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Odessa Puppet Theatre

08 Nov, 2020
Odessa Puppet Theatre

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"The house of fairy tales that come to life". It usually becomes the first touch to theatrical art "live" for little Odessa citizens: viewers are allowed to attend children's performances from 2-year-old. So the puppeteers have a serious responsibility: to teach them to perceive and understand in the future "adult theater".

Odessa Regional Puppet Theatre, one of the oldest puppet theaters in Ukraine, was founded in 1934. The theater began its work at the Odessa Theater of the Young Viewer. It was headed by the student of SergeY Obraztsov and the Honoured Art Worker of Ukraine Jozef Gimmelfarb. He worked as the main director of this theater for 40 years.

Jozef Gimmelfarb was born on June 26, 1913 in Odessa. In 1928 he graduated from the Odessa school #48 and studied at the Odessa Industrial Institute, where he took an active part in the student theater of working youth. In 1932, he entered the Odessa Theatre for Young Spectators as an actor and his first teacher was the chief director. At the beginning of 1932, 19-year-old Józef Gimmelfarb, together with the artist Galina Pavlovich, proposed to create a group of puppeteers at the theater, which by the end of the year showed their works. It was one of the first professional puppeteer troupes in the country. November 1934 was the official date of the opening of the Odessa Puppet Theatre.

In 1937, Gimmelfarb studied at the higher directing courses in Moscow under the direction of Sergey Obraztsov, and after he headed the Odessa Puppet Theatre. Mobile artists actively served school camps, playgrounds, and sanatoriums.

Józef Gimmelfarb

Until the summer of 1941, the theater carried out 10 performances: “By the Pike”, “Aladdin’s Magic Lamp”, “The Tale of the Golden Fish” and others. In 1941-43. during the evacuation, it worked in Sverdlovsk (Yekaterinburg) at a military plant, temporarily headed the Dnepropetrovsk Puppet Theatre, which was located in Central Asia. In 1944, after the liberation of Odessa, Gimmelfarb revived the theater in Odessa and served there until his retirement in 1978.

Under the guidance of Józef Gimmelfarb, the Odessa Puppet Theatre has achieved significant success as a professional theater troupe. For more than 40 years of creative activity, he has staged over 100 performances, wrote about 20 original plays, which today are included in the repertoire of many theaters not only in Ukraine but also all around the world.

His son, Evgeniy Gimmelfarb, Honoured Art Worker of Ukraine, in 2002 headed the Odessa Puppet Theatre, continuing his father's work related to the noble mission of the puppet theater to instill in the souls of young viewers a love for this type of art, which then sweeps through life.

Since 1944, the theater becomes a permanent theatre and received its building. But the main activity of the theater remained cultural education, attracting to the theater art the children’s audience of cities and villages of the Odessa region. Numerous touring performances for the most distant areas of the former Soviet Union have become an integral part of the theater life of the troupe.

During the Master class

1970-90s – Odessa Puppet Theatre enters the all-Union and international stages. Twice, in 1988 and 1990, it received a large bronze medal of the International Festival “Golden Dolphin” (Varna, Bulgaria). He has become the laureate and winner of festivals in the Netherlands, Japan, Romania, Finland. From 1995 to 2002 – participant and laureate of international festivals in Moldova. The work of the theater and the troupe was awarded by the Eduard Bagritsky Prize, by numerous awards, and most importantly, by the love of many generations of children.

Puppets are eternal. The puppet theater has a folklore and ritual beginning. What is a puppet? This name comes from the diminutive name of the Virgin Mary. During some rituals in the temples, the gates were opened, a doll depicting Mary appeared, and a clergyman sat behind, he pressed a button, and tears flowed from the doll.

Evgeniy Gimmelfarb
Evgeniy Gimmelfarb . Photo: Migdal

For more than 40 years, the theater was located in a building on Pastera Street, 60. However, in 1988, the building was given to the religious community, and the Puppet Theatre was temporarily relocated to Pastera, 15. That place was completely not suitable for hosting viewers or staging performances. For almost 25 years, the Puppet Theatre worked in a room where there was no wardrobe, make-up rooms, rooms for workshops and administration, and there was no foyer. It was cold in the theater, the roof was leaking, and concrete was falling everywhere. Despite the difficulties, the theater workers, the management and the troupe did everything in their power to maintain and even develop a unique form of theatrical art.

In 2009, with the efforts of the theater director I.M. Merkovich, the reconstruction began, with a complete internal restoration. During the reconstruction period, the theater performed for thousands of children on tours. Every Saturday and Sunday new performances were shown on a temporary stationary stage in the building of the Ukrainian Music and Drama Theater.

In autumn 2012, the new theater building was completed. And on December 21, 2012, the theater celebrated its 80th anniversary on a new stage, in a beautiful building that fascinates children and adults.

The chairs in the theater auditorium are arranged so that even the smallest viewer feels comfortable. These are specially designed transforming chairs for children of different ages and for adults. In the auditorium of the theater there are only 147 seats for the viewers and there are no uncomfortable seats, because the stage is perfectly visible from any place.


Odessa Puppet Theatre every second Wednesday of the month at 17.00 shows charity performances for children with special needs.


Tickets for all performances are on sale at:

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