Refugees, immigrants take to the Pittsburgh stage


Photo courtesy of City of Asylum

By Abbey Reighard

For two nights, the people of Pittsburgh can learn about immigrants and refugees – from firsthand accounts – in a musical and theatrical performance set to take place on the Northside.

On Saturday, June 28 and Sunday, June 29, The Allstar Refugee Band and Archa Theater will perform their latest production, “Lost and Found: Finding Refuge in Pittsburgh.”

According to Michael Romanyshyn – a musician, composer, puppeteer and the musical director of “Lost and Found” – the performance will be divided into four parts.

Romanyshyn, who has worked with ASRB since the group formed in 2008, described “Lost and Found” as a “somewhat informative experience.” Attendees will get to enjoy music, theatrical performances, and readings by refugees and immigrants living in Pittsburgh.

The ASRB uses musical and theatrical productions to raise awareness about immigration issues in the hopes of finding solutions, according to the ASRB official website. ASRB will team up with performers from the Arche Theater in Prague, Czech Republic.

The event and fees for the artists to come to Pittsburgh for three weeks was funded by the City of Asylum. Admission to the event is free.

Romanyshyn said the Allstar Refugee Band always tries to find funding for their events so that admission is free, but said it isn’t always possible.

According to a City of Asylum press release, part of the funding for the event came from the National Endowment for the Arts and ARTPlace America.

Romanyshyn said attendees can gather around the City of Asylum’s Alphabet City Tent, 318 Sampsonia Way, between 5 and 6 p.m. for event registration. At 6 p.m. the attendees will be divided into four groups and walk through the neighborhood to view the performances.

The groups will be led by ASRB and Archa Theater members to the four different locations to view each of the performances, which will feature refugee artists living in Pittsburgh.

Romanyshyn said the performances are “quite short,” each being about a half hour long.

The performances are directed by Jana Svobodová and Philipp Schenker.

Svobodová said she hopes the real-life experiences expressed in a theatrical way will leave the audience with a new experience to think about.

“We hope the audience will collect from their impressions of the stories, different emotions and different cultural background of the performances,” Svobodová said. “We strongly believe in the power of theatre.”

After seeing each performance, the attendees will be led back to the Alphabet City Tent by a parade of musicians for refreshments and a concluding musical performance.

The closing musical performance will be about an hour long. Romanyshyn said the performing musicians, which consists of 15 people, come from all over the world.

“The music is centered around all these different backgrounds, languages and musical abilities,” Romanyshyn said. “We see ourselves as a pro-immigration band.”

The music will incorporate singing and mostly brass instruments. The music serves as a dialogue for the musicians to express their different nationalities through language and cultural texts, according to Romanyshyn.

Romanyshyn said he hopes people learn something new about refugees and immigration issues from attending Lost and Found.

“I hope they get a perspective on a few stories they haven’t heard about refugees in Pittsburgh,” Romanyshyn said. “People can see how we make music about world refugees and how we attack the issue and talk about it.”

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