Hirniak, Yosyp

Image - Yosyp Hirniak (1930). Image - Scene from the Berezil theatres production (1923) of Upton Sinclair, Jimmy Higgins. Image - Yosyp Hirniak in Les Kurbas film Vendetta. Image - Yosyp Hirniak and Valentyna Chystiakova in Les Kurbas' production of M. Kulish's Peoples Malakhii in Berezil (1928).

Hirniak, Yosyp [Hirnjak, Josyp], b 14 April 1895 in Strusiv, Terebovlia county, Galicia, d 17 January 1989 in New York. A leading Ukrainian stage actor and director; brother of Nykyfor Hirniak. He began his career in 1914 in an amateur troupe of the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen and then worked in the professional companies of the Ukrainska Besida Theater in Lviv (1916–18), the New Lviv Theater (1919–20), the Kyiv Ukrainian Drama Theater and its studio (1920–2), and the Berezil theater in Kyiv and Kharkiv (1922–33). A close associate of the influential director Les Kurbas, Hirniak was arrested during the Stalin terror in 1933 and exiled to Chibiu in the Soviet Arctic, where he performed in the Kosolapkin Theater (1934–40). In 1942–4 he acted in and directed plays, including the first Ukrainian production of William Shakespeare's Hamlet, at the Lviv Opera Theater. As displaced persons after the Second World War, Hirniak and his wife Olimpiia Dobrovolska founded a Ukrainian theater studio in Landeck, Austria, in 1946 (see Theater-Studio of Y. Hirniak and O. Dobrovolska), toured Austria and Bavaria, and continued to produce, direct, and act in many Ukrainian and West European plays after immigrating to the United States in 1949. From 1954 to 1964 he was the artistic director of the Ukrainian Theater in America, which he helped found. As an actor, Hirniak became famous for his roles in Berezil's productions of Mykola Kulish's Myna Mazailo, Narodnii Malakhii (The People's Malakhii), Komuna v stepakh (Commune in the Steppes), Maklena Grasa, and 97. As an actor and director he developed Kurbas's system of ‘transformation’ and attempted to combine the traditions of the Ukrainian intermede with the art of the modern theater. He is the author of articles on the history of Ukrainian theater, including ‘Birth and Death of the Modern Ukrainian Theater’ in Soviet Theaters 1917–1941: A Collection of Articles (ed M. Bradshaw, 1954), and memoirs (1982).

Khmuryi, Vasyl'; Dyvnych, Iurii; Blakytnyi, Ievhen. V maskakh epokhy: Iosyp Hirniak (np [Germany]1948)
Boichuk, Bohdan (ed). Teatr-studiia Iosypa Hirniaka Olimpiï Dobrovol’s’koï (New York 1975)
Hirniak, Iosyp. Spomyny (New York 1982)
Revuts’kyi, Valerian. Neskoreni berezil’tsi (New York 1985)

Valerian Revutsky

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 2 (1989).]

Image - Yosyp Hirniak as Myna Mazailo in Les Kurbas' production of Mykola Kulish's Myna Mazailo in Berezil (1929). Image - Yosyp Hirniak in the Berezil performance M. Kulishs Maklena Grasa (1933). Image - Yosyp Hirniak in the Berezil performance M. Kulishs Maklena Grasa (1933). Image - Yosyp Hirniak Spomyny (1982).

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