THE STATE YOUTH THEATER
1965, January 29, the
theater is established by the LSSR Ministry of Culture as the Young Spectator
1965, December 17, the theater is named the LSSR State Youth Theater;
1966, May 27, the theater presents its first premiere – Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare;
1966-1981, performances are held at the Trade Union House (V. Mykolaičio-Putino St. 5), Vilniaus St. 41 (now Theater, Music and Cinema Museum, formerly Liudo Giros St. 41), former Opera and Ballet Theater, Academic Drama Theater on Basanavičiaus St. 13 (now Russian Drama Theater), and Vilnius Puppet Theater on Arklių St. 5;
1982, the theater moves to the building on Arklių St. 5;
1995, the theater is renamed the State Youth Theater;
1965-1968, the theater is headed by Aurelija Ragauskaitė (1924 - 2017);
1968-1975 the theater is headed by Vytautas Čibiras (1936–2009);
1975-1988, the theater is headed by Dalia Adelė Tamulevičiūtė (1940–2006);
1989-1992, the theater is headed by theater theorist Rūta Vanagaitė (b. 1955);
1992-1995, the theater is headed by actor Antanas Šurna (1940-2014);
1995-1997, the theater is headed by actor Jonas Vaitiekaitis (b.1944);
1997-2016, the theater is headed by actor and director Algirdas Latėnas (b. 1953);
Since 2016 the theater has been headed by theater theorist Audronis Liuga (b. 1966).
It seems that the Youth Theater has been obliged by its name to always stay young. It has remained young throughout the fifty years of its life and creation, nurturing what is best, and constantly opening up to new experiences. The youngest of the theaters established in Soviet times, the Youth Theater had to prove its distinctiveness from the much “older” theaters from the very beginning of its existence. Despite the changing leaders, the unique presence of the theater took shape after just a decade. Dalia Tamulevičiūtė can rightfully be considered the true leader of the Youth Theater as she created the legend that is still alive after all those years. The theater’s second-floor lobby is dedicated to her memory. There’s nothing strange about it because the Youth Theater we have today has been created by D. Tamulevičiūtė’s students and her student’s students, the actors as well as directors. One of them, Algirdas Latėnas, tries to maintain the thread of tradition that links the present of the theater with its glorious past.
The first performance – W. Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet, directed by Aurelija Ragauskaitė was a promising statement – a dynamic and visual production that brought together W. Shakespeare’s characters and the young people who lived and loved in the 1960s.
The second major period of the theater’s life is inseparable from the name of Dalia Tamulevičiūtė. From the very first performances she directed – The Girl and The Spring (1970), The Taste of Sweet Cherries (1971), Dinner for Five (1972) – Tamulevičiūtė asserted herself as that a young and talented director. In 1975, she became the leading director of the theater and in 1976 her students joined the theater group. For the first time in the history of the State Conservatory’s Acting Department, students presented their graduation projects to a wider audience. It marked the beginning of the second “youth” of the theater. D. Tamulevičiūtė also directed the first Lithuanian musical: Ugnies medžioklė su varovais (Fire Hunt with Beaters) written by Saulius Šaltenis, Leonidas Jacinevičius and Giedrius Kuprevičius (1976, stage designer Linas Katinas). Since 1966 the theater had had a dream to stage L. Bernstein’s West Side Story. Poet Algimantas Baltakis had even translated the text and composer Feliksas Bajoras and concertmaster Povilas Keblikas had begun rehearsing the solo parts, but the idea was not realized. The dream turned to reality thanks to D. Tamulevičiūtė’s best students, her “golden ten”. A future playwright, then thirty-year-old Saulius Šaltenis, joined the creative team. For about ten years he created the fragile and vulnerable world of the young person in this theater along with D. Tamulevičiūtė.
Tamulevičiūtė‘s “golden ten” – Dalia Storyk, Dalia Overaitė, Remigijus Vilkaitis, Arūnas Storpirštis, Irena Kriauzaitė, Kristina Kazlauskaitė, Algirdas Latėnas, Violeta Podolskaitė, Kostas Smoriginas, Vidas Petkevičius. Their graduation performances – Naked Kings, Bebenčiukas, TV Noise (director Irena Bučienė), Fire Hunt with Beaters added to the repertoire, along with Škac, mirtie, visados škac (Shoo, Death, Always Shoo, 1976) an adaptation of the novel Riešutų duona (Nut Bread) by S. Šaltenis, became signature works of the theater, increasing the circle of its fans and lovers. It was especially popular with young viewers, the actors’ peers – Tamulevičiūtė’s target audience. This is probably the reason why during this time Lithuanian historical dramas, then so popular in other Lithuanian theaters, were not produced in the Youth Theater (D. Tamulevičiūtė will direct Daukantas by Justinas Marcinkevičius only in 1985); the theme of the Lithuanian identity was approached here through the prism of a maturing young person, their pure and poetic spirit, musicality of their soul, their daily contributions, creative mind, knowledge of the world and attempts to deal with its injustices. One may think that the Youth Theater was solely concerned with “creative affairs” and ignored the harsh reality of the time and the dramatic circumstances that more often broke human spirits than inspired creation. But Tamulevičiūtė wanted to help young people build a solid ethical and moral foundation which would later help them deal with reality. In Shoo, Death, Always Shoo and Jason by S. Šaltenis (1978), and The Seagull by Anton Chekhov (1979) Tamulevičiūtė brought together actors from both the older and the younger generations. This joined work helped the young actors mature preparing them for their future work with Nekrošius.
1980-1986 were the years of the flourishing of the Youth Theater. Director Eimuntas Nekrošius best performances appeared one after another: Katė už durų (A Cat Behind the Door) by Gregory Kanovich and S. Šaltenis (1980), Kvadratas (The Square) by Valentina Yeliseeva (1980), Pirosmani, Pirosmani… by Vadim Korostyliov (1981), a rock opera Meilė ir mirtis Veronoje (Love and Death in Verona) by Sigitas Geda and Kęstutis Antanelis (1982), Chinghiz Aitmatov’s Ilga kaip šimtmečiai diena (The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years) (1983), Dėdė Vania (Uncle Vanya) by A. Chekhov (1986). E. Nekrošius presented his debut performance Medaus skonis (The Taste of Honey) at the age of 25 and The Square that turned the history of the Youth Theater upside down, at the age of 28. This new dramatic world seemed too bitter and rough for the customary theatrical language. E. Nekrošius’ work had tragic intonations; genuine dramatic tension permeated the acting and roles. When the theater announced the beginning of rehearsals of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, older critics questioned whether the young actors would be able to “properly” play the Chekhovian characters. But the result dispelled any doubts. What is more, in the 1980s the Youth Theater and the plays directed by E. Nekrošius were in the focus of attention of the audience and critics not only in Lithuanian or the neighboring countries, but also much farther. Although the troupe had successfully toured in Moscow and Leningrad as well as other Soviet republics, in 1984 the theater brought Pirosmani, Pirosmani... to represent Lithuania at the famous BITEF festival in Belgrade. In 1988 Pirosmani, Pirosmani... and Uncle Vanya went on tour in the US, then returned to BITEF and after that visited Finland, Italy and other countries.
For the viewer of today, the Youth Theater is inseparable from its building on Arklių Street in the capital’s Old Town. The theater had been waiting for this space for almost a decade – the reconstruction of the building was to be completed in 1977 but didn’t finish until 1982. The authors of the project incorporated the fresco carrying a symbolic name The Birth of Theater designed by artist Romas Dalinkevičius into the lobby of the theater. Besides the Great Hall accommodating 415 spectators, the theater also had Hall 99, a cozy 100-seat auditorium where play readings, meetings, and performances used take place on a regular basis. The renovation of Hall 99 circa 2000 coincided with the arrival of a new generation of actors in the theater. The cozy space of the hall turned into the debut zone used by such directors as D. Tamulevičiūtė, Ramune Kudzmanaitė, G. Liutkevičius, A. Vidžiūnas and others. Nowadays plays for children and young people are presented here as well as the actors’ experimental work. Another round of reconstructions took place in 2008. As a result, the viewers can now enjoy a renovated lobby and mural, a café sporting photographs from the theater’s most memorable events and a comfortable auditorium. The Oginski family coat of arms designed by Konstantinas Navasaitis decorating the front door since 2014 is a reminder of the fact that in the 18th century the building belonged to this noble family. The Youth Theater is entering the next phase of its life and, hopefully, it will be no less intense and creative, and, most importantly, open and needed by young artists and viewers, justifying the name it has carried since the beginning of its existence.
Prepared by Rasa Vasinauskaitė