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Konstantinas Borkovskis, 2013-05-30

In brief: The 20th traditional international festival of puppet theatres Smiling Puppets and Children 2013 was organised in Kaunas on May 16-19. Most probably Kaunas inhabitants have already become used to this festival and especially the impressive annual parade of puppets in Laisvės Alley. Therefore, the author wants to share his considerations what makes this unique cultural phenomenon live and what is needed for it to be alive in future.

The festival Smiling Puppets and Children is organised by Kaunas State Puppet Theatre; this year its 20th anniversary coincided with the 20th anniversary of the legendary theatre festival LIFE. Still, the festival of Kaunas puppeteers was born earlier than LIFE and lives according to its own original rules that determine the enviable stability and longevity.

The most important singularity of Kaunas puppeteers’ festival is that there is no institution of the festival. There is no headquarters of the festival and staff that takes care of the festival issues only. No law or regulation obliges Kaunas State Puppet Theatre to organise the festival annually. After a moderate break due to the big Russian crisis, the festival Smiling Puppets was organised 20 times during 23 years. The top of the festival was the Flying Festival organised in 2011 – it was a big international event organised along with the international organisation of puppeteers UNIMA.

The concept of the festival of this year is real and prosaic: Kaunas State Puppet Theatre marks its 55th anniversary. It is the time when participants of the first performance of the theatre can still step on the stage. The participants of the performance “Miraculous Aladdin’s Lamp” of the director Stasys Ratkevičius (premiere – in Marijampolė in 1958): Algimantas Stankevičius, Irena Stankevičienė, Regina Čeponienė and Ada Ignatavičienė were honoured and awarded during the festival. The huge composition of Aladdin and Gin figures was constructed in the garden at the theatre on this occasion.

The surprise of the festival was the director-puppeteer, head of Gardin Puppet Theatre of Belarus Olegas Žiugžda and his famous performance “Queen of Spades”, which was directed by him in his own theatre a couple of years ago.

Another performance “Snow White and Seven Dwarfs” directed by Olegas Žiugžda at KSPT this spring was also shown in the festival. It is an outstanding performance in which examples of various puppets and plastic theatre are abundant and of high quality.

Meanwhile, the famous “Queen of Spades” of O. Žiugžda surprised by maturity and creative evolution of the director. The performance has already received many main awards and prizes in Belarusian and foreign festivals. The director based his performance of a short story of Aleksandr Pushkin and opera of Piotr Tchaikovsky. It seemed while watching the performance that the director succeeded to reveal the nature of human psychology and passions in the classical and mythologized plot. 90 percent of phenomenality of this performance belongs to two main performers – actors Aleksandr Jendzejevsky and Larisa Mikulich.

Also, the author mentions the performance “Mother of Winds” of Saulė Degutytė that left a good impression in the festival as passionate attempts of the artist to get away from old stereotypes and themes.

Now it is time to wait for the next festival Smiling Puppets and Children, its parade of puppets, surprises and experiments.

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