Lesya Ukrainka & Theater

Playwright, poetess, translator, one of the most prominent women in Ukraine Lesya Ukrainka, celebrates in 2021 the 150th anniversary of her birth. The exhibition presents the performances of the twentieth century based on dramatic works of Lesya Ukrainka

By The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

She widely used images and plots of world literature and history in the plays, but always appealed to Ukrainian modernity. Lesya Ukrainka's poetic dramas were a new phenomenon not only for Ukrainian theater but also for world drama in general.

Sketch for costume for performance Stone Host (1921) by Artist Anatolii PetrytskyThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

Lesya Ukrainka's dramatic legacy includes more than two dozen works, and more than half a dozen unfulfilled dramatic plans. Lesya Ukrainka began writing plays as a well-known poetess. 

The arrival of the poetess to drama, as Lina Kostenko writes, was quite natural: 
"She knew well, deeply understood the nature of this art. And most importantly - she had that rare gift - a vocation to drama."

Photo from performance Forest Song. Mavka, a forest nymph and Perelesnyk, an evil fire spirit (1918) by State Drama TheaterThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

 She abandoned ethnographic-domestic and national-romantic themes, created a modern drama of great philosophical generalizations ("Obsession", "Cassandra", "Forest Song", "Orgy", etc.). The first dramatic work "Blue Rose" immediately put her on the level with еuropean writers.

Program of the play In the Forest (1918) by Young Theater, KyivThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

In The Forest

The Young Theater was the first to address the dramatic poem "In the Forest".

In 1918, the play was staged by Les Kurbas, who was attracted by the theme of the artist and society. The drama told the story of the life of sculptor Richard Iron (played by Les Kurbas himself).

Forest Song

Lesya Ukrainka wrote the drama "Forest Song" in the summer of 1911 in Kutaisi (Georgia) for 10-12 days. It was first staged on November 22, 1918 at the State Drama Theater in Kyiv. The theater was located in a building on the street Meringivska, 8 (now - Zankovetska Street). Director - Boris Krzhyvetsky, artists Mykhailo Mikhailov (scenery) and Maria Kitschner (costumes).

Poster for production Forest Song (1918) by State Drama TheaterThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

"Forest Song" is a drama that is most often used by theaters. It is rich in opportunities for stage interpretations, directorial decisions, acting improvisations.

The roles were performed by: Mavka, a forest nymph - Natalia Doroshenko, Mother of Lukash - Anna Borisoglibska, Water Goblin, guardian spirit of the lake - Oleksandr Ostashevsky, Lukash - Mykola Tinsky, Perelesnyk, an evil fire spirit - Oleksandr Oleksandrov. Contemporaries noted the play by Liubov Hakkebush. She performed the role of Rusalka, a water nymph:

Photo from performance Forest Song. Rusalka, a water nymph (1918) by State Drama TheaterThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

"Her costume seemed to consist of her own long hair, in which she was immersed. All her movements were extremely plastic. It was a real fairy-tale rusalka. And the silver notes of her special laughter! 

contemptuous, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes angry or naively childish. On the performance of "The Forest Song" in the evening in 1918, applause erupted every time after the laughter of the Rusalka - Hakkebush. "

Photo from performance Forest Song. Perelesnyk, an evil fire spirit, State Drama Theater, 1918, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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Photo from performance Forest Song. Rusalka, a water nymph, State Drama Theater, 1918, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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Photo from performance Forest Song. Water Goblin, guardian spirit of the lake, State Drama Theater, 1918, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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Picture of Mavka, a forest nymph. Forest song (1912) by Artist Ivan BuryachokThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

Lesya Ukrainka’s play “Forest Song” was to be staged at the Mykola Sadovsky Theater. In 1912 Ivan Buryachok became the main artist of the theater, and in 1911 Lesya Ukrainka gave the artist the opportunity to get acquainted with the manuscript of the “Forest Song”  .

He creates a graphic series of costumes for the characters of the play, in particular:  Mavka, a forest nymph,  Forest Elf, a woodland sprite, Kutz, a malicious imp.

Unfortunately, Lesya Ukrainka's play was never staged at the Mykola Sadovsky Theater because Sadovsky wanted to make some changes to the text, and Lesya Ukrainka did not agree: “I understand that it is very difficult to stage it without changes, but there is a limit to all substitutions… I have a split feeling about this poem - I would like to see it on stage, and I'm afraid not "failure", but the change of dreams into props…"

Picture of Forest Elf, a woodland sprite. Forest song, Artist Ivan Buryachok, 1912, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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Picture of Kutz, a malicious imp. Forest song, Artist Ivan Buryachok, 1912, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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Sketch for costume of Kutz, a malicious imp. Forest song (1922) by Artist Matvii DrakThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

Kyiv, Ivan Franko Theater

One of the founders of the theater, Yevhen Kokhanenko, staged  “Forest Song”  on the stage of the Ivan Franko Theater in 1922, the artist was Matviy Drak.

Photo from performance Forest Song. Kutz, a malicious imp (1927) by Ivan Franko TheaterThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

In the role of Kutz, a malicious imp - actor Mykhailo Pylypenko, Mavka, a forest nymph — Feodosiya Barvinska, Lukash — Tykhon Ternychenko, Perelesnyk, an evil fire spirit - Konstantin Koshevsky.

Photo Lukash's meeting with Mavka, a forest nymph. Forest Song., Ivan Franko Theater, 1922, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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Photo. Scene from performance Forest Song, Ivan Franko Theater, 1922, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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Sketch for costume of Forest Elf, a woodland sprite. Forest song (1922) by Artist Matvii DrakThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

Two years later, E. Kokhanenko performed another production of "Forest Song", in which the role of the Mavka was played by Polina Nyatko.

Sketch for costume of Water Goblin, guardian spirit of the lake. Forest song (1922) by Artist Matvii DrakThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

Sketch for costume of Perelesnyk, an evil fire spirit. Forest song (1922) by Artist Matvii DrakThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

Sketch for Don Juan costume for L. Ukrainka’s Stone Host) (1921) by Artist Anatolii PetrytskyThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

Stone Host

First Taras Shevchenko State Theater, Kyiv. 1921

In 1921 in the First Taras Shevchenko State Theater staged " Stone Host" by Lesya Ukrainka. This is her interpretation of the world story about Don Juan.

Sketch for costume of the Duenna of Donna Anna for performance Stone Host, Artist Anatolii Petrytsky, 1921, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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Sketch for Donna Mercedes costume for performance Stone Host, Artist Anatolii Petrytsky, 1921, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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Sketch for Commander's costume for performance Stone Host, Artist Anatolii Petrytsky, 1921, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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Sketch for costume for performance Stone Host, Artist Anatolii Petrytsky, 1921, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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Sketch for costume for performance Stone Host, Artist Anatolii Petrytsky, 1921, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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Sketch for decoration for performance Stone Host. Cemetery in Seville (1921) by Artist Anatolii PetrytskyThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

The director of this play was Oleksandr Zagarov, the artist Anatolii Petritsky.

Sketch for decoration for performance Stone Host. Courtyard (1921) by Artist Anatolii PetrytskyThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

The museum's collection contains sketches by Anatolii Petrytsky - costumes and decorations for the play.

Lviv, Maria Zankovetska Theatre. 1971
In one of his first performances at the Maria Zankovetska Theater, director Serhiy Danchenko concentrated on the main components of the "great style" of Ukrainian directing and the peculiarities of his own creative style. In the style of the play, he combined the epic action with the vivid imagery of its individual components and details.

Photo. Scene from performance Stone Host, Lviv, Maria Zankovetska Theatre, 1971, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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Photo from performance Stone Host, Lviv, Maria Zankovetska Theatre, 1971, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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Photo from performance Stone Host.  Don Juan - actor Fedir Stryhun, Donna Anna – actress Larysa Kadyrova.   

Sketch for set design for Stone Host (1971) by Artist Myron KypriyanThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

The space of action is filled with symbolic symbols (artist Myron Kyprian), its musical atmosphere (composer B. Yanivsky) saturated with musical sound and served as a background for the unfolding of episodes-compositions.

The design created by M. Kyprian by figurative solution was both a generalized expression of a fireplace vault, a medieval palace, and an imaginary mountain - the proud dream of Donna Anna.

Throughout the play, the characters "overcome" its various planes, each time appearing under the gaze of an ironically grinning huge stone mask hanging over the stage.

Sketch for Eleazar's costume for performance Babylonian Captivity (1920) by Artist Anatolii PetrytskyThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

Babylonian Captivity

First Taras Shevchenko State Theater, Kyiv. 1920 - 1921

In the First Taras Shevchenko State Theater in Kyiv were staged performances of "Babylonian Captivity", "On the ruins", "In the field of blood", "In the catacombs", "In the work house, in the land of slavery". Director Oleksandr Zagarov, artist - Anatolii Petritsky.

Sketch for decoration for performance Babylonian Captivity (1920) by Artist Anatolii PetrytskyThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

The next two short plays are a kind of diptych, also on a biblical (but Old Testament) theme - "Babylonian Captivity" ("dramatic poem", 1903) and "On the ruins" ("dramatic poem", 1904).

Sketch for decoration for performance On the ruins (1920) by Artist Anatolii PetrytskyThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

On The Ruins

The plots in the diptych are based on the story of the most tragic period in the life of the Jewish people, their struggle for freedom and independence; relevance for Ukraine is still unquestionable. In both plays, the artist's conflict with his surroundings is acute.

Sketch for Judas mask. In the field of blood, Artist Anatolii Petrytsky, 1920, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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Sketch for decoration for performance On the ruins, Artist Anatolii Petrytsky, 1920, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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In the field of blood

Sketch for costume for Lesia Ukrainka’s In the catacombs (1921) by Artist Anatolii PetrytskyThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

In The Catacombs

Sketch for costume for Lesia Ukrainka’s In the catacombs (1921) by Artist Anatolii PetrytskyThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

The play "In the Catacombs", dedicated to Agatangel Krymsky, and based on apocrypha about the first Christians. The orientalist A. Krymsky was a consultant on this theme.

Sketch for costume for performance In the catacombs (1920) by Artist Anatolii PetrytskyThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

Sketch for decoration for production of In the work house, in the land of slavery (1921) by Artist Anatolii PetrytskyThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

In the workhouse, in the land of slavery

The sketch "In the workhouse, in the land of slavery" ("dialogue"), dates back to 1906. The thematic material used in it is the history of Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament, 

and the conflict is the opposition of life choices and values lived by the two main characters: a Jewish slave and an Egyptian slave.

Cassandra
Kyiv, Ivan Franko Theater. 1970
In 1970, "Cassandra" was directed by Serhiy Smiyan at the Ivan Franko Theater, artist - Fedir Nirod. The basis for the creation of a dramatic poem by Lesya Ukrainka was the story of the heroine of ancient Greek mythology Cassandra, who saw a terrible future, but could not turn it away.

Sketch for Gelen's costume for performance Cassandra, Artist Fedir Nirod, 1970, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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Sketch for Cassandra's costume for performance Cassandra, Artist Fedir Nirod, 1970, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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Sketch for costume for performance Cassandra, Artist Fedir Nirod, 1970, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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According to the plot, Troy is under siege, the war has been going on for almost 10 years and only Princess Cassandra, thanks to her gift of a seer, which she received from the god Apollo, would be able to stop the bloodshed. But because she despised his favor, Apollo took revenge on her and done that no one believed her prophecies but considered her crazy and guilty of all troubles.

Photo from performance Orgy. Antey and Nerisa (1971) by Kherson Ukrainian Music and Drama TheaterThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

Orgy

Kherson Ukrainian Music and Drama Theater. 1971

Photo from performance Orgy (1971) by Kherson Ukrainian Music and Drama TheaterThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

The poetess finished the drama "Orgy" in 1913. One of the best stage interpretations was performed at the Ivan Kocherga Zhytomyr Theater in 1961. The director was Leonid Kanevsky with the participation of director Oleksandr Gorbenko.

In 1971, Gobenko staged a play on the stage of the Kherson Music and Drama Theater. Аrtist Volodymyr Balash. Antey - actor D.Korolenko, Nerisa – actress E.Vereshchahina.

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