From the History of Jewish Theater in Ukraine

The materials of the exhibition demonstrate the performances of the Jewish theaters of the 1920s and 1930s in Ukraine: the Kharkiv, Kyiv, Odessa State Jewish Theaters, the Kyiv Jewish Theater for Young Spectators, and the Jewish section of the Kyiv Puppet Theater.

By The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

Photo of a scene from a play Purim-Spiel (1925) by The Kharkiv All-Ukrainian GOSETThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

In 1925 on the basis of the Theater studio of  Culture League  was organized The Ukrainian GOSET in Kharkiv (it is an abbreviation of the name of the theater in Russian «государственный еврейський театр»).

The Kharkiv GOSET

In 1918 in Kyiv appeared Jewish organization  Culture League (a secular Jewish charitable, cultural, and educational organization that existed from 1918 to 1924). In 1920 Culture League founded the first Jewish theater studio, headed by the well-known Jewish actor and director Ephraim Loiter.

The artist Mark Epshtein was a central figure in the Jewish artistic life of the 1920s and 1930s, and took an active part in the activities of the Culture League.

Sketch for Lakritz`s costume for production The Aristocrats, Mark Epshtein, 1928, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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Sketch for for madam Gold`s costume for production The Aristocrats, Mark Epshtein, 1928, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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In 1928 he staged the play "Aristocrats" in the Kharkiv GOSET. This is a satirical play about the rich who want to be aristocrats. In the sketches of the costumes are portraits of stage characters, illustrating the real images of the inhabitants of the shtetl (Jewish town).

Sketch for Madam Gold’s costume for production of Sholem Aleichem’s Aristocrats., Artist Marko Epshtein, 1927, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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Sketch for men`s costume for production The Aristocrats, Mark Epshtein, 1928, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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Sketch for guest`s costume for production The Aristocrats, Mark Epshtein, 1928, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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Poster for touring productions. The Kharkiv All-Ukrainian GOSET (1925) by The Kharkiv All-Ukrainian GOSETThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

The design of theatrical posters is interesting. The Jewish posters indicated the name of the play on Ukrainian, transliteration and the name of the play on Yiddish.

Poster for production Der Oitzer (The Treasure). The Kyiv GOSET (1928) by The Kyiv GOSETThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

The Kyiv GOSET

The Kyiv GOSET was organized in 1928. The main cast of the troupe was consist of the actors of the “Kunst-vinkl” (transl. from Yiddish – Art Corner) theater and of the cast of the Jewish theater studio “Fraykunst,” which moved to Kyiv from Moscow.

Poster for production Schleck (The devils). The Kyiv GOSET (1929) by The Kyiv GOSETThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

Portrait. Sh. Soroker – Y. Brandesko. The Great win... (1930) by Lazar SkliutovskyiThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

The Odessa GOSET

Theater was established in 1934, after the merger of the Odessa State Theater-Studio under the direction of Mark Rubinstein and the troupe of Vinnytsia and Mykolaiv Jewish theaters.

The Kyiv All-Ukrainian GOSET

In 1934, when Kyiv become the capital of the republic, the Ukrainian (Kharkiv) and Kyiv GOSETs are merged, thus forming a unified the All-Ukrainian GOSET. Until 1936, the artistic director of the theater was Boris Vershilov, and in 1937 the position of artistic director was taken by Nohem Loiter.

Sketch for Pedocur`s costume for production Tevye the Milkman, Yukhym Kordysh, 1938, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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Sketch for Leiser Wolf`s costume. Tevye the Milkman, Yukhym Kordysh, 1938, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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Sketch for Have`s costume for production Tevye the Milkman, Yukhym Kordysh, 1938, From the collection of: The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine
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Portrait. Tevie - Lazar Kalmanovych. Tevye the Milkman (1938) by Mykhailo HoncharukThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

One of the leading actors of the Kiev GOSET was Lazar Kalmanovich.

Sketches. Dwarf soldiers. Eldorado (1936) by Matviy DrakThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

The Kyiv Jewish Theater for Young Spectators

Theater was organized in 1929. Initially, it consisted of a small group of Jewish actors at the Ukrainian theater of Young Spectators. 

The theater later separated and expanded. The theater was organized and directed by Samuel Weischenbaum. Famous actors worked in the troupe, in particular: Sofia Leiman, Elza Gurinova, Anna Vilinska.

Photo. Actor J. Mirsakov with the puppet Menachem-Mendel (1937) by Kyiv Jewish Puppet TheaterThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

At the end of 1936, the Jewish Puppet Theater was established in Kyiv as a branch of the Kyiv Puppet Theater.

Photo of the puppet from a play Menachem-Mendel (1937) by Kyiv Jewish Puppet TheaterThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

Puppets in the theater were created by artist Raisa Margolina.  

Poster for production A Doctor. Jewish branch at the Kyiv Puppet Theater (1939) by Kyiv Jewish Puppet TheaterThe Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine

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