Ukrainian actors return to stage in bomb shelter

STORY: After six months of war, a triumphant return to the stage for these Ukrainian actors.

Their theater, a former bomb shelter, is located in the heavily bombarded city of Mykolaiv.

A few dozen theater-goers descended steep concrete steps into the subterranean venue on Thursday for the opening night of a show by the Mykolaiv Art Drama Theatre.

But not all the troupe members were there, explained actress Violeta Mamykina.

“Of course, many plays have been cancelled, because some male actors went away to fight, some went abroad as temporary refugees. So, our theatre company has become twice smaller.”

The group’s usual venue was an ornate 450-seat hall. It shut down after Mykolaiv was repeatedly targeted by Russian forces. But the size of venue, and the theater group, are not all that’s changed.

“Our theater switched to the Ukrainian language immediately after Russia’s full-scale invasion on February 24th. This process was supposed to happen more slowly. Part of our repertoire had already been in Ukrainian, but some of the plays were still in Russian. We were translating everything gradually. But after February 24th, we all became Ukrainian speakers.”

Theater manager Artem Svystun described the performance as “art therapy,” and emphasized how important the tiny theater is for the many locals who stayed in the city.

At least one audience member agreed.

(Ievhen Studzinskyi, Spectator): "When I went outside, I said it plain and simple, 'It was fun'. There were tears. There was food for thought. There was a philosophy, depth. I felt really good."