Arguably the most important Lithuanian theatre and opera director of the second half of the 20th century, a laureate of the National Prize for Culture and Art, Eimuntas Nekrošius (1952-2018) was the first Lithuanian director to achieve international acclaim. His theatre-studio Meno fortas (Fortress of Art), established in 1998, shows several dozen productions in different countries every year and has visited all the continents. The director won numerous national and international awards for his directorial work.
Nekrošius obtained a degree in directing from the Russian Institute of Theatre Arts (GITIS) in Moscow in 1978. His 1980s productions, such as The Square (Kvadratas, 1980), Pirosmani, Pirosmani … (1981) and Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya (1986), became legendary and brought the director fame. “This Nekrošius must be a genius”, Arthur Miller is known to have said after seeing several of the director’s works in 1986. This was the period when Nekrošius burst on to the international scene. Metaphorical images conveying universal ideas of human existence, and the particular yet at the same time archetypal language of theatre, are characteristic of Nekrošius’ auteur’s theatre. The most important of his works are based on Chekhov and Shakespeare – Nekrošius was able to transform literary works into unique theatre experiences. His Shakespeare trilogy of Hamlet (1997), Macbeth (1999) and Othello (2000) gained him great international acclaim.
Nekrošius was awarded the Cross of Commander of the Order of Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas, and the Grand Cross of Commander of the Order for Merit to Lithuania. He also received the prestigious Europe Theatre Prize for New Theatrical Realities (1994), and the International Stanislavsky Fund Award for valuable contribution to the development of world theatre (2001), four Golden Mask (Auksinė kaukė) awards (1997, 1999, 2003, 2004), five Kristoforas awards (1992, 1994, 1998, 2001, 2003) and the Golden Cross of the Stage award (2010).
The repertoires of Lithuanian theatres continue to show some of Nekrošius’ last performances: Boris Godunov (2015) based on Alexander Pushkin at the Lithuanian National Drama Theatre, Cink (Zn) (2017) based on Svetlana Alexievich’s books at the State Small Theatre of Vilnius, Sons of a Bitch (Kalės vaikai, 2018) based on a play by Saulius Šaltenis at the Klaipėda Drama Theatre, Inferno – Paradiso (2018) based on a poem by Dante Alighieri, The Book of Job (2014) and The Hunger Master (2015) based on a short story by Franz Kafka as part of the repertoire of Meno fortas.
Nekrošius’ last performance at Meno fortas was The Hunger Master (2015). It is the result of the director and actors’ improvisations on the theme of Kafka’s short story. The director does not let any meaningful thought, sentence or word escape, and suggestively immerses actors in the very heart of the story with openly theatrical means, allowing the audience not only to understand but feel with their whole heart what the creator experiences at moments of glory, how he fights for his ideas. Self-irony and subtle humour are plentiful in this play.