International sand art superstar Kseniya Simonova (US premiere) and Guy Mendilow Ensemble team up on an extraordinary show bringing to life Sephardi women’s voices and stories lost to war. Simonova creates, morphs and obliterates sand imagery in real-time, crafting a flowing narrative driven by the Ensemble’s evocative music and radio-drama-style storytelling.
Weaving together early 20th-century women’s songs from Sephardic enclaves of the former Ottoman Empire, the show evokes a panorama of the unraveling of an older Mediterranean world — not with the distant textbook hindsight we have today, but with the visceral experience of ordinary people caught in the extraordinary upheaval, unaware of how the dots will connect.
Audiences traverse breathtaking landscapes of sand, from ruined Ottoman villages to bustling Mediterranean ports like Salónica circa 1944. The Ensemble adds a sweeping, cinematographic score drawing on traditional tunes, techniques, and tales but in elegant arrangements and with radical reframing. The bittersweet rawness of Tango, gorgeous vocal harmonies and the rhythmic fire of classical Arabic percussion intensifies the emotionality of Western classical music.
With song lyrics in Ladino, an endangered blend of archaic Spanish with Turkish and Greek, together with English narration, with heart and humour, the show renders scenes of daily life from WWI and the Ottoman Empire’s collapse to the glimmers of democratic hopes crushed by fascist regimes that cloaked entire communities in a ‘shroud of oblivion.’
In an adventure that “explodes with artistry, refinement, and excitement,” (Hebrew Union College, OH) The Forgotten Kingdom stirs powerful questions about struggles we too face today.
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.
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 couple separated 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.
Learn more about sand artist Kseniya Simonova
Eastern Mediterranean, 1944. A refugee girl emerges from hiding, returning home to find it in ruins. Uncannily, one of the only objects intact is a book of sketches, chronicling daily life in the village up until the moment of destruction. It’s like rewinding back from the moment of tragedy, watching her neighbours, her own family, as they go about their day-to-day, unaware of how the dots will finally connect.
Additional Production Information
Community Engagement Kit
Myths, Lies & Truths: Romanticizing Traditional Cultures
The Forgotten Kingdom (For Grades 5-6)
Sailors, Sirens & Kings: Adventures of Ladino Song
Sample Teachers' Guide