Smil’gis, Eduard Ianovich
(Eduards Smiļģis). Born Nov. 10 (22), 1886, in Riga; died there Apr. 19, 1966. Soviet Latvian stage director and actor. People’s Artist of the USSR (1948).
Smil’gis began appearing in semiprofessional productions in 1906. In 1911 he became an actor at the New Riga Theater, and from 1915 to 1919 he performed with the Petrograd Latvian Theater. In 1920 he helped found the J. Rainis Art Theater in Riga, where he was an actor and, until 1964, the artistic director.
Smil’gis’ approach to directing determined the Art Theater’s style and method. Most of his productions were grandiose and were marked by romantic heroism, clarity of interpretation, and vivid theatricality. Plays staged by Smil’gis included Rainis’ I Played and Danced (1926 and 1956) and Fire and the Night (1947; State Prize of the USSR, 1947), Goethe’s Faust (1940), and Gorky’s Egor Bulychov and the Others (1946). Smil’gis also staged Anna Karenina (1949), adapted from Tolstoy’s novel, Schiller’s Maria Stuart (1956), Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1959), and Vishnevskii’s An Optimistic Tragedy (1964).
Smil’gis’ best roles included the title roles in Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Julius Caesar, and Schiller’s Don Carlos, as well as Petruchio in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and Tots in Rainis’ I Played and Danced. Smil’gis was awarded the Order of Lenin, three other orders, and several medals.