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The Elders: “Displaced” and Newly Established
Šarūnė Trinkūnaitė
In 1990, Jonas Vaitkus directed Adam Mickiewicz's Vėlinės (All Soul's Day) (set design by J. Arčikauskas, composition by A. Martinaitis), and Joshua Sobol's Ghetto (set design by Rasa Kriščiūnaitė, composition by Feliksas Bajoras) at the Academic Drama Theatre. At the end of that year, just before the bloody events of January 13, 1991 in Vilnius, when Soviet forces violently occupied the television broadcasting tower and other facilities, the production of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard was performed under the direction of Rimas Tuminas (set design by Rita Daunoravičiūtė, composition by Faustas Latėnas). Soon after that, in the spring of 1991, Nekrošius premiered The Nose, based on the short story by Nikolai Gogol (set designed by N. Gutliajeva, composition by A. Martinaitis).
These stylistically, thematically and aesthetically very different debuts by the directing masters of the 1980s on the stages of a newly independent Lithuania were distinguished by the same motif of loss, saturated with the same farewell to a period that had suddenly receded into the past, and were full of a courage to accept the end, or "displacement", of the former world of theatre.
In All Soul's Day and Ghetto, Vaitkus resolutely proclaimed the end of theatre's mission as the herald of freedom and spoke with symbolic, expressively theatrical images of violence, coercion and suffering about "the deformed, crippled and ailing consciousness of the nation and each of its members as they awoke to freedom and were only beginning to liberate themselves from their nightmares". Rasa Vasinauskaitė, Laikinumo teatras: lietuvių režisūros pokyčiai 1990–2001 metais, Vilnius: Lietuvos kultūros tyrimų institutas, 2010, p. 50. Tuminas set the action in The Cherry Orchard in a dreary way station, with stranded and bitterly funny characters who had long ago lost their homes and had "gathered as if to bid farewell – not just to each other, but to time itself, to their own past" Ramunė Balevičiūtė, Rimas Tuminas: teatras, tikresnis už gyvenimą, Vilnius: Metodika, 2012, p. 197. that had seized what they treasured the most. In The Nose, Nekrošius unexpectedly "revealed the grotesque, ruthless and particularly self-ironic face of his theatre", Ramunė Marcinkevičiūtė, Eimuntas Nekrošius: erdvė už žodžių, Vilnius: Scena, Kultūros barai, 2002, p. 240–242. removing his own sacred aura, and that of "theatre's prophetic status" (as well as introducing a postmodern aesthetic to Lithuanian theatre through a blend of high and low style, irony, parody, reflections on banality, etc.)
The Cherry Orchard resounded with the greatest sensitivity at the start of the independence period, raising a level of public interest that was unusual for that time and that has lasted until today as the play continues to be a part of the Small Theatre's repertoire, albeit in a considerably different form. "I have no doubt that director Rimas Tuminas' The Cherry Orchard is a unique play in all of European theatre today," principally because of the "extraordinary circumstances in which it is performed," and because "it is very difficult to get in to see the play (the hall is packed every evening), although until quite recently it was difficult to get home at night because of the imminent curfew," theatre critic Valdas Vasiliauskas wrote at the start of 1991. He went on to note that The Cherry Orchard very accurately grasped and portrayed on stage the confusion, uncertainty and the feeling of having lost a real sense of time that marked the early 1990s. It created a unique impression of "haunted action, like on a ghost ship", almost forcing one to "pace outside the door" beyond which "their true, meticulously guarded lives live", while "offering you a kind of pseudo-story line". Valdas Vasiliauskas, „Vyšnių sodo“ orkestras (Apgulto miesto teatre)“, Lietuvos aidas, 1991-04-09, p. 3. After everyone else had fallen asleep, Gayev (Rimantas Bagdzevičius, Juozas Rygertas) paraded ceremoniously around with a bedpan; Simeonov-Pishchik (Mykolas Smagurauskas, Andrius Žebrauskas) couldn't bear it any longer and, pulling up a floor board, simply relieved himself; Lopakhin (Sigitas Račkys), in an attempt to convince Ranevskaya (Eglė Gabrėnaitė) that the estate was quite old, poked his cane through the ceiling causing a cupboard held in the attic to crash down onto the stage; Varya (Inga Burneikaitė, Larisa Kalpokaitė) stealthily took swigs of alcohol; Dunyasha (Eglė Čekuolytė) quietly appropriated a piece of Yasha's (Mindaugas Capas) secret dream: the spike at the top of a souvenir model of the Eiffel Tower.
The efforts by these directors to create an essentially new theatre that had been closeted away from reality was most distinctly reflected in the work of Jonas Vaitkus. After All Soul's Day and Ghetto he waged an even more aggressive search for an effective stage imagery of abstracted historical, political, social and cultural allusions.
In its own way it was paradoxical. What Vaitkus called his most intensive focus on "the aesthetic dimension" and a more active polemic with "the idea of theatre as a reflection of the world," „Galvosūkis režisieriui“: Anelės Dvilinskaitės pokalbis su Jonu Vaitkumi, Kultūros barai, 1994, Nr. 8–9, p. 41. apparently coincided with his most conflictual period of relations with the government (represented by the Ministry of Culture). 1994 brought a scandalous campaign to "remove Jonas Vaitkus from his position as director of the Academic Drama Theatre" driven by a special audit of the operations of the Academic Drama Theatre initiated after various complaints and protests. Vaitkus was dismissed from the theatre at the end of 1994 for violations of labor laws. In 1995 he won a court case against the Ministry of Culture for his unlawful dismissal in 1995, but he never returned to his former post. Daiva Šabasevičienė, Teatro piligrimas. Režisieriaus Jono Vaitkaus kūrybos kontūrai, Vilnius: Krantai, 2007, p. 161–192. 
On the other hand, Vaitkus' increased aestheticism was the logical result and continuation of his experience directing for the opera: at the Academic Drama Theatre in 1991 he directed Feliksas Bajoras' Dievo avinėlis (Lamb of God); and at the Opera and Ballet Theatre he staged Giuseppe Verdi's Nabucco in 1992; Antonin Dvořák's Requiem in 1993; and Salome by Richard Strauss in 1998.
The success of these explorations of the "aesthetic dimension" was best demonstrated by productions staged by Vaitkus — with the assistance of set designer J. Arčikauskas and most often with composition by A. Martinaitis — at the start of the second half of the 1990s: August Strindberg's A Dream Play (Academic Drama Theatre, 1995), Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House (Youth Drama Theatre, 1995), Oskar Milosz's Miguel Mañara (Academic Drama Theatre, 1996), and Strindberg's The Father (Youth Drama Theatre, 1997). He stood out on the Lithuanian stage landscape with his emphatically conditional, abstract and refined theatricality, as well as for the powerful dynamism of the breadth and objects of his stage scenery, and his purified, doll-like characters, akin to allegorical figures, that seemed to stand like the heroes of ancient tragedies "in a perpetual face-off with Heaven, Hell and Destiny". Egmontas Jansonas, „Evangelija pagal Joną Vaitkų. 'Migelis Manjara' – tarsi gaivaus oro gūsis gerokai supelkėjusioje lietuvių teatro patalpoje“, Diena, 1996-10-21, p. 6.
At first, Vaitkus was more interested in the theme of the fate of women. He delved into the dramatic experiences of the heroine from Yukio Mishima's Madame de Sade (portrayed by Eglė Mikulionytė) in 1992, Elisabet Fogler (Eglė Mikulionytė) in Ingmar Bergman's Persona (1994), and, with particular force, Nora (Dalia Overaitė) of A Doll's House. Soon thereafter, he changed the gender of his protagonist and began analyzing the tragic fates of men, revealing complex portraits of characters particularly marked by fate, such as Miguel Mañara (played by Valentinas Masalskis) and The Father's Captain (Rolandas Kazlas).
In truth, at the end of the 1990s, Vaitkus' theatre began to gradually recover the energy of social criticism that it appeared to have either lost or disowned. The finale of his theatre's story in the 20th century came with the 1998 appearance on the stage of the Academic Drama Theatre of his "bedlam" production of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Village of Stepanchikov (set design by Artūras Šimonis, costuming by Juozas Statkevičius, composition by Antanas Kučinskas). Its decorative theatricality was no longer suppressed by the flow of the parody of social and political realities which ever-increasingly streamed from the confrontations between the comical village "leader" – the clown/monster/talented charlatan Foma Opiskin (Rolandas Kazlas) – and the moronically obedient multitude of "marionettes".
Yet, even after The Village of Stepanchikov, it was evident that, during the first decade of independence, Vaitkus' theatre had resolutely forsworn its earlier diligently pursued obligation to mercilessly appraise its own time and reality.
The same could be said about Nekrošius' work, although it was more steeped in time than that of Vaitkus, even if, at first glance, it appeared just as removed from any direct relationship with reality and more focused on the theatricality of theatre itself, i.e. the pure language of metaphorical stage imagery
Unlike Vaitkus, who actively sought out his place in the new era at the juncture of the 1980s and 1990s, Nekrošius did not rush and allowed himself long breaks of silence between productions: he directed The Nose five years after mounting Uncle Vanya, and it took another three years after The Nose before another premier opened. (In truth, these breaks were not without activity: in 1989, Nekrošius began mounting, but never finished staging, Shakespeare's King Lear, and in 1991 he rehearsed but never performed Dreams of Andalusia (Carmen), based on a short story by Prosper Mérimée.
In 1994, after Alexander Pushkin's Little Tragedies — Mozart and Salieri. Don Juan. Plague (set design by Adomas Jacovskis, costume design by N. Gultiajeva, composition by Faustas Latėnas), Nekrošius still appeared to have closed himself off in his laboratory of theatre deconstruction/desacralization that he had established with The Nose. He appeared to have dimmed or frozen the eloquence of his stage metaphors, giving them a more rational and figurative nature. On the other hand, in this diptych about redemption (A Feast in Time of Plague was not performed; the word "Plague" was only included in the name of the production as a kind of coded reference) one could hear the beats of the feverish end of the 20th century. Nekrošius "spoke about the unseen Lithuania — abandoned, broken and poor, and about the hidden world of the theatre, full of hatred, jealousy and artificiality". Rasa Vasinauskaitė, Laikinumo teatras: lietuvių režisūros pokyčiai 1990–2001 metais, Vilnius: Lietuvos kultūros tyrimų institutas, 2010, p. 83.
This occurred with even greater force and more powerful bite in 1995 when Nekrošius' Chekhovian repertoire was expanded to included a production of Three Sisters (set design by N. Gutliajeva, composition by F. Latėnas) that arose from the dramatic sense of "freedom with no illusions" "captured like a horrible hive of meaning." Rolandas Rastauskas, „'Senė 2' ir 'Trys seserys' – du perlai karūnai“, Lietuvos rytas, 1995-05-17, p. 7.  With his staging of Three Sisters, Nekrošius (the recipient of the prestigious European New Theatrical Realities prize in 1994) revealed a Chekhov for the close of the 20th century, infusing his work with extremely intense, dynamic and galloping action that infected the characters as if they were full of some kind of all-out desire to live that didn't permit a moment's pause. As the audience watched, they simply wrung out their last ounce of strength as if the world was sliding out from under their feet and time was constantly slipping through their fingers. 
Three Sisters, permeated by the theme of time and life reaching an end in the face of an inexorably approaching catastrophe, resonated with particular sensitivity and drama because of the deliberate spotlight cast on the youth of the main characters – Dalia Michelevičiūtė's Olga, Aldona Bendoriūtė's Masha and Viktorija Kuodytė's Irina, surrounded by older, powerless men – Vershinin (Algirdas Latėnas), Tuzenbach (Vladas Bagdonas), Kulygin (Vytautas Rumšas), Solyony (Juozas Budraitis), and Chebutykin (Michailas Jevdokimovas and Kostas Smorginas). Nekrošius seemed to be saying that the sisters' youth had ended almost tragically and prematurely: in the final scene the sisters took apart a tower made of small birch logs, made a path from the wood and built three wells – their own graves.
The depth of the dissonant relationships between man, time and the world was revealed with all of its power in the staging of the trilogy of Shakespeare's tragedies that crowned the 1990s as well as all of Nekrošius' 20th century theatre career: Hamlet in 1997, Macbeth in 1999, and Othello in 2000, mounted with the assistance of his steadfast colleagues, set designer Nadežda Gutliajeva and composer Faustas Latėnas (Marius Nekrošius, the director's son, also collaborated on the production of Macbeth).
As a kind of introduction to Shakespeare, Nekrošius revived the rock opera Love and Death in Verona in 1996. Although it had nothing in common with the future trilogy, Nekrošius nevertheless took advantage of the experience he gained from working on the production with professionals from outside the world of dramatic theatre (professional artists Povilas Meškėla, Česlovas Gabalius, Brigita Bublytė and Aušra Pruscilaitytė). He bravely entrusted Hamlet to rock musician Andrius Mamontovas and Desdemona to ballet dancer Eglė Špokaitė (this experience first began with Uncle Vanya, in which the role of Waffles was played by the Youth Theatre's literary art director Juozas Pocius).
With Nekrošius' Shakespearean plays, Lithuanian theatre at the close of the 20th century expressed its longing to explore the theme of the great mysteries of existence and gave meaning to the tragic sense of living through a transformation in history. Nekrošius' narratives — exceptionally rich with strong metaphorical imagery and replete with the authenticity of extraordinary acting — about weak, fallible and vulnerable men condemned to live in a terribly dangerous world appeared mysteriously metaphysical and yet recognizable and easily accessible. His sensitive, almost "skinless" Hamlet (Andrius Mamontovas) performed in a square above which hung a shiny disc saw with sharp teeth; a scared, barely breathing Macbeth (Kostas Smoriginas) prayed for judgment while rocks rained down on him; an introverted Othello (Vladas Bagdonas) was a constant threat and danger to himself.
These powerful and immediately acclaimed stories by Nekrošius at the juncture of the 20th and 21st centuries noticeably increased the curiosity of Lithuanian theatre in tragedy and presented new queries into the understanding of polemical tragedy. These explorations were most clearly represented in a diptych by Rimas Tuminas (later christened Nekrošius' constant "persecutor") at the National Drama Theatre: Sophocles' Oedipus the King (in 1998), followed immediately by Shakespeare's Richard III in 1999. Both plays testified to attempts at "overcoming tragedy through playing". Ramunė Balevičiūtė, Rimas Tuminas: teatras, tikresnis už gyvenimą, Vilnius: Metodika, 2012, p. 113. 
Richard III was the choice of director Jonas Jurašas. Tuminas, as head of the Academic Drama Theatre from 1994 to 1999 (the theatre was renamed the National Drama Theatre in 1998) simply had to continue (and in continuing, to introduce considerable changes and revisions to) the work of his senior colleague that had been halted due to certain circumstances.
Tuminas' understanding of theatre as a game, first and foremost, was revealed by Bertold Brecht's Galileo (set design by Vytautas Narbutas, composition by Faustas Latėnas) at the Small Theatre, performed on the heels of The Cherry Orchard in 1992. The play spun together a playful and seemingly incoherent tangle of various historical eras, different theatrical styles and theatrical fiction, as well as different junctures of non-theatre and reality.
In truth, however, in the production that followed at the Small Theatre — the 1994 staging of the play Nusišypsok mums, Viešpatie (Smile Upon Us, Lord), based on two novels by Grigorijus Kanovičius (Nusišypsok mums, Viešpatie and Ožiukas už porą skatikų (A Twopenny Goat)), with set design by A. Jacovksis, costumes by Aleksandra Jacovskytė and composition by Faustas Latėnas — Tuminas appeared much more complex, sensitive and serious. The play tells the story of the journey to Vilnius by three Lithuanian Jews in the early 20th century – the stonemason Efraimas ben Jokūbas Dudakas (Sigitas Račkys), the burnt out shopkeeper Avneris Rozentalis (Gediminas Girdvainis) and the water bearer Šmulė Senderis (Vytautas Grigolis) – and was a nostalgic portrait of the world of the Litvak community "permeated with an irretrievably lost past", and resounded as a striking "Requiem for Yiddishland". Valdas Vasiliauskas, „Sveikas ir sudie, Jidišlande!“, Veidas, 1995-01-06, p. 17.
Tuminas continued the theme of historical memory with his 1996 production at the Academic Drama Theatre of Saulius Šaltenis' Lituanica (set design by V. Narbutas and Andrius Žibikas, costumes by Virginija Idzelytė, composition by Faustas Latėnas), which spoke softly – with understanding and empathy, but also with a warm irony – about the efforts to survive the Nazi occupation by the people of a small provincial Lithuanian town. Unlike Nusišypsok mums, Viešpatie, however, Lituanica was not very popular (perhaps due to an unexpected and still rather unfamiliar ironic portrayal of Lithuanians) and performances of it were soon discontinued. 
Due to a sense of time's instability and transience, a certain melancholy crept into Tuminas' theatrical productions in the mid-1990s that somewhat stifled his playful temperament. But only somewhat, and only for a short while. He emerged again, and more powerfully, in 1997, adding to the repertoire of the Small Theatre with Mikhail Lermontov's Masquerade (set design by A. Jacovskis, costumes by V. Idzelytė, composition F. Latėnas), which featured an elegant falling of snow, mock fish leaping from holes in the ice of the frozen Neva river canals, while actors rolled snowballs and skated to St. Petersburg's high society balls on ice skates, as the melodramatic love story between Arbenin (Arvydas Dapšys) and Nina (Adrija Čepaitė) was subdued by a wild "flow of farce, comical tricks and amusement". Rasa Vasinauskaitė, „Maskarado ilgesys“, 7 meno dienos, 1997-03-07, p. 7. Masquerade seemed to liberate Lithuanian theatre's urge to play, joke and openly enjoy the pleasures of creativity. In this respect, he seemed to start what the younger generation of the 1990s was gradually beginning to embrace.


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Sources and links

„Galvosūkis režisieriui“. Anelės Dvilinskaitės pokalbis su Jonu Vaitkumi
Kultūros barai, 1994, Nr. 8–9
Ramunė Balevičiūtė
Rimas Tuminas: teatras, tikresnis už gyvenimą
Vilnius: Metodika, 2012
Egmontas Jansonas
„Evangelija pagal Joną Vaitkų. „Migelis Manjara“ – tarsi gaivaus oro gūsis gerokai supelkėjusioje lietuvių teatro patalpoje“
Diena, 1996 10 21
Ramunė Marcinkevičiūtė
Eimuntas Nekrošius: erdvė už žodžių
Vilnius: Scena, Kultūros barai, 2002
Rolandas Rastauskas
„Senė 2“ ir „Trys seserys“ – du perlai karūnai“
Lietuvos rytas, 1995 05 17
Daiva Šabasevičienė
Teatro piligrimas. Režisieriaus Jono Vaitkaus kūrybos kontūrai
Vilnius: Krantai, 2007
Valdas Vasiliauskas
„Sveikas ir sudie, Jidišlande!“
Veidas, 1995 01 06
Valdas Vasiliauskas
„Vyšnių sodo“ orkestras (Apgulto miesto teatre)“
Lietuvos aidas, 1991 04 09
Rasa Vasinauskaitė
Laikinumo teatras: lietuvių režisūros pokyčiai 1990–2001 metais
Vilnius: Lietuvos kultūros tyrimų institutas, 2010
Rasa Vasinauskaitė
„Maskarado ilgesys“
7 meno dienos, 1997 03 07
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