Grodno Regional Puppet Theatre is lucky – it can celebrate its Birthdays three times a year: on February 2, on November 1, as well as on November 11. The date of the first premiere – May 25, is as important and can be considered as the 4th Birthday. But let's go through it all step by step…
In February 1940 Sergey Obraztsov’s Central Puppet Theatre happened to be on a tour in Grodno. Wladyslaw Jarema, his wife and the puppet theatre troupe created by them, found themselves here in the city as well. On February 2nd, 1940, with the support of S.Obraztsov, Grodno State Puppet Theatre under the guidance of W.Jarema – the first professional puppet show company in Grodno – opened its doors…
“Tarabumba Circus” by V.Liakh became the first premiere of the newly born theatre. Later the repertoire was enriched by the performances “Three Little Sisters” (?), “Mishka –Baravik” (“Bear from the Pine Forest”)(?), “Patapych” (the name of the Bear)(?), “Gosling” by N.Gernet. The director of all the staged plays was W.Jarema, the artist – B.Sheskin, the puppets designer – Z.Lyasnewskaya. The last first performance of the collective - “Alladin’s Magic Lamp” by N.Gernet - was created with the help of S.Obraztsov and the artist B.Tuzlukaw. The life of V.Jarema’s theatre didn't last long – because of the war…
The second birth of the marionette theatre took place in summer 1946, in the House of Folk Crafts. The newspapers of those years state that the first performances, staged by the director Y.Antonov and the artist T.Kozlovskiy, were “The Elephant-Calf” by G.Vladychyna, “Father Frost” by M.Shurinova and “By the Pike’s Will” by E.Tarakhowskaya. The troupe consisting of 7 actors successfully toured in the towns and villages of the region. On November 11th, 1946, the amateur theatre got the official status according to the resolution of the Regional Soviet of Deputies and in 1947 it was reorganized into a professional collective — the Regional Puppet Theatre.
Grodno Regional Puppet Theatre was opened for the third time on November 1st, 1980 according to the resolution of Grodno Regional Executive Committee.It was headed by the graduate of Leningrad Institute of Theatre, Music and Cinema named after N.Cherkasov (today it is St.Petersburg Academy of Arts) Sergey Yurkevich and the well known artist of Belarusian Puppet Theatre Leonid Bykov. The troupe was formed from the postgraduates of Belarusian State Institute of Theatre and Arts, Leningrad Institute of Theatre, Music and Cinema named after N.Charkasaw and Grodna Vocational School of Culture. “Liudvig and Tutta” by V.Bagach and S.Khristowskiy was the performance shown at the first night as the company debut on May 25th, 1981. It was staged by the director S.Yurkevich and the scenographer L.Bykov on the motifs of Y. Ekholm's book. The performances “Vasilisa the Beautious” by E.Cherniak, “Sindbad the Seafarer” by Y.Fridman and V.Shulzhyk, “Cinderella” by Y.Shvarts became real classic of Grodno Puppet Theatre. They have been living on the stage till today, giving enjoyment to the third generation of the audience.
The first Belarusian puppet opera for children “Kuzurkiyana” (Concert of the Insects) composed by P.Kandrusevich on the libretto of S.Klimkovich is staged and successfully performed at the theatre. The performance, pierced by light touch of parody, introduces the young spectators the world of music theatre.
Thoughtful and serious approach to aesthetical, ethical and philosophical quality of the performances for children, choice of repertoire, diversity and depth of staging interpretation, using the whole palette of modern theatre means of expression made it possible to create a number of outstanding performances for family viewing.
The performances created according to well known fairy-tales “Marozka” (Father-Frost) by M.Shurinava, “Beauty and the Beast” by Lepres de Bomon, “The Road to Bethlehem” by S.Kovalyov touched the souls both of children and adults.
Being staged in the best traditions of the puppet circus show, “The Unbelievable Illusion” by Oleg Zhiugzhda was successfully presented on the tours in Warsaw, Bialystok, Kvidzyn, Tczew (Poland), at the festivals in Minden (Germany), Alitus (Lithuania), Uzhgorod (Ukraine) and Kaliningrad (Russia).
“The Tragedy of Macbeth” by William Shakespeare staged by Oleg Zhiugzhda became a remarkable festival leader, it represented Belarusian theatre art at 11 international festivals in 6 countries and gathered 14 diplomas and awards.
The theatre goes on working for adult spectators, its repertoire includes about 10 titles of classic and modern plays. Shakespearean trilogy “The Tragedy of Macbeth”, “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”, “The Winter’s Tale”; a plastic-visual artifact “The Poem without Words” on Yanka Kupala’s motifs; a puppet cabaret «Tea for two» by O.Zhiugzhda, ”Tuteishyia” (The Indigenious) by Y.Kupala got real recognition not only with Grodna public, but also abroad. They are regular harvest-reapers at numerous international theatre festivals.
During the passed 5-year period the theatre was on tours and at festivals in Poland (Torun, Lomzha, Warsaw, Wroclaw, Krakow, Gdansk, Bialystok, Lublin), in Russia (Riazan’, Moscow, St.Petersburg, Kaliningrad) , Ukraine (Uzhgorod), Croatia (Zagreb), France (Limoges, Liussere?), Germany (Minden) , Lithuania (Vilnius, Kaunas, Panevezhis, Alitus), Czech (Prague, Ostrava), Hungary (Pech) Romania (Alba Yulia), Serbia (Subotsitsa).
The invitation to participation in such great drama festivals as “Meetings in Russia”, (St.-Petersburg, 2002), Shakespeare Festival (Gdansk, 2002, 2005), “Contact” (Torun, 2005) in Poland speaks for itself. These performances were in the neighborhood with those by R. Viktsiuk, K.Ginkas, E.Nekroshius, P.Brook on the playbills.
In 2003 the creative collective of the theatre was commended by the special award of the President of Belarus A.G. Lukashenka “For the International Cultural Contacts Development”.
The theatre has got about 35 performances for children, youth and grown-ups, which are capable of satisfying the most refined taste.
The whole palette of expressive means of modern puppet theatre is used in the performances, they are: different systems of puppets, masks, movable details of costumes and decorations, actors’ work in drama sense.
The wonderful ensemble of theatricals, exquisite and subtle scenography, modern conceptual direction, deep humanistic and philosophical shows make Grodno Regional Puppet Theatre one of the most interesting theatres of Belarus and neighbouring European region. It is really worth visiting.