Sharing of themes: Stelmakh - Gripich - Dovzhenko

Modern Ukrainian directors, probably like directors throughout the whole world, work more efficiently when they collaborate with playwrights whose vision and treatment of themes they share. The director Volodimir Gripich, People’s Artist of the UkrSSR, found such an associate in the person of the famous author and Lenin Prize Laureate Mikhailo Stelmakh.

Stelmakh’s exaltedly romantic and poetic perception of the world wonderfully accords with Gripich’s principles. Gripich has been director of music and drama theatres in Donetsk and Chernovtsy. Currently he works at the Mikola Shchors Music and Drama Theatre in Zaporozhye, where he staged Stelmakh’s The Enchanted Windmill and Ballad About You.

Although the former play treats universal problems, it is full of national colouring and resounds with wonderful Ukrainian folk songs. The windmill turns into a symbol of the Soviet people’s invincibility, especially in the scene when SS troops surround the windmill, in which a group of Soviet people has sought refuge from the bloody carnage. The Nazis shoot wildly into the windmill, but it stands unyielding and its large vanes continue to revolve serenely in the air. Ballad About You reiterates the message of the Soviet people’s high moral qualities and also abounds in ethnographic details. Its principal role is compellingly performed by the able young actor Vasil Kropivnitsky.

In his attempts to present the working people’s struggle for a better life in a grand way, Gripich turned to Olexandr Dovzhenko’s famous screenplay Shchors, of which he made a stage adaption, Eternity, at the Zaporozhye Theatre. Its principal character is Mikola Shchors, the legendary Civil War commander after whom the theatre has been named. Eternity has many bold innovations and breathes lofty heroics and revolutionary romantics.

Shchors, as played by Victor Semenenko, and the wise and open-hearted Vasil Bozhenko (convincingly portrayed by Volodimir Mukhin) embody the best qualities of their people. Throbbing with dynamism, temperament and the fiery melodies of the Civil War, Eternity won every praise and plaudit in the press and was awarded first prize at the Ukrainian Festival of Drama and Histrionic Art of the Peoples of the USSR, devoted to the 60th anniversary of the October Revolution.

Yuri Stanishevsky


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