Even as war rages in Ukraine, playwrights there continue to work and create in the midst of an unprovoked invasion. A number of short plays and monologues written by playwrights living through the war in Ukraine will be performed by Telluride Theatre ensemble members and directed by Mary Higgins tomorrow (Thursday) at Wilkinson Public Library at 5:30 p.m. The event is free, but a hat will be passed for donations to the Ukrainian Hope Initiative.

The readings are in partnership with the Center for International Theatre Development and are a part of the Worldwide Ukrainian Play Readings, a global initiative to commission new plays by Ukrainian writers besieged by the assault on their homes, language and culture. Fundraising for humanitarian relief for Ukraine is an essential element of the program. In lieu of royalties and ticket sales, audiences and supporters are encouraged to contribute to organizations in Ukraine who are providing essential emergency resources to the millions displaced by the ravages of this war.

Few of us can imagine what it is like to live as bombs fall and neighbors are killed running errands. The evening will be full of contemplation, reflection, laughter and grief, as a small collection of stories penned by playwrights living through the war in Ukraine are acted out, reminding us of our collective humanity through art.⁠

The shows will be read/performed by Pamela Sante, Dave MacMillan, James Van Hooser, Dustin Wells, Ursula Ostrander and Yana Pollard (who will also be doing dramaturgy for the show). The immediacy of the writers’ experiences will help audiences, “see through new eyes,” said Telluride Theatre Artistic Director Sasha Cucciniello.

“Art — and maybe I am biased — and particularly theatre holds a mirror to humanity, society and our world,” she said. “Hearing these voices that are trying to be silenced is a powerful way to understand their perspective but the actual impacts of what they are going through. I believe that theatre can create empathy, when we experience it, we are brought into what is happening, feel what the characters feel, see through new eyes. And hopefully this will rally our community to support and donate to this amazing cause.”

Cucciniello explained Telluride Theatre’s connection to the Center for International Theatre Development.

“My mentor, Philip Arnoult’s company, The Center for International Theatre Development has been doing work all over the world,” Cucciniello said. “He has done extensive work in Eastern Europe and upon graduating from college I worked with him in Hungary and Russia. So, when the war started he and his team started this initiative to raise funds for theatre artists and playwrights affected. They contacted Telluride Theatre to join the effort by bringing a voice to these artists and helping raise money and we are honored to be a part of this worldwide effort.”

When Russia invaded Ukraine in spring of 2022, the Center for International Theatre Development gave 23 Ukrainian playwrights $1,000 each to create new works that offer a first draft of living history through the lens of these playwrights. Since the project began, $250,000 in donations have been leveraged for various Ukrainian organizations through these readings.

The Ukrainian Hope Initiative has seen these works performed in 23 countries around the world in over 250 fundraising events.

Telluride Theatre is committed to advancing the performing arts in our region through innovative productions, education programs and community involvement. We create theatre that lives in moments of truthful human connection, promotes joyful celebration and is an open dialogue, accessible to all audiences. Learn more at telluridetheatre.org.