Poltava Free Theater

Poltava Free Theater (Полтавський вільний театр; Poltavskyi vilnyi teatr). A theater organized in Poltava in 1817 with a partial cast of the Kharkiv Russian professional troupe of J. Stein and Y. Kalinovsky. Its artistic director was Ivan Kotliarevsky. P. Barsov was stage director, and among the actors were Mikhail Shchepkin, Kateryna Nalotova, and I. Ugarov. There being little Ukrainian theatrical repertoire at the time, the theater performed Russian works with only scant Ukrainian reference, such as S. Davidov's Dneprovskaia rusalka (The Dnieper Nymph) and the opera-vaudevilles Udacha ot neudachi (Fortune from Misfortune) by P. Semenov and Kazak-stikhotvorets (The Cossack Poet) by Aleksandr Shakhovskoi. Exasperated by the distorted Ukrainian language used by Shakhovskoi, I. Kotliarevsky wrote the plays Natalka Poltavka (Natalka from Poltava) and Moskal’-charivnyk (The Muscovite-Sorcerer) in 1819 and so founded modern Ukrainian drama. The Poltava Free Theater was active until 1821.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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