The Korea Herald


Pussy Riot branches into theater at New York festival

By Korea Herald

Published : March 1, 2017 - 17:13

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Russian punk provocateurs Pussy Riot are branching into theater to tell their story as they headline a New York festival that explores women‘s empowerment.

Spring Revolution, which opens Wednesday at Brooklyn’s year-and-a-half-old experimental music hub National Sawdust, will also feature a jazz interpretation of Argentina‘s celebrated protest singer Mercedes Sosa.

Pussy Riot became an irritant to President Vladimir Putin and an international cause celebre when the female rockers performed a noisy “punk prayer” on the altar of a Moscow church near the Kremlin in 2012.

Maria Alyokhina, who was imprisoned along with fellow key member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, has turned the Pussy Riot experience into an autobiographical theatrical work entitled “Revolution.”

The piece, which will take the stage at National Sawdust on March 17 after stops on the US West Coast, combines video footage and features Alyokhina herself among performers who include fellow Russian punk act “Asian Women on the Telephone.”

The composer Paola Prestini, who is National Sawdust’s executive and creative director, said the venue had been open to any sort of performance by Pussy Riot and found the turn to theater “really exciting.”

“It seems like a natural evolution for an artist who deals with highly political themes,” she said.

A new work by Prestini for cello and electronics will premiere as part of the festival on March 5 alongside works of Philip Glass and John Zorn, two leading composers who serve as artistic advisors to National Sawdust.

The Spring Revolution festival, which runs throughout the month, focuses on the empowerment of women as well as cultural exchanges more broadly and coincides with International Women‘s Day on March 8.

Taking place a month into the presidency of Donald Trump, Prestini said the festival was inevitably “deeply reflective of the time we’re living in.”

The festival opens Wednesday as avant-garde cellist Amanda Gookin performs seven commissioned works that take up issues that affect women or girls.

New take on protest singer

Magos Herrera, one of Mexico‘s leading jazz singers, will on Thursday lead a tribute to Sosa, the Argentinian folk artist revered by much of Latin America’s left.

Sosa, who died in 2009, went into exile after rattling the military junta that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983.

“Everything that she represents gives a nostalgia for what Latin America aimed for in those days,” Herrera told AFP.

“We are definitely in a different moment in history today but still the values of her singing were so strong and so meaningful that they still resonate with us, especially these days,” said Herrera, who has been active in UN campaigns for women‘s equality.

While Sosa was foremost known as a protest singer, Herrera noted that one of her signature songs, “Gracias a la Vida” (“Thank You to Life”), celebrates more than just a political cause.

The show will also feature Pedro Aznar, a prominent Argentinian rocker who had recorded with Sosa, as well as the Venezuelan jazz pianist Edward Simon. (AFP)