Russian festival to focus on poetry, Pushkin and politics

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Photo of performers at Russian festival.

Russian festival returns Nov. 17.

KALAMAZOO—A series of lectures, art demonstrations, poetry readings and fun activities for young and old will highlight the 17th annual Kalamazoo Russian Festival from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, in the Fetzer Center on Western Michigan University's main campus.

More than 1,000 guests, performers and vendors from Russia and throughout the Midwest are expected to attend the event, which also features art exhibits, concerts, folk dancers and singers, crafts, Russian food, children's activities, and a silent auction.

"In addition to a roster of dance, song, and musical instruments, our scholarly events continue to attract students, educators and the general public," says Judith Rypma, a WMU master faculty specialist in English who has been involved in the festival for most of its history.

The 2012 Russian festival will begin at 9 a.m. with opening remarks by state Rep. Sean McCann. Special lectures and readings will take place throughout the day.

Lectures and readings

  • First up will be "2012: A Year of Turbulence" at 11 a.m. by Dr. Jim Butterfield, Fulbright Scholar and WMU professor of political science.
  • A discussion of one of Alexander Pushkin's most famous poems, "The Bronze Horseman," will follow at noon by Scott Friesner, prestigious scholarships advisor in WMU's Lee Honors College.
  • At 1 p.m., "Russian Iconography" will be explored in a presentation by Garrylee McCormick, WMU adjunct theatre instructor and a well-known local artist and iconographer, and Michael Northrop, chair of the Glen Oaks Community College Department of Art.
  • Nina Vasilyevna Paulova, a former theatrical speech consultant and professor at the Khabarovsk Institute of Arts and Culture, will read a number of works by renowned Russian poets at 2 p.m. 
  • Starting at 3 p.m., Rypma will trace amber from its prehistoric origins to its artistic culmination in the form of one of the greatest 20th-century mysteries of lost treasure: the baffling disappearance of the Amber Room from Germany in the last days of World War II. She also will read from her new poetry collection, "Looking for the Amber Room."

Additional events

  • Other guest presenters will include Lorraine Fedorchak-Kraker, who will conduct a workshop from 3 to 5 p.m. on the famous pysanki eggs, giving audience members a chance to not only learn about the symbolism of the elaborately decorated eggs, but also to create their own designs.
  • A popular event returning this year is the play production put on by high school students from the Marshall Academy. This year's performance will be an adaptation of Pushkin's "The Golden Cockerel," a fairy tale about a love-stricken tsar who ignores his kingdom. Performances will be repeated at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. under the direction of WMU alumna and Marshall Academy teacher Leslie Katz.

About the Festival

The Kalamazoo Russian Festival is staged by the Kalamazoo Russian Culture Association and co-sponsored by WMU's departments of English and theatre. The association is a nonprofit organization that organizes events throughout the year as well as fosters community ties with Pushkin, Kalamazoo's Russian sister city.

Admission to the Russian festival is $2 for children age 12 and under, $6 with a student ID, $10 for adults, and $20 for a family pass.

For more information, visit russianfestival.org or contact Judith Rypma at rypmaj@wmich.edu or (269) 387-2628.

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