The Show

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. 

{Click to learn more about the show’s story and background}

 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.

{Click to watch a sample sand story from the show}

{Click to read “
So What?!: Why These Stories Matter Now”}

The Guy Mendilow Ensemble’s haunting music and radio drama-syle stories evoke the long-ago-and-far-away...holding 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. In January 2019, Simonova represents Ukraine on America’s Got Talent Champions (expected US day-of-show viewership: 12+million).
The 2019-20 tour marks Simonova’s US premiere.
{Click to learn More about sand artist Kseniya Simonova}

In Depth

The Story

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.
What memories would a child carry if her life was so severely disrupted? Looking back, what hinted the coming unraveling?

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.

Sand Story Sample 1 — Una Noche Al Bodren De La Mar (One Night, At the Edge of the Sea)
Originally premiered by the National Endowment for the Arts along with an episode for the Art Works podcast

The Guy Mendilow Ensemble has impressed me for several years with their very cinematic approach to Sephardic music.  Now they are planning a tour with live sand artist, Kseniya Simonova.  This kind of thing is perfect ... between the live music, the story narrative, and the fascinating creation of these fleeting images in the sand.  I totally recommend it.
— Dr. Dan Barnard, Director, Bailey Hall | Associate Dean of Cultural Affairs, Broward College, Davie, FL

Kseniya Siminova Photo.jpg

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 KingdomThe 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.