Weekend performances return

No one is surprised when ‘adult’ theatres put on performances for children. The Yakub Kolas National Academic Drama Theatre is currently staging The Witch and the Little Dinosaur and Africa (a musical fairy-tale)

By Grigory Semenov

Its I Will be A Star! even includes a morning party with a disco. The theatre’s interpretation of Alexander Alexandrov’s Shishok, is unique; according to the theatre’s heads, it should revive the tradition of weekend performances, lost in Vitebsk almost thirty years ago.

All theatrical companies dream of raising their own loyal audience. One of the former artistic leaders of the Yakub Kolas Theatre, Solomon Kazimirovsky (now over 90 year old and residing in Sweden) took a serious step in this direction and is now considered to have invented the ‘university of theatre art’. This envisaged meetings between actors and spectators, with discussions of roles and performances. Dmitry Minchenok once attended such classes with his mother and soon developed a passion for the theatre. He later became a playwright, known throughout Belarus and Russia. His Marlene, Marlene is being staged by the Vitebsk theatre.

“A visit to the theatre shouldn’t be an obligation,” asserts Svetlana Dashkevich, who heads the Yakub Kolas Theatre’s Literary Section. “Sometimes, schoolchildren attending the theatre lessons are bored by what’s staged. There’s really no point in such visits. On leaving the theatre, children should be keen to discuss the performance with their parents, asking questions,” notes Igor Boyarintsev, director-producer of Shishok and chief director of city events for the Vitebsk City Executive Committee’s Cultural Department. “Alexander Alexandrov’s play perfectly suits this goal.”

Soviet playwright Alexandrov’s city girl Olya visits her granny in the countryside for the holidays. A domovoi (house spirit) called Shishok, lives on the roof — like Karlsson but less naughty. He inspires the growing child to ponder such notions as the nature of good, duty, responsibility, respect for older people and love for our native land.

In 1976, the film Derevnya Utka (Village Utka) was shot, based on Mr. Alexandrov’s script. Thirty years ago, Igor Boyarintsev staged the performance at Minsk’s Young Spectators’ Theatre. However, according to the director, the current interpretation is far more modern.

“If we compare the story with that of Astrid Lindgren, we see a ‘Slavonic’ Karlsson,” smiles Mr. Boyarintsev. “To achieve this, my actors and I thoroughly studied works by folklore researcher and local historian Nikolay Nikiforovsky, who worked in the Vitebsk Region at the turn of the 20th century. We’ve included games, fun and jokes: everything needed for a happy childhood. At the same time, we’ve tried to portray young people’s feelings. We’d like them to be less pragmatic, since such practicality breeds fewer Pushkins, Mozarts and Chagalls…”

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