A geriatric home, a man and an idea
One year ago, young Ukrainian director Sashko Brama was searching for a new project. That is when he started visiting residents of a geriatric home in Lviv, already knowing that he wanted to make art out of his experiences with them. Sashko brought cake, listened to the elderly, played games with them and was immediately involved with their stories and fates. With some funding of Lviv City Council Sashko, other professional artists and volunteers were able to realise a play with the name Fall on Pluto.

The purpose of the play is to tell the stories of the people housed in the nursing home. In order to create the play the members of the initiative listened, talked to and sympathised with 100 of the 350 people living in Lviv Geriatric. They created the characters of the play as realistic as possible: they shaped masks after the faces of the elderly, they wear authentic clothes on stage and they included audio devices in their masks, so the audience can hear the original voice and story of the role model. Still they give the puppets they are using to impersonate the characters there own personal touch. The observations, interpretations and emotions of the artists were included in the realisation.
The activists of the project put their effort into making marginalised elderly visible to society and remind us that they are actually part of this society.

16% of Ukrainians are over 64 years old. In absolute numbers this is over seven million people. Seven million voices to be heard. Seven million stories waiting to be told.
On the project there are many volunteers working but they managed to get some funding from the city. With that they could pay professionals such as a designer, the girl who creates the puppets, Oksana Rossol, and an engineer who works on the audio devices. To do more work, especially to continue the art therapy they offer in Lviv Geriatric, they hope to raise money through crowdfunding.

Sashko Brama found an agreement with the Lviv Drama Theatre of Lesya Ukrainka where they now have their rehearsals and also the performance.

The people behind the project

The puppets take an important part in the whole project. Oksana Rossol and her husband create them in a small room just above the stage of the theater. There they crafted five puppets in two months. Their art pieces are very detailed and complex. Oksana is a professional puppet-maker and puts her own impressions into her work. She picks up details when speaking to the elderly that others don't even notice. Then Oksana makes those details visible to everyone on the puppets. She is very eager not to create exact replicas of the seniors and make her own unique pieces. Oksana also adds some extra features to them that are slightly generalised. They help the audience to identify with the characters.
When working intensely on an art project you automatically get very connected to the subject and the characters. Oksana does not have a favourite, but she feels especially connected with Marina. She was very fascinated by Marina's beauty even in old age and disease. Her puppet was created last and with great care. Also other members of the project feel that Marina can really charm her audience.

Why Fall on Pluto?
The season fall is announcing the end of the year. That is why we also use it as a metaphor for the last part of our lives. Pluto is far away from the sun and the people in the nursing home seem to be segregated from society and out of spotlight. That is why the initiative decided to call the play Fall on Pluto.

Through the speaker integrated into the puppets, each actor "speaks" with the voice of the actual resident of the nursing home. What personal experience do the actors have with getting older? Did their attitude change throughout the project? And what thoughts do they have on aging?
"What if my body ceases to move?"
lends her voice to Svitlana Lysovska.
"I still think that aging is cruel"
lends his voice to Andrii Buchko.
"Maybe I say it this way now, but I perceive aging as a challenge. And I want to face it properly"
lends his voice to Yura Syluk.
"Before now, I considered the elderly just as strange aliens"
lends his voice to Marko Banko.

Voices being heard
Often the elderly have no one visiting, talking or listening to them. There was one experience when it became really clear to Sashko Brama, that society is not ready to change something about that fact and why it is crucial to continue working on this matter.
The project also shows the people in the audience their own faults. Not everyone likes that, but the members of the project are sticking to it. It is an important and personal matter for them.

The healing part
Art therapy is here to help people to express feelings. Feelings that sometimes cannot be expressed differently and have been a burden to them over a long period. This way they can resolve issues, reduce stress and activate their healing process. They do not need to be an artist to use it, they just need to be willing to open up.
Sashko Brama describes the atmosphere at the nursing home. It becomes clear that this is not a place where people should be housed out of sight, as if they did not belong to our society.
The social aspect of the project is that the activists try to make life more joyful for the residents of Lviv Geriatric. So they offered art therapy. Only few of the elderly were willing to have it. But those who did, had really undergone changes.

This project was made during the second International School of Multimedia Journalism, a cooperation between UCU School of Journalism and Media Communication, Georgian Institute of Public Affairs, Danish School of Media- and Journalism and FH Wien University of Applied Sciences Vienna.Lviv, Ukraine, August 2016.
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