Latvian Drama Theater

Latvian Drama Theater

 

(full name, A. Upīts Latvian Academic Drama Theater), one of the leading theaters in the Latvian SSR. Founded in February 1919 in Riga as the Workers’ Theater of Soviet Latvia.

The theater’s troupe was organized by A. Upīts, whose dramas were of great importance in forming the theater’s creative nature. The first productions, imbued with revolutionary ideas, played a significant role in Latvia’s public life. After the establishment of the bourgeois regime (at the end of 1919) the theater was reorganized and until 1940 was called the National Theater. It was headed by the director A. Mierlauks (1919–21) and the poet J. Rainis (1921–25). However, along with the best works of classical drama, the repertoire included a great deal of salon comedy and melodrama. During the Soviet period there was a revival of revolutionary principles. A decisive role in the process was played by the productions of Clay and Porcelain by Grigulis (1947; State Prize of the USSR, 1948); The Fisherman’s Son, based on the work by Lācis (1949; State Prize of the USSR, 1950); and The Green Earth by Upīts (1950; State Prize of the USSR, 1951).

Scenes from the past were re-created in productions of Ceplis by Rozītis (1953) and Tailors in Silmačos by Blaumanis (1955). A combination of vivid theatrical form and psychological depth of characters distinguished the productions of The House of Bernarda Alba by Garcia Lorca (1963), Blow, Little Breeze! by Rainis (1968), Liliom by Molnár (1971), and the two-part play The Five-story City (1970) and The Wingless Birds (1971), based on works by Lācis.

Many of the Latvian Drama Theater’s productions are characterized by the use of national traditions, a high degree of professional culture, and the unified quality of the company. In 1949 the theater was awarded the title “academic” and, in 1971, the name of A. Upīts.

Among the masters of realist art who have worked at the theater are the directors A. F. Amtmans-Briedītis, J. Zarinš, Ž. M. Katlaps, and V. M. Baluna and the actors J. A. Osis, A. J. Klints, T. Lācis, T. Podnieks, B. F. Rumniece, J. Skaidrīte, M. K. Ŝmithene, L. Ŝpīlberga, and E. J. Ezerina. As of 1973, members of the troupe included People’s Artists of the USSR V. M. Līne, K. K. Sebris, E. J. Radzinš, and L. E. Freimane and People’s Artists of the Latvian SSR A. E. Videnieks, Z. A. Grīsle, J. L. Kubilis, A. A. Liedskalnina, and G. A. Cilinskis. Since 1966 the chief director has been People’s Artist of the USSR A. I. Jaunušans.

REFERENCES

Kundziņš, K. E. Latyshskii teatr: Ocherk istorii. Moscow, 1963.

V. V. HAUSMANIS [14–599–1; updated]

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