Les' Kurbas (1887-1937) is a prominent Ukrainian
artist, founder of the modern national theatre, actor, producer,
civil activist, translator-polyglot, and one of the leaders of
the national-cultural movement known as The Assassinated Renaissance.
Craig, Appia, Reinhardt, Artaud, and Meyerhold were his blood-brothers
Kurbas's time represented an age of hope for a renaissance, for
Ukraine's secession from the Russian Empire. The director built
a theatre that would be the subject not only of an artistic, but
also of a civil revolution.
He personified himself in his theatres of which there were several:
"The Ternopilski Teatralni Vechory" (1915-1916), "The
Molodyi Teatr" (1916-1919), "Kyidramte" (The Kyiv
Drama Theatre, 1920-1921), and "The Berezil" (1922-1933).
The last seemingly inherited Gordon Craig's dream of a theatrical
Academy and embodied a theatre of universal possibilities. "The
Berezil" created experimental theatre per se, opera, operetta,
circus etc. A Director's staff and laboratory functioned here,
along with a theatrical museum, which exists to this day. Sociological
projects were developed and research on the human-actor, his emotions,
behavior, and internal energy was conducted.
"The Berezil" of 1922-1926 was political theatre of
mostly expressionist orientation (Kaiser's Gas, Kurbas-Sinclair's
Jimmy Higgins, etc.). The man who builds himself, who transforms
his internal world the "internal man" in himself (according
to Skovoroda) interested Kurbas most of all. Kurbas was invited
to Munich, Canada, and to Moscow by Meyerhold, who proclaimed
him the USSR's finest direct. In 1925 Kurbas was awarded the Gold
theatre medal at the Parisian Exposition Internationale des arts
decomtifs et industriels as well as the highest Soviet artistic
distinction of the day as "People's Artist of the Republic"
(following in the footsteps of the great actress Maria Zankovetska
and the director Meyerhold)...
The transcendental tradition of the 20th century found its original
interpretation in Kurbas's theater of 1926-1933. Kurbas's philosophical
theatre of that period was marked by the creation of artistic-creative
models, the semiosphere of which approached the richest values
of the age of the Ukrainian Renaissance. Among them were root
values of culture, historical memory with a new "I"absorbed
into it, opening itself onto the universe, a universality, a pan-humanism.
In the mid 1920s it was said of the "Berezil" actors
that they were already "worthy of the Pantheon". Kurbas's
theatre was working in avant-garde mode.
Kulish's plays Narodnyi Malachiy (The People's Malachiy}, Myna
Mazailo. Maklena Grasa and Mykytenko's The Dictatorship enunciated
not only a new artistic and esthetic word in a modern European
context, but also became an exacting subject of civil opposition
Kurbas's esthetics present an example of "fantastic realism",
with its unlimited possibilities of speaking about the complexity
of the world and the contradictions of man, centered on the "cursed
questions" of Existence.
...The theatre of Les Kurbas is a lofty future-text of 20th century
culture, and it seems, of the present, 21st as well.