Novorossiya: No One’s Land

Michael Rubenfeld, Toronto

In April 2014, whilst visiting the Donbass region where he was originally from, theatre director, Pavel Yurov was accused of being a Ukrainian spy. He was kidnapped by pro-Russian insurgents and tortured for two weeks.

An international petition to free him, and his friend, Denis Grischuk, who was also kidnapped, was created. In July 2014, 70 days after they had been taken, the Ukrainian government re-claimed the city of Slovyansk where they were being held hostage. They freed themselves, and escaped back to Kyiv.

Shortly thereafter, Yurov felt the need to do something. As a prolific theatre director, his natural first response was to try and make sense of what had happened using the tools that he had available to him: The theatre.

Working with artistic collaborator, Anastasiya Kasilova, they began compiling interview material from both Ukrainian and Russian newspapers, as well as social media. Their goal was to attempt to construct a balanced perspective on the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.
This would be presented as a piece of documentary theatre. They wanted to try and make sense of this situation. How had the place where Yurov once called home become his captor? Why are people fighting? Who wants this conflict and why?

In late 2014, SummerWorks Artistic Producer, Michael Rubenfeld, met Oksana Dudko, Program Curator for the Drama.UA Festival of Contemporary Drama in Lviv. They were about to present Yurov and Kasilova’s work, Novorossiya: No One’s Land, and agreed to introduce Yurov to Rubenfeld.
Rubenfeld soon after invited Yurov and Kasilova to be the artists-in-residence for the 2015 Progress festival in Toronto. The goal of this residency is to do another development workshop of Novorossiya: No One’s Land, while offering both Yurov and Kasilova an opportunity to work with local Toronto artists, including award-winning playwright/dramaturg, Jonathan Garfinkel.

The hope is, that by coming to Toronto, the proximity of space from Ukraine will offer Yurov and Kasilova a different perspective on the work and the conversation.

On Saturday, February 14th, Progress will present a public presentation of a draft of the work (in English) using local Toronto artists. The presentation will be preceded by a conversation with Yurov, and the afternoon with end with a panel conversation about the conflict in Ukraine.

Tickets are only $10-$15 and can be purchased online at: or on the phone at: 416.538.0988
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