Berezil’ Theater (БЕРЕЗІЛЬ) By Fowler, Mayhill C.
The Berezil’ Theater was an innovative theater company founded by director and actor Oleksandr “Les” Kurbas in 1922. Active for just over a decade, the Berezil’ shaped the theatrical landscape of Soviet Ukraine and theater in Ukrainian. Kurbas organized the Mystets’ke obiednannia Berezil’ [Artistic Organization Berezil’] in 1922 in Kiev based on two previous companies. Patronized by the Red Army, as well as by local Party and state institutions, the Berezil’ expanded to include not only a theater company, but also several affiliated studios, a museum, a directors’ laboratory, a studio school, and a theater journal. The state acknowledged this success and moved the company to Kharkiv, the capital of Soviet Ukraine, in 1926. The theater produced a wide variety of works, from expressionist propaganda pieces like Georg Kaiser’s Haz [Gas] (1922), to Ukrainian translations of world classics such as Shakespeare’s Macbeth (1924), to new Soviet classics, like Mykola Kulish’s Narodnyi Malakhii [The People’s Malakhii] (1927). The Berezil’ became known for its close collaboration with Soviet Ukrainian playwright Mykola Kulish, and it was after Kulish’s last play, Maklena Grasa (1933), that the Commissariat of Enlightenment sent Kurbas into exile and changed the theater’s name to the Teatr imeni T. H. Shevchenka [The Taras Shevchenko Theater].