Synopsis — The Forgotten Kingdom — Sand Stories
Somewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean, 1944. A bold refugee girl emerges from hiding, returning home only to find it in ruins. The colorful bustle has been replaced by a disturbing stillness.
Uncannily, one of the only objects intact is a book of sketches, chronicling daily life in the village up until the moment of destruction. She is drawn into the moments of the life now gone, the events that stand out as significant and those that matter little — the suave suitor trounced by the beauty he pursues, the bedtime tales parents tell their children. It's like rewinding back from the moment of tragedy, watching her neighbours, her own family, as they go about their day-to-day. They are aware of the unprecedented changes around them, yet cannot see the ultimate end the changes portend.
As she chooses her own next steps, she faces questions we too may face: What memories would we carry with us if our current lives were suddenly and irreversibly disrupted? Would we recognize the signs of the coming unravelling?
With breathtaking visual landscapes made of sand capturing the ruined villages of the former Ottoman Empire to the streets of Cairo and London in 1944, with sweeping music from the Guy Mendilow Ensemble, The Forgotten Kingdom transports audiences, stirring resonance with contemporary struggles, dilemmas, and debates.
The Forgotten Kingdom’s haunting music and narration conjures voices lost to war and upheaval, masterfully brought to life by Ukrainian sand artist Kseniya Simonova (US premiere) who creates, obliterates and morphs sand images in a flowing narrative. The lyrics are in Ladino, an endangered blend of archaic Spanish with Turkish and Greek, with English narration. Vocally, the music embraces the longing and gutsiness of Fado and Flamenco, with rich, intertwining melodies and cinematic soundscapes.
The Forgotten Kingdom is a collection of early 20th century women’s songs from Sephardic communities of the former Ottoman Empire.
Weaving these songs together, the show offers glimpses of the unraveling of an older world — not as we see it today, with the benefit of hindsight, but as ordinary people lived it, moment by moment, unaware of how the dots would finally connect. With heart, humour and enchantment, The Forgotten Kingdom renders scenes from daily life from the Great War and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire to the glimmers of hopes of democracy, and the fascism that would ultimately cloak entire communities in a ‘shroud of oblivion.’
The Guy Mendilow Ensemble transports audiences to the long-ago-and-far-away...to hold a mirror for our own here-and-now.
Winner of Ukraine’s Got Talent (with 40 million+ views for her semifinal video), Kseniya Simonova has performed in over 40 countries, including royalty and heads of state. The 2019-20 tour marks Simonova’s US premiere.
Three Versions of the Show
There are three versions of The Forgotten Kingdom
- The Forgotten Kingdom (Sand Stories) with live sand animation (select dates for 2019-2020)
- The Forgotten Kingdom (Sand Stories) with video projections synced to the Ensemble's live performance
- The Forgotten Kingdom — Audio only, with the show performed only by Guy Mendilow Ensemble. Think of it like This American Life meets world-class concert experience.
About Kseniya Simonova (Sand Artist)
Performance artist in sand animation. Simonova is a graduate of the Artistic School of Yevpatoria, the Tavrida National V.I. Vernadsky University and the Ukrainian Academy of Printing. She lives and works in Yevpatoria, Ukraine.
Simonova developed her sand animation technique by sifting volcanic sand through her hands over a lightboard. During her performances she creates, obliterates and morphs her images to create a flowing narrative.
In 2009, Simonova was catapulted into international fame when she won Ukraine’s Got Talent. One of the pieces that she performed in the competition was a sand story about Germany’s destruction of the Ukraine during World War II, as experienced by a young coupleseparated by the war.
Simonova has performed over 200 sand stories for audiences in Ukraine, Russia, Norway, Japan, Poland, Austria, China, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Qatar, India, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Kazakhstan, Malta and others, including presidents, heads of states and royalty.
About Guy Mendilow Ensemble
"An international tour de force” (Bethlehem Morning Call) from the Middle East, South and North America, the Guy Mendilow Ensemble combines evocative music and storytelling in shows exploring pivotal moments of change — not from the vantage of historical hindsight, but via the day-to-day of those living through the shifts, making their choices in the moment, not knowing how the dots will ultimately connect. To gain insight into these moments, the Ensemble draws on traditional tunes, technique, and tales but in elegant arrangements and with radical reframing.
Whisking audiences to picturesque times and sweeping landscapes, conjuring voices lost to war and upheaval, GME holds a mirror to our own debates and tensions in shows that “explode with artistry, refinement, and excitement” (Hebrew Union College), stirring deeply moving connections to struggles and dilemmas we tangle with today.
The National Endowment for the Arts recognized the Guy Mendilow Ensemble for the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art and the strengthening of communities through the arts.
The Guy Mendilow Ensemble tours four shows: The Forgotten Kingdom; The Forgotten Kingdom — Sand Stories (premieres 2019); Heart of the Holidays: Tales of Light; and Around the World in Song interactive family concerts. Distinguished educators, the ensemble specializes in community engagement including tailor-made residencies, choral/string collaborations and a breadth of interactive workshops. The Ensemble is an artist-in-residence with Celebrity Series of Boston's Arts for All since 2014.
Alongside touring with the Guy Mendilow Ensemble, members are on the faculty of music schools like the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music in India and tour/record with the likes of Bobby McFerrin, Yo Yo Ma, Snarky Puppy, the Assad Brothers, Christian McBride, the Video Game Orchestra, Amanda Palmer and Simon Shaheen. Formed in 2004, the Ensemble is based in Boston, MA and New York, NY, USA.