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Ukrainian Dramatic Art

The dramatic art of Ukraine goes back to the olden times originating in folk games, dances, songs and rituals. Since the 11th century known are the performances of skomorokhs, vagrant dramatic players, as well as elements of theatrical action were present in the church ceremonies during the Kyiv Rus. Evidence of the later is the frescoes of the same period at the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv.

Disciples of the schools of the Kyiv Bratsk (friary community) with the Kyiv Mohyla Academy and Lavra enacted the primary examples of theatrical performance publicly during the 16th to 17th centuries. Important centers of religious drama development of the time were the Bratska school of Lviv and Ostroh Academy.

The earliest theatrical troupes originated in the regions close to the Dnipro River in the 18th century with the first theater playhouses appearing in Kyiv (1806), Odesa (1809), and Poltava (1810).

Formation of the classic Ukrainian drama is linked to the names of Ivan Kotliarevsky, who headed the theater in Poltava, and Hryhoriy Kvitka-Osnovianenko, the founder of belles-lettres in the new Ukrainian literature. Burlesque and expressiveness accompanied by pecturosqueness and humor that characterize all their writings had defined all the colors of the academic theater in Ukraine for long.

During the second half of the 19th century, amateur theatrical movement was on the rise. Luminaries of the Ukrainian theater such as playwrights and directors Mykola Starytsky, Marko Kropyvnytsky and Ivan Karpenko-Karyi started their activity in hobby-groups. The merit of the speedy theatrical development also belongs to the outstanding family of Tobilevyches, which members performed under the stage-names of Ivan Karpenko-Karyi, Mykola Sadovsky, and Panas Saksahansky. In addition to creating a troupe of their own, each of them had been an outstanding actor and director. The twinkling star of the Ukrainian theater of that time was Maria Zankovetska.

A new stage in the history of the national theater has started in 1918 when the State Drama Theater and “Molodyi Teatr” (The Young Theater) directed by Les Kurbas and Hnat Yura, the latter since 1922 known as the modern Ukrainian Berezil theater, were founded. The cohort of talented actors that included Amvrosiy Buchma, Marian Kryshelnytsky, O.Dobrovolska, Olexandr Serdiuk, Natalia Uzhviy, Yuriy Shumsky and many others entered the scene.

While the State Drama Theater passed on the lamp of tradition of the realistic and psychological school, the Young Theater vindicated the vanguard positions instead, which stage turned out into a unique theatrical test site when the Berezil theater was created. It was by no chance that the scale models of the named theatrical association were awarder the Gold Medal at the World Theatrical Exhibition in Paris in 1925. It is here the plays by famous Ukrainian authors and playwrights Mykola Kulish (Narodnyi Malakhai, Myna Mazailo) and Volodymyr Vinnychenko (Bazaar , Black Panter and Polar Bear) were first produced. Thanks to the outstanding talent of Les Kurbas, whose natural abilities combined director and actor, playwright and translator of the world literature, the works of William Shakespeare, Henrik Ibsen, Gerhart Hauptman, Friedrich Schiller and Jean Baptiste Moliere were treated anew on the Ukrainian stage as well as plays were staged by the unknown thus far to Ukrainian spectators European dramatists.

From the creative association Berezil in addition to the theatrical library and museum sprang out the first magazine on drama. Even now, the present-day actors often address the creative search of Les Kurbas shot under Stalin.

Nowadays, the international theatrical festival Mystetske Berezilia (Artistic Berezil) devoted to memory of the les Kurbas is held in Kyiv.

During the years of independence, numerous new theaters have emerged and interest is growing towards folk and street stage. The Ukrainian dramatic art is being further integrated into the European cultural space. The stage director Roman Viktiuk, whose creative activity became a weighty contribution into the world dramatic art esthetics of the late 20th century, has acquired the world acclaim. Another Ukrainian stage director Andriy Zholdak is also famous far beyond the Ukrainian borders. A number of talented actors of the Ukrainian theater including Bohdan Stupka, Ada Rohovtseva, Anatoliy. Khostikoiev, Natalia Sumska and others scored great success acting in home and foreign movies.

At present, a series of international theater festivals that gained prestige in Europe are taking place annually in Ukraine: “May Days’ Kyiv” in Kyiv, The Golden Lion” in Lviv, “Ternopil Theater Nights. Debut” in Ternopil, “Chersonese Games” in Sevastopol, “Melpomene of Tavria”in Kherson, “Christmas Mystery”in Lutsk, and “Interlialka” in Uzhgorod