New Lithuanian direction searching for identity 0

Andrius Jevsejevas, 2014-02-25
“Hamlet is Dead. No Gravitation” (dir. Paulius Ignatavičius). Photo by D.Matvejevas

In brief: It is said that the reality of contemporary Lithuanian theatre leans upon three pillars – the director Eimuntas Nekrošius, Rimas Tuminas and Oskaras Koršunovas. One would think that the concentration of such powerful creative forces makes the art landscape of our small country more or less complete, and that theatrical processes are diverse, vibrant and interesting.

However, in recent years, when the aforementioned "big names" tend to stage performances in foreign scenes more and more often (Nekrošius working in Italy regularly, Tuminas – in Russia, Koršunovas – in Scandinavian theatres), one acute and growing problem of the Lithuanian theatre became evident: we lack new creative forces who would be professionally prepared and able to fill the gaps in theatre repertoires as well as to represent the Lithuanian theatrical thought outside of the country.

Nonetheless, it seems that a certain critical number of young theatre directors have emerged in Lithuania during the latter five years. The majority of them are students of the director R.Tuminas (Paulius Ignatavičius, Artūras Areima ir Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė). On the one hand, they all exist more or less chaotically, on their own, seeing no need to seek for common aesthetic or ideological purposes or to debate with each other or with the elder generation of theatre artists. On the other hand, these artists succeeded to formulate a more or less distinctive and coherent aesthetic position during their relatively short creative life and to implement their individual theatre language in the theatre context of Lithuania.

The theatre interests of Paulius Ignatavičius stretch from performances for children to productions of German-speaking countries’ classical and contemporary literature of unique aesthetic outlook. However, another important part of the creative existence of the director is acting (in performances of O. Koršunovas, A. Areima). Therefore, it is not surprising that in his directorial work he pays much attention to the actor, the human-being searching for his identity again and again every day.

The friend and colleague of this actor Artūras Areima has passed an equally interesting road to direction. He made an impressive debut with two productions of contemporary dramaturgy (M. Walczak “The Trip Inside the Room”, J. Cartwright “The Road”), which enabled critics to speak about the potential birth of new direction language encompassing postmodern nihilism and philosophical existentialism. However, the director did not touch contemporary drama more. Instead he started working with the extensive list of classical dramaturgy: starting with Koltès and ending with Schiller, Ibsen, Strindberg, Shakespeare and Chekhov. While his productions of contemporary plays analysed the existential problems of the young generation searching for oneself, his subsequent performances were based on the classical concept of theatre, where the liberation of creative and interpretational powers of the actor were the most significant.

The theatrical existence of Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė from the same school of R. Tuminas is still very fragmented. She always seemed to be “only close to theatre”, only two performances have been created and more attention was dedicated to the cinema and visual arts by her. Still, the specific and original aesthetical outlook of the director formed due to these other art forms based on other mechanism of reality representation. With her first performance “Hipokampas” the director refused the border that separates the viewer and the actor, she made acting close to every-day language and broke the drama form based on Aristotle’s poetics. The majority of these means of expression are also used in the contemporary opera “Have a Good Day”, which tongues the life and illusions of shopping-center cashiers, women-robots painfully.

Meanwhile, V.Bareikis younger than his colleagues by several years is a representative of a different outlook – his teacher G. Varnas is the real adept of Baroque culture. This director creates his theatre on the basis of aesthetical and ideological polemics with his teacher. Each of his performances is like a remark to his teacher’s work. The motif of a generation as community is important in his productions. The future will show which direction V.Bareikis will take: the original, unsafe, provoking theatre or productions of conventional big novels.

In conclusion, the author states that the biggest troubles of young Lithuanian theatre are directly related with the old problem of contemporary Lithuanian dramaturgy. There are almost no names of Lithuanian authors in creative biographies of the aforementioned directors. When the theatre feels the demand for personal, authentic stories speaking about the contemporary man who lives in this particular society, it will win: it will become more actual and original.


The article was originally published in the theatre magazine HYSTRIO (

2014. No. 1 (January–March), p. 34–35.

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