St.Ratkevičius. 2010 03 27. Vilnius. Photo of

Scene from the performance "Eglė, Queen of Grass Snakes". Dir. St.Ratkevičiu
Scene from the performance "Ray". Dir. St.Ratkevičius.

The founder of professional Lithuanian puppet theatre Stasys Ratkevičius (1917-2010) died suddenly at the age of 93 on the 5th of July, 2010.

The director and actor St.Ratkevičius was born in Moscow on the 16th of March, 1917. He studied at the State Vilnius Conservatory from 1940, improved skills at Vilnius Drama Studio, sang in the choir of the National Philharmonic Hall. He and his wife Valerija acted at Klaipėda Drama Theatre; still, he did not calm down and searched for his road of life. After creating about 50 roles and directing several performances in Klaipėda, Stasys and Valerija moved to Marijampolė in 1956, where a new drama theatre was founded.

In 1958 St.Ratkevičius became the head of the newly established Puppet Theatre. After a couple of years, in 1960, this theatre moved from Marijampolė to Kaunas. Presently it is called Kaunas State Puppet Theatre. St.Ratkevičius was the director of this theatre from 1960 and the principal artistic director in 1978-1997. He has directed more than 50 performances at this theatre.

“I do not want the title of the founder of the puppet theatre in Lithuania. The history testifies that puppet performances were shown to guests during the lunch at the estate of Kazimieras Sapiega. I simply established a theatre for children at a certain time and place, and it appeared that it was really needed”, said the maestro Stasys Ratkevičius modestly.

Several generations grew up with his puppet performances. The best of them “Eglė, Queen of Grass Snakes”, “Ray”, “School of Hares”, “Devil’s Mill” have been awarded with prizes at international festivals and made the name of Lithuania and Kaunas prominent in foreign countries.

Maestro was elected a member of the board of the International Puppeteers’ Association UNIMA for many years; he participated in international conferences and creative laboratories actively. The name of the emeritus artist of the republic was granted to him in 1967; the Polish governmental award, medal for merits to Polish culture was handed in to the artist in 1974.

St.Ratkevičius was awarded with the Officer’s Cross of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Vytautas’ Order in 2003 for the merits to Lithuanian art. He was awarded with the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture prize for merits of entire life in the festival of Golden Stage Crosses on the occasion of the International Theatre Day in 2010.

The documentary about St.Ratkevičius “As Blue Bell-flowers Echoed” (E.Striogaitė and A.Budrys) dedicated to the artist’s life and work was presented in January of 2010.

The creative heritage of St.Ratkevičius will be reminded by Valerija and Stasys Ratkevičiai Puppet Museum open at Kaunas State Puppet Theatre.

S.Ratkevičius died on the 5th of July, 2010. He is buried in Petrašiūnai Cemetery in Kaunas.