'Caterpillar Soup' a play about love and transformation

Posted: Thursday, September 18, 2008

Los Angeles-based actor and dancer Lyena Strelkoff had to transform her life after a fall from a tree in 2002 left her paralyzed from the waist down.

Courtesy Of Lyena Strelkoff
Courtesy Of Lyena Strelkoff

"For a caterpillar to become a butterfly it has to - inside its cocoon - completely dissolve. From that liquid, from the caterpillar soup, is where the butterfly evolves," she said. "That was very much the experience that I had when I was injured. I had to really let go of everything and let my life dissolve in order to transform and become something new."

The life-altering spinal cord injury led to the creation of a one-woman play titled "Caterpillar Soup." Strelkoff, a founding member of the Ziggurat Theatre Ensemble in Los Angeles, said the production highlights the struggles of her journey to recovery following the accident.

"The play chronicles the first two years of being injured with a spinal cord injury, but it is at its heart a love story," Strelkoff said. "I think that's part of what makes it so different than triumph-over-adversity stories, is that it's really the story about two people going through this."

Strelkoff will perform the 90-minute play at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 25, at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center. Tickets cost $15 and are available by calling 586-1750. The performance is sponsored by REACH, a Juneau nonprofit group helping those with physical and developmental disabilities.

Strelkoff said the play describes the "sort of spiritual journey" that she and her husband, Dean Purvis, went through together after the accident.

"There is humor, and romance, and joy, and trial, and struggle all on this really rich journey we take together and I'm made whole," she said.

Through the process it was important to learn how to let go of everything, Strelkoff said.

"I didn't change by 100 percent by any means, but that was what was required in order to allow the transformation," she said.

The play is about love but it is also about acceptance, Strelkoff said.

"My greatest desire is that people will embrace their lives, no matter the circumstances of their lives," she said. "I lost some of the things that were the dearest and most important things in my life and oddly enough my life got better. I never would have expected that to happen and so what I'm hoping is that in sort of the tapestry of my story listeners will find threads to heal the places in which they're worn."

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