Ukrainian War Play Debuts in Woodside

Director, Richard Vetere, takes notes during tech rehearsals of the play, “Even Here”

By Clare Baierl | [email protected]

A silence creeps over the stage, as the lights flicker red, then pink to a soft blue. The sound of bombs and crumbling stone starts, as a moody violin filled song fills the room. The actresses shuffle across the stage, moving to their right then left, stopping when the lights hit them just right. For director, Richard Vetere, tech rehearsals are where the play comes alive.

Starting July 20th at Secret Theater in Woodside, debuts renowned playwright Richard Vetere’s newest play, Even Here. The play written by two Ukrainian women, Alice Evermore, and Anastasiia Chala, tells a story of the war, a heart-felt cry for hope within the darkness.

The play, with only two actors, follows the story of two young women living through the war. Based on writer Chala’s real-life experience, the play takes place in Dnipro, Ukraine following the bombing of her building.

One of the characters is a ghost, visiting from the city of Odessa, which was bombed in the early nineteenth century. The ghost visits the other girl, helping her through the current trauma of the attacks.

“Not a day goes by, I don’t want to do something or say something,” said Evermore. “

This play is an artistic response.” Inspired and driven by the war in Ukraine, both Evermore and Chala felt as though writing this play was a way to channel their emotions, and hopefully offer some type of solace.

“We want to reach deep down inside those victims of violence and to let them know that there is an inner peace within the individual that never dies despite the atrocities of the world we live in,” said Evermore.

Displaced by the war, both writers currently live in Berlin, making this play a truly cross-continental effort. Director, Vetere, a native of Maspeth, was introduced to the two through an online mentoring group called, Young Playwrights Ukraine.

After reading the story, Vetere helped with rewrites,  “I had no idea or intention of directing it,” he said. But once finding the festival at Secret Theater, Vetere knew the play would be a perfect fit.

To find the actors that would bring the story alive was another story. “I went through an arduous casting process,” said Vetere. But with recommendations and a lot of luck, Vetere eventually landed on two up-and coming actresses, Alisa Mironova and Isabel Renner.

Actresses (left to right) Isabel Renner and Alisa Mironova adjust their stage positions during rehearsals

Both women got their starts in acting at a very young age. “I always wanted to express myself,” said Mironova. “I wanted to find myself through characters.” Growing up shy as a child, for Renner, acting was an escape. “Acting was the one place I felt comfortable expressing myself,” she said.

The two women first met at the beginning of rehearsals a few months prior, but that didn’t stop them from becoming fast friends. “I love our dynamic,” said Mironova.

As the debut show is fast approaching, everything is down to the wire. “We have a custom-made dress coming in from Portugal,” said Vetere. “It should have arrived last Friday!”

Excitement and nerves creep through the cast, but after all the work involved, they look forward to bringing the message of the play alive. “Hate can never extinguish love,” said Chala.   

Queens pols send supplies to Ukrainian refugees

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Citizens of the Ukraine continue to cross into Poland, fearing for their safety as Russian troops invade the Eastern European nation. In a show of support for the Ukrainian people, community leaders in Queens came together to help provide relief for refugees fleeing their homeland.

Tony Di Piazza, president of Federazione Italo-Americana Di Brooklyn and Queens in Glendale, partnered with New York City Councilman Robert Holden and Councilman James Gennaro this past weekend, to hold a supply drive for Ukrainian refugees.

The number of donations filled up two large trucks, which were loaded with essentials including tents, food, toiletries, clothing and medical supplies  — to be shipped via air to Finland, then Warsaw, and eventually Rzeszow, a Polish city near the Ukrainian border.

Di Piazza said that the Associazione Culturale Italiana Di New York will cover the cost of the shipment and that the care package should arrive by the end of the week.

“In today’s age of real time news, it was disconcerting watching the images on television of the destruction of a beautiful country and the children. We could not stand idly by and do nothing,” Di Piazza said.

“We’re happy that we could, in a very small way, be helpful to the people of Ukraine,” he continued. “The fight goes on. We stand with the people of Ukraine, we stand with Poland, and we stand for humankind.”

New York City Councilman Francisco Moya, Councilwoman Vickie Paladino, Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers, Councilwoman Linda Lee, Councilwoman Nantasha Williams and Councilwoman Sandra Ung will also host drop-off sites throughout Queens in support of the effort.

Comm. Joseph Ficalora, ECS Globe Air, WAW Humanitarian Goods, Fucsia Fitzgerald Nissoli, Ficalora Family Foundation, the CHAZAQ Organization, Chaverim of Queens, New York Community Bank, Maspeth Federal Savings Bank, Cross Country Savings Bank, Webster Bank, Richmond County Savings Foundation, and Seka Moving Company were among twenty-five local sponsors who also participated in the drive.

“As citizens of the United States, we identify with the struggle for freedom and this attack by Putin,” Holden said.

“Every day, we see videos of women and children being targeted. So it’s important for us as legislators, and just people who love democracy, that we help out.”

Holden added that participants of the drive will continue to collect and ship more supplies to those in need.

Gennaro said the effort is “the least they can do” as citizens of New York.

“The least we can do is help out those that are in dire straits, or running across the border to Poland, welcoming them with open arms,” Gennaro said. “I’m very happy to be part of this initiative to make sure that we do the right thing by the people who are suffering so terribly… We wish much ill will upon Vladimir Putin. May his murderous rampage come to an end; may he come to an end.”

Tony Di Piazza speaks about efforts made to help Ukrainian refugees in Poland.

Russia aggression

Dear Editor,
The recent buildup of Russian troops and military equipment along the border with Ukraine certainly must be considered a potential flashpoint for an escalating military confrontation.
How far will NATO be willing to go to support Ukraine should Russia decide to send troops across the border?
Officially, Ukraine is not yet a member of NATO, although it is pushing to become one. Russia is playing a very dangerous political and military game of roulette, and Putin should think twice before launching an attack on Ukraine.
This situation could potentially be a flashpoint for a major conflict, one that nobody really wants to see occur. Diplomacy and tact must be used to resolve this tense situation.
John Amato
Fresh Meadows

Leaving the county for another country

If you follow the Queens borough president on Facebook, you might have noticed that it was a busy week for Donovan Richards.
There was the installation of electric vehicle charging stations in Laurelton, a visit to Rudy’s Bakery in Ridgewood for the Queens Shops Small series, the unveiling of a statue of Claire Shulman at Crystal Windows, a visit to PS 19 in Corona, extended COVID testing at Borough Hall, and a rally to urge Governor Kathy Hochul to put the proposed AirTrain to LaGuardia on the shelf.
Or rather, the people who work in the Borough President’s Office were busy, because the borough president himself spent the first week of October on a trip to Ukraine.
He was there to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Babi Yar Massacre, in which 100,000 Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War II. The trip was paid for by the Assembly of Nationalities of Urkraine and facilitated by The Blue Card, the group who invited the guests.
The trip was kept hush-hush, with no mention that Richards would be leaving the country. His office has refused to comment on what expenses were covered for Richards.
The office did state that the official reason for the trip was to show solidarity with the Ukrainian and Jewish populations of Queens. Residents living in the borough who identify as Ukrainian American make up less than 1 percent of the population.
Technically, there is nothing illegal about Richards accepting a paid trip as long as there is ostensibly an official aspect to the visit. (See above paragraph.)
It just seems curious that his office wasn’t more forthcoming about the trip. You would think if the purpose of the trip was to show solidarity with the Ukrainian population in Queens, it might be nice if they knew about it.
Something seems a little off.
But don’t worry, if you live in Queens you were in good hands. The borough president’s purely ceremonial duties were in the capable hands of Franck Joseph, the borough president’s chief of staff, who stood in for Richards at all of the events we mentioned above.

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