Pussy Riot's story takes the stage

The Spring Revolution festival will stage Revolution, the theatrical work of Pussy Riot, whose members include Maria Alyokhina (left); and pay homage to the late Argentinian folk artist Mercedes Sosa (right).
The Spring Revolution festival will stage Revolution, the theatrical work of Pussy Riot, whose members include Maria Alyokhina (above); and pay homage to the late Argentinian folk artist Mercedes Sosa.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
The Spring Revolution festival will stage Revolution, the theatrical work of Pussy Riot, whose members include Maria Alyokhina (left); and pay homage to the late Argentinian folk artist Mercedes Sosa (right).
The Spring Revolution festival will stage Revolution, the theatrical work of Pussy Riot, whose members include Maria Alyokhina; and pay homage to the late Argentinian folk artist Mercedes Sosa (above).PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • Russian punk provocateurs Pussy Riot are branching into theatre to tell their story as they headline a New York festival that explores women's empowerment.

Spring Revolution, which opened yesterday at Brooklyn's 11/2-year-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 Russian 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 titled Revolution.

The piece, which takes the stage at National Sawdust on March 17 after stops on the United States West Coast, combines video footage and features Alyokhina among performers who include fellow Russian punk act Asian Women On The Telephone.

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 theatre "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 Sunday alongside works by Philip Glass and John Zorn, two leading composers who serve as artistic advisers to National Sawdust.

The Spring Revolution festival, which runs throughout the month, focuses on the empowerment of women as well as cultural exchanges and coincides with International Women's Day next Wednesday.

Taking place a month into the presidency of Mr Donald Trump in the United States, Prestini said the festival was inevitably "deeply reflective of the time we're living in".

The festival opened yesterday with avant-garde cellist Amanda Gookin performing seven commissioned works that took up issues that affect women or girls.

Magos Herrera, one of Mexico's leading jazz singers, will today 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 said.

"We are in a different moment in history today, but the values of her singing were so strong and meaningful that they still resonate with us," said Herrera, who has been active in United Nations campaigns for women's equality.

While Sosa was 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 Venezuelan jazz pianist Edward Simon.

"There have been many tributes to Sosa, but I wanted to give a perspective from the jazz field with someone who could understand emotionally what she represents," Herrera said.

The festival, in its second season, will also look at the meaning of spring with a celebration of Nowruz, the Persian New Year which coincides with the equinox.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2017, with the headline 'Pussy Riot's story takes the stage'. Print Edition | Subscribe