The renewal of Hutsul Theater

hutsul theater

The famous Hutsul theater founded by Hnat Khotkevych

The autochton material and spiritual culture of the hutsuls always attracted poets, literature-scholars, ethnographers and artists. It also interested Hnat Khotkevych who spent every summer since 1906 among the hutsuls studying their life, mentality, language, customs and rituals. He once asked himself, if he should present the Hutsuls to a wider public. This plan was a success. In August 1919, an amateur theater organized by him in Krasnoyillya presented as a premiere “Verkhovynka”. The play was authored by Jozef Kozhenovsky and translated into the hutsul dialect by Hnat Khotkevych.

This theater carried the news about the hutsuls into the world. But World War I blocked a further development. After twenty years, the adult children of the amateur actors renewed the theater but its fate was of short duration due to World War II. In 1988 now in the independent Ukrainian state we register the third renewal of the Hutsul Theater.

It was the 110th anniversary of the birth of Hnat Khotkevych and the opening of a museum of Hutsul theater that inspired the grandchildren of the actors to renew the tradition for a third time.

With the help of still alive actors – Kateryna Mykyteychuk, Dmytro Didushko, who found the original scripts of Hnat Khotkevych in his home, and Bohdan Huleyuk, who copied per hand original scripts in state archives in Lviv – the performance of “Hutsul Year” from the hand of Hnat Khotkevych took place in April 1988 in the House of Culture in Krasnoyillya. Only Bohdan Huleyuk (born 1906) and Petro Kharinchuk (born 1905) were alive from those that had witnessed the full theater program beginning with Hnat Khotkevych including guest appearances of Les Kurbas, Oleksa Ramez and Vasyl and Pasena Kostynyuk. In the third revival, participated Maria and Ivan Didushko, who directed the play and Volodymyr Sinitovych performed as representative of the later generations of actors.

The revived play was shown in other villages in the region of Verkhovyna. An important presentation was held 8th September 1988 in Kryvorivnya before employees of the museums of literature in Ukraine, which here held a republican seminar. Some months later, 31th October 1988 on cost of the culture funds of the Lion Society in Lviv the hutsul theater performed on the “Big Stage” of the theater in honor of M.Zankovetska. A segment of the “Hutsul Year” was performed and it was dedicated to Hnat Khotkevych on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of his tragic death. Here also performed kobzar-singers from all Ukraine. After a speech by Petro Arsenych the Hutsul theater performed a part of the performance “Holy Night” and Christmas carols. The audience applauded furiously and the actors repeatedly had to come on stage. Then the orchestra played a traditional Hutsul dance-melody and the in Lviv living Hutsul professional national dancer, Yaroslav Chuperchuk, performed a Hutsul dance with Vasylyna Ilyuk from the theater group. Writer Mykhaylo Kosiv, a known dissident from Soviet years, made final remarks as to the Soviet repression of Ukrainian culture, quoted a French personality that if France suffered the annihilation of 500 writers like Ukraine under Stalin repressions, the French state would not exist.

The next day, 1st November, the Hutsul theater performed the full program “Hutsul Year” in the theater of the young guest in honor of M.Gorky in Lviv. The performance was sold out and well applauded.

The third revival of the Hutsul Theater in honor of Hnat Khotkevych is soon to celebrate its first decennium of regular performances and the Hutsul traditions can be successfully continued.

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