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Subcarpathian Rusyn National Theater

Subcarpathian Rusyn National Theater/Zemskii podkarpatorusskii narodnyi teatr — the first permanent theater intended to serve as a “national” institution for Rusyns. In 1931 Czechoslovakia’s provincial government in *Subcarpathian Rus’ decided to organize and subsidize a professional theater. The plans were not realized until 1934, when officials from the provincial school administration, the Czechs Ladislav *Kaigl and Viktor Klima (1888-19??), organized courses to train local Rusyn actors. The courses continued through the 1934/1935 and 1935/1936 seasons and were taught by emigre actors and directors from the former Ukrainophile Rusyn Theater of the *Prosvita Society in Uzhhorod and the Moscow Art Theater based in Prague, two companies that had performed in Subcarpathian Rus’ during the 1920s. The actors also performed several plays during their two seasons of training throughout Subcarpathian Rus’, concluding their second season with performances in Prague (April 1936).

In June 1936 the Subcarpathian Rusyn National Theater was formally established in Uzhhorod. Subsidized by the provincial government, the theater was administered by an executive board, although policy was set largely by the board’s most influential member, Ladislav Kaigl. The theater’s artistic director was the retired Czech director from Prague, Frantisek Hlavaty (1873-1952); its sets were designed by the Rusyn artist Fedir *Manailo; and among its leading actors were Mariia Pil’tser (1912-1976), Volodymyr Hrabar, and Mykhail Lugosh (d. 1968). Some of its plays were written by Rusyn authors (in particular Antonii *Bobul’s’kyi and Sion *Sil’vai), but most were from the Russian and Ukrainian repertory. They were all usually performed in the “Carpatho-Rusyn” vernacular, a decision which elicited frequent criticism by local *Russophile and *Ukrainophile cultural activists.

When the Czechoslovak republic began to disintegrate, the Subcarpathian Rusyn National Theater gave its last performances at the outset of its third season (September 1938). After Hungary annexed Subcarpathian Rus’ two of the theater’s actors, Mykhail Lugosh and Volodymyr Hrabar, staged plays beginning in the fall of 1939. Following up on their initiative, the local Hungarian administration provided funds in 1940 for the creation of the Uhro-Rusyn National Theater/Uhro-russkii natsional’nyi teatr, which continued to function until 1944.

Bibliography: Evgenii Nedziel’skii, Ugro-russkii teatr (Uzhhorod, 1941).

Paul Robert Magocsi

Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.
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