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The UNIVERSUM theatre project

Story and photo: Oleksandr Maksymov

Illustration: #VeronikaKotyk


130 years ago, the Polish writer Bruno Schulz was born in Drohobych (Lviv Oblast). The people of Drohobych still stage theatrical performances and present art projects based on his works. 2022 was declared the year of Schulz in Poland, and the Alter Theater in Drohobych prepared a performance for the anniversary. Preparations had been going on for several months when Russia launched a full-scale war against Ukraine on February 24. The whole team had to learn to survive in new realities, so the project was temporarily forgotten.

At the same time, residents of the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine were forced to flee their hometowns and seek refuge in the west of the country. Many temporary displaced persons came to Drohobych, including actors from the theatres of Mariupol, Kyiv, Severodonetsk, and Kharkiv. When the artist Oleksandr Maksymov found out about it, he decided to act. The idea was simple: people isolated themselves and had no connections in new cities, so it was necessary to unite and make life easier for displaced persons. Oleksandr wrote a post on his social media profile with an offer to meet and do something together.

At first, there were thoughts of preparing a documentary performance where each actor would tell their evacuation story. However, the team agreed after discussions that this would only serve as an additional trigger. For example, Mariupol and Severodonetsk are currently occupied by Russian troops, and the cities are almost completely destroyed as a result of hostilities. The actors lost their homes there and have nowhere to return. The performance in Drohobych was supposed to support and distract them, not send them back to a traumatic situation.

Then Oleksandr remembered the year of Bruno Schulz. The writer’s subjects often refer to World War II, while forced displaced persons know about the war from their own experience. The young actor Ivan Sharan from Kyiv completely undertook the preparation of the play, the script, scenography, and adaptation. Thus, the UNIVERSUM project became acutely relevant, gained new senses, and became Ivan's directorial debut.


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