington University, Stephens College (MO), Presbyterian College (SC), Clemson University (SC), Texas Tech University, Centenary College (NJ), Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, and for school groups visiting New York including from Seoul Institute of the Arts (Korea). He has served on grant review panels including DCA, LMCC and A.R.T./New York. He has trained with the SITI Company and at Clemson University, where he also received a degree in Biological Sciences, and owes much of who he is to the sea turtles of Costa Rica.
Becca Schneider has performed in Blessed Unrest’s productions of Platonov and A Christmas Carol. Becca is Co-Artistic Director of Between Two Boroughs and has produced and performed in Cannibal Galaxy: a love story (New York Premiere), Summertime, and The Understudy. Other NYC and regional credits include Romeo & Juliet (Westport Country Playhouse), The Music Man (Sharon Playhouse), The Tempest, Taming of the Shrew (Connecticut Free Shakespeare) for which she also served as Musical Director, As You Like It, As I Lay Dying, Three Sisters (Columbia Stages), Big River (Unquowa Rep), Gruff! The Musical (Doppelskope), and Cyrano de Bergerac (National Theatre for Arts & Education Tour). Becca is a proud Muhlenberg College graduate.
Ilire Vinca, an internationally renowned theatre and film actress, is in her third production with Blessed Unrest. Her first production, Doruntine, won first prize at Secondo Theatre Festival in Zurich 2016. Some of her latest work includes Night Mother, Hipocrites, Korca’s Karnevals, and Trojan Woman with La Mamma. Her film credits include The Forgiveness of Blood (winner of the Silver Bear), and Sworn Virgin at Berlinale. She is a professor of acting at The University of Prishtina.
Perri Yaniv appeared in the world premiere of Glory Kadigan’s Till We Meet Again under the direction of Tony Award winner Tonya Pinkins, and was awarded Outstanding Featured Actor at the Planet Connections Theater Festival for his work in Barefoot Theater Company’s revival of Joe Pintauro’s Raft of the Medusa. He has originated roles in works by John Patrick Shanley, Candido Tirado, Erik Ehn, Maurice Decaul, and Owen Panettieri. Other recent credits include The Brutes (New Ohio), The Plantation (Brave New World), and title roles in revivals of Mayakovsky’s The BedBug, Shaw’s Don Juan in Hell, and Ansky’s The Dybbuk. Film work includes Winter Has No Sun, Delivery Hour, Al Qarem, and short films that have screened at multiple film festivals: Z-Stuy, Untoward, Street Pillow, and Purity.
Blessed Unrest Theatre is in its 18th year of generating original theatre in NYC and touring internationally. They use the safe structure of training, workshops, rehearsal and performance to create an environment where dangerous things can happen. They are a physical theatre ensemble producing dynamic, disciplined, and exuberant new works in NYC and abroad, building original pieces and reconstructing established texts with their diverse ensemble. They have staged over 30 productions (17 world premieres) at New York Theatre Workshop Next Dorr, New Ohio Theatre, PS122, The Public Theater, Baruch Performing Arts Center, Interart Theatre, NYU, Columbia, Manhattan School of Music, Exit Theatre (CA), and Emelin Theatre (Westchester). They have held residencies at New Victory, New Ohio, IRT, and Interart theatres.
They believe artistic collaboration breaks down cultural barriers and builds international bridges. They have been collaborating with Teatri ODA of Kosovo since 2005, creating bilingual (English/Albanian) plays and performing in NYC (first ever US/Kosovar theatre collaboration in the US), Western Europe, and on tours through the Balkans.
Blessed Unrest has been honored with five NY Innovative Theatre Awards among 16 nominations, including the 2014 Cino Fellowship for Sustained Excellence and Outstanding Production of a Play (2008 and 2018). Artistic Director Jessica Burr received the 2011 League of Professional Theatre Women’s Lucille Lortel Award for her work as a director and the body of work Blessed Unrest has created under her leadership. They were awarded first prize by the 2016 Secondo Theatre Festival (Zurich, Switzerland). http://blessedunrest.org/
Teatri Oda was founded in 2002 in Prishtina, Kosovo, shortly after the war with Slobodan Milosevic’s Serb forces and the breakup of Yugoslavia. (Kosovo, which officially declared independence in 2008 after nine years as a UN protectorate, is predominately ethnically Albanian and closely tied to the neighboring nation of Albania.) Teatri Oda was the first independent arts organization in the region, and is committed to the professional development of the theatrical art, encouraging inter-relations with other arts, and building a strong cultural foundation for coming generations. A registered NGO, Oda is determined to play a role in the strengthening of the cultural sector of society and the building of a democratic and open Kosovo. http://teatrioda.com/
Metropolitan Klezmer, now celebrating their 25th anniversary, has performed from coast to coast and on the air from NPR to HBO. An octet in full, the group originally formed to showcase the artistry of master Yiddish reed stylist Howie Leess (1920-2003), and has released five albums to date including their latest: “Mazel Means Good Luck.” The ensemble’s multi-media concert “Music from Yiddish Cinema” has drawn overflow audiences to Lincoln Center and beyond for lushly-arranged soundtrack variations, and multiple band members have also been recently featured in stage productions from Jill Sobule’s “Music from Yentl” to bandleader Eve Sicular’s musical documentary theater hit “J.Edgar Klezmer: Songs from My Grandmother’s FBI Files.” Their wide-ranging neo-traditional as well as original repertoire ranges in style from Albanian to Latin Jazz to Zydeco. Their live recording of “Di Fire Korbunes,” a nearly-forgotten 1911 Yiddish ballad of the Triangle Fire (for the centenary memorial concert at Cooper Union), is now in the permanent collection of The Museum of The City of New York. In addition to numerous honors from NYSCA, Sparkplug Foundation, OUTmusic, and NYC’s Department of Cultural Affairs, Metropolitan Klezmer has enjoyed surprise guest visits from Paquito D’Rivera, and has just been awarded support from LMCC’s Creative Engagement for their “Jubilation!” octet concert series throughout Manhattan in celebration of their quarter century and counting.
The trio of Metropolitan Klezmer instrumentalists to be featured in REFUGE are clarinet/saxophonist Debra Kreisberg (also heard with Taylor Mac, Natalie Merchant, and Los Mas Valientes, to name but a few), accordion/multi-instrumentalist Ismail Butera (founding member of Metropolitan Klezmer who has also appeared with klezmer artists from Andy Statman to David Krakauer), and drummer Eve Sicular (leader for both Metropolitan Klezmer and sister sextet Isle of Klezbos, also a film historian noted for work on “The Yiddish Celluloid Closet” in international lectures and publications). Kreisberg, an alumna of Eastman and Manhattan Schools of Music, is also a noted composer. Sicular received her degree in Russian History & Literature from Harvard,
Baruch Performing Arts Center is an acclaimed performing arts presence. Located in the heart of Manhattan just east of Chelsea and the famed flatiron building, BPAC presents renowned classical music, opera, jazz, theater, dance, discussion, film, and innovative cross-genre programming. BPAC has presented over 1,000 cultural programs in its 5 spaces since 2003. Its curated season of 40 programs annually emphasizes new work experienced in intimate settings, the diversity of American culture as exemplified by Baruch students (who come from 130 different countries), and work that lives at the confluence of art and social justice.
Past presentations have included theatre companies such as the National Asian American Theatre Company, Folksbiene, New Georges, The Acting Company, Aquilla and MCC. Dance companies such as Dzul Dance, José Limón, and Urban Bush Women. BPAC is the New York home of the Alexander String Quartet and presents a rich chamber music season including ensembles such as the Israeli Chamber Project, Cantata Profana, and pianists Sara Davis Buechner and 2018 Lincoln Center Emerging Artist, Michael Brown. BPAC offers a jazz series named for bassist and faculty member Milt Hinton, which has featured artists such as Grammy-Award winner Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks. Discussion program have included writers Teju Cole, Colum McCann and Amitav Ghosh, actress Linda Lavin, and thought leaders such as Gloria Steinem and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. Visit www.baruch.cuny.edu/bpac for complete and up-to-date information on the 2018-19 season.