Kurbas, Les

Kurbas, Les’


(full name, Aleksandr Stepanovich Kurbas). Born Sept. 12, 1887, in the village of Staryi Skalat, now in Ternopol’ Oblast; died Oct. 10, 1942. Soviet Ukrainian director, actor, and theater figure. People’s Artist of the Ukrainian SSR (1925).

Kurbas studied in the universities of Vienna and L’vov. He organized such troupes as the Ternopol’ Theatrical Evenings (1915), the Young Theater (1916), and Berezil’ (1922; since 1934, the T. G. Shevchenko Ukrainian Theater). His major roles included Astrov (Uncle Vania by Chekhov), Khlestakov (The Inspector-General by Gogol), Gnat (A Wretched Woman by Karpenko-Karyi), Oedipus (Oedipus Rex by Sophocles), and Macbeth (Macbeth by Shakespeare).

Kurbas, known as an innovative, inventive director, was a founder of the Soviet Ukrainian theater. His directing, first merely conventional (Oedipus Rex, 1918) and later a synthesis of the conventional and the psychological (Gaidamaki, based on the Shevchenko work, 1920; and Jimmy Higgins, based on a work by Sinclair, 1923), evolved into a philosophical style (Mikitenko’s The Dictatorship, 1930, and Kulish’s The People’s Malakhii, 1928, and Maklena Grasa, 1933). Kurbas’ methodology of directing was based on his own system of “re-created images.”

Actors and directors worked under his direction who became outstanding masters of the Ukrainian stage, including A. M. Buchma, I. A. Mar’ianenko, la. D. Bortnik, V. S. Vasil’ko, M. M. Krushel’nitskii, A. I. Serdiuk, B. F. Tiagno, and D. E. Miliutenko. He wrote several dramatizations and directed the motion pictures The Vendetta (1924), Macdonald (1924), and The Arsenal Men (1925).


Les’ Kurbas: Spohady suchasnykiv. Kiev, 1969.
Kornienko, N. “Les’ Kurbas.” Teatr, 1968, no. 4.


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