Lithuanian puppet company. Vilnius Puppet Theatre was the predecessor of today’s Vilniaus Teatras “Lėlė” (Vilnius Theatre “Lėlė”). The puppeteer, actor, and director Balys Lukošius established the original company in 1958. It is currently one of the three professional puppet theatres in Lithuania and has a very rich history.

In 1977, the Vilnius Puppet Theatre moved with its new name, “Lėlė” (a word meaning “doll” or “puppet”), into the restored, former house of Duke Oginsky, located on Arkliu Street in the Old Town section of Vilnius. The Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania is the founder and the sponsor of the new theatre. The company has two performance spaces. The Great Hall, decorated in the Baroque style, seats around 240 spectators, whilst the Small Hall of Lėlė (set up in the Gothic basement of the Oginsky House) seats around 50 people. Puppet plays of different genres and small-scale theatre pieces, usually intended for the youngest viewers, are performed in this intimate space. The company performs, on average, 300 performances a year watched by approximately 35,000 spectators.

Following Balys Lukošius and A. Ragauskaitė, the well-known Lithuanian puppeteer and stage designer Vitalijus Mazuras became the company’s Artistic Director. The plays he staged resulted in the aesthetic revolution of the 1970s-1980s East European puppet theatre art.

Currently, twenty professional actor-puppeteers are employed at the Vilnius Theatre “Lėlė”. They are all acting graduates of higher education institutions in Vilnius. The theatre also has a team of puppet builders and designers who make all types of puppets and masks. Juozuas Marcinkevičius is the current company director and Pranciškus Švambaris is the general director.

The company stages worldwide fairy tales, such as Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, Cinderella, Pinocchio, and The Ugly Duckling, The Nutcracker, Thumbelina, Alice in Wonderland, as well as stories from popular Lithuanian children’s books. Puppet plays intended for adults are also performed. These plays have been created by famous Lithuanian poets such as Sigitas Geda and Marcelijus Martinaitis, with music composed by noted modern Lithuanian composers Feliksas Bajoras, Algirdas Martinaitis, Faustas Latenas and Vidmantas Bartulis.

The company has toured in Lithuania as well as a number of countries in Eastern and Western Europe, Asia, Africa, and also the United States.

(See Lithuania.)