Ferdynand Ruszczyc and the Vision of the Theatre in Vilnius in the Early Twentieth Century

Helmutas Šabasevičius (PDF)

Russian, Polish, Lithuanian, Belarusian and Jewish traditions intertwined and competed in Vilnius in the early twentieth century. Meanwhile, the Lithuanian and Polish theatre in Vilnius went through a difficult phase of development after the abolition of the press ban. The play ‘Amerika pirtyje’ (America in the Bathhouse), performed in 1899, made the first professional steps in Lithuanian-language theatre. After abolishing the press ban in 1904, Lithuanian theatrical culture, which was closely linked to the initiatives of cultural societies, was also revived. In 1904, the Lithuanian Benevolent Society in Vilnius registered its statutes. In 1905, the Society of the ‘Vilnius Kanklės’ was founded. Since 1908, a new society, ‘Rūta’, has been functioning in Vilnius. M.K. Čiurlionis participated in its activities as a musician and painter. In 1906, a permanent Polish theatre opened. Attempts to revive the Polish theatre in this period are linked to the efforts of Ferdynand Ruszczyc. Until his death, he was the most influential personality in the artistic life of Vilnius in the early 20th century. After arriving in Vilnius from Cracow in 1908, the painter took an active part in the cultural life of the city. In the context of Lithuanian theatre, Ruszczyc’s performances stood out for their stylistic unity and received very favourable press reviews. The creative work of Ruszczyc allows us to see his productions and the art of Lithuanian theatre of the early 20th century in the context of a progressive and modernising European theatre.

Keywords: press ban, society activities, performances, Lithuanian theatre, Polish theatre