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Rimas Tuminas: Theatre “Without Sweat”
Šarūnė Trinkūnaitė
"My actors are not going to sweat. There will be no beads of perspiration running down their foreheads. I can't stand that. … I want everything to be elegant in the theatre. Profound, but simple," Rimas Tuminas said in 1989. „Negaliu aš dabar numirt“, Laimos Žemulienės pokalbis su Rimu Tuminu, Komjaunimo tiesa, 1989-10-21, p. 2.
This feeling for graceful lightness permeated the director's first productions: The Winter by Yordan Radichkov (1978) and Georges Schehadé's L'Emigré de Brisbane (The Emigrant from Brisbane) in 1980. These stood out amid the conservative and conformist repertoire of the Academic Drama Theatre, and clearly stood apart from the stage interests of Nekrošius and Vaitkus with their intimacy, their simple (albeit somewhat strange) characters, a gentle irony, subtle humor, and a cozy benevolence. They inspired and gave creative strength to the actors of this theatre who "over many years in the monumental historic productions of Henrikas Vancevičius, dressed in ancient Lithuanian military uniforms, mustachioed and bearded, were perpetually standing in the dark crowd of extras". Irena Aleksaitė, „Valstybinis akademinis dramos teatras“, in Lietuvių teatro istorija, Kn. 4: 1980–1990, sudarė Irena Aleksaitė, Vilnius: Kultūros, filosofijos ir meno institutas, 2009, p. 50.
Tuminas only became the focus of greater attention in 1982 with the staging of Variations of the Fairy Drage by Andrej Kuternicky — four sensitive stories of the loneliness and longing of the residents of a communal apartment (artistic design by Augis Kepežinskas, composition by Faustas Latėnas). Critics wrote approvingly that, in these stories, Tuminas had continued "the best traditions of psychological theatre", Rūta Vanagaitė, „Ne kutenti, ne liūliuoti“, Literatūra ir menas, 1982-10-23, p. 12. but that he had also imbued them with a unique modernity, poetry and impressionism, carefully examining the nuances of the characters' psychological state of mind, producing an unforced, natural expression on stage but also preserving a mystery and the impression that not everything had been disclosed, enveloping the action on stage in a rich, suggestive atmosphere.
Variations of the Fairy Drage revealed Tuminas' ability to work and find common language with actors of several generations: the play featured not only veterans of the Academic Drama Theatre such as Algirdas Zalanskas (Neighbor), Stefa Nosevičiūtė (Neighbor), and Arnas Rosenas (Drunk Plumber), but also the "middle generation" that included Aldona Janušauskaitė (Woman from Apartment Five), Romualdas Ramanauskas (He), and the youngest actor, Rasa Kirkilionytė (She).
In truth, later productions directed by Tuminas — whether modern classics (Cat On a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams, 1983); national dramas (Romualdas Lankauskas' Svečiai atvyksta prieš perkūniją, arba Sausainiai su gvazdikėliais (The Guests Arrive Before the Storm, or Biscuits with Cloves) in 1985); or by Soviet playwrights of the day (Kuternicky's As If We Were Strangers in 1985 and Aleksander Galin's Once More Where the Sea of Lights Lies (Jeane) in 1986 — silenced somewhat the enthusiasm drummed up by Fairy Drage. Indeed, in the context of the active directing of the 1980s – and the work of Nekrošius and Vaitkus in particular – Tuminas' commitment to revive the psychological traditions of a more intimate theatre appeared restrained.
But Tuminas was preparing himself. Quietly, but gradually more perceptibly, he gathered together a circle of likeminded people with whom he won over the Small Stage and transformed it into a lively place for artistic pursuits that ran counter to the creative routine of the rest of the Academic Drama Theatre.
Tuminas' debut on the Small Stage of the Academic Drama Theatre occurred in 1984 with Harold Müller's Silent Night, which featured Monika Mironaitė (1913-2000) and Mykolas Smagarauskas (1935-1992). A considerable fight had to be waged for the right to this debut, as Tuminas himself recounts: the theatre leadership looked askance upon "my determination to hole myself up in the Small Theatre and create my laboratory there," and "when the danger arose of them closing us down I began to get clever and I staged a play there starring Mironaitė. If not for Mironaitė's husband — Juozas Baltušis, a member of the LSSR Supreme Soviet – they would never have permitted it". Ramunė Balevičiūtė, Rimas Tuminas: teatras, tikresnis už gyvenimą, Vilnius: Metodika, 2012, p. 73.
Read more: Juozas Baltušis.
He didn't have to wait long. The real "explosion" of Tuminas and his group occurred by 1988, with the appearance of a unique play entitled Čia nebus mirties (There Will Be No Death Here) based on the poetry of Paulius Širvys and inspired by his personality. The play announced the unofficial start of the new — Small — Theatre and became one of the hottest events in Lithuanian theatre in the late 1980s (scripted for the stage by Tuminas and Valdemaras Kukulas, artistic design by Virginija Idzelytė, composition by Faustas Latėnas).
Tuminas recalls that the idea for the play "was born from many a night out with Vladas Braziūnas, Juozas Erlickas, Antanas A. Jonynas and Valdemaras Kukulas. Kukulas hailed from the same part of the country as Paulius Širvys, and it was he who got me interested in Širvys – not only in his poetry and songs, but in him as a person. … I probably spent a few months in the library going through pre-war newspapers, from the time of Širvys' youth, before his arrival in Vilnius. From these scraps and small news reports I was able to put together a collage of people, personages, lifestyles and events. I turned Širvys into a sailor, equating him with Martin Eden [the hero of a novel by Jack London of the same name.]" Ramunė Balevičiūtė, Rimas Tuminas: teatras, tikresnis už gyvenimą, Vilnius: Metodika, 2012, p. 74.
Tuminas brought this idea to life with his — it was already possible to refer to it as "his" at that time – own group: its core was comprised of his first students: Inga Burneikaitė, Mindaugas Capas, Vilija Ramanauskaitė, Andrius Žebrauskas, among others, and veterans of the Academic Drama Theatre A. Janušauskaitė, Eglė Gabrėnaitė, M. Smagurauskas and Sigitas Račkys.
Čia nebus mirties seemed to be appear out of nothing. There was no sense of a coherent storyline, or conflict, or the need for fleshed-out characters (even the script itself was only recorded on paper in 1990 in preparation for a performance in Canada at the World Stage International Theatre Festival). The play grew simply as a kaleidoscope of individual images from the past – from post-war (Stalinist) Lithuania. But a lively, authentic and atmospherically rich portrait of a past era developed in the flow of these images that reflected the determination of a Lithuanian theatre inspired by the mood of national rebirth to liberate an unadulterated memory of a painful history. "A deep grievance and a great injustice unfolded on the stage of Čia nebus mirties, and memory slowly recovered, speaking about those that had fallen and who were lost, scorned and betrayed, the naïve and the wretched ones," wrote theatre critic Ramunė Marcinkevičiūtė, summarizing it elegantly as a "small All Soul's Day". Ramunė Marcinkevičiūtė, „Iš sielvarto ir nebūties“, Literatūra ir menas, 1989-02-25, p. 6.
Lithuanian theatre, carried aloft by the ideas of national revival of the late 1980s, continued to openly bear witness to historical truth that began with Tuminas' "small All Soul's Day." It joyfully discovered the theatre of the diaspora and spoke bluntly about an era of inhumane coercion. One after another, a chain of national plays was staged that rehabilitated history: the mounting of two plays by Antanas Škėma at the Šiauliai Drama Theatre under the direction of Gytis Padegimas – Žvakidės (Candlesticks) in 1988 and Vieną vakarą (One Evening) in 1989 – and Jonas Vaitkus' production of Škėma's Pabudimas (Awakening) at the Academic Drama Theatre in 1989.
On the other hand, all accounts had long been settled and the truth had already been spoken. The theatre could not be oblivious to the feeling that what it now faced was not so much an uplifting, but rather distressing and unfamiliar reality, where it was necessary to confront a new mission, function, and the necessity for new creative pursuits.


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Sources and links

„Negaliu aš dabar numirt“. Laimos Žemulienės pokalbis su Rimu Tuminu
Komjaunimo tiesa, 1989 10 21
Irena Aleksaitė
„Valstybinis akademinis dramos teatras“
Lietuvių teatro istorija. Kn. 4: 1980–1990, sudarė Irena Aleksaitė, Vilnius: Kultūros, filosofijos ir meno institutas, 2009
Ramunė Balevičiūtė
Rimas Tuminas: teatras, tikresnis už gyvenimą
Vilnius: Metodika, 2012
Ramunė Marcinkevičiūtė
„Iš sielvarto ir nebūties“
Literatūra ir menas, 1989 02 25
Rūta Vanagaitė
„Ne kutenti, ne liūliuoti“
Literatūra ir menas, 1982 10 23
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