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The theater in Poltava has deep roots. The first mention of a theater in the city on Vorskla dates back to 1810 year. In 1812, the cast moved to Kharkov, and in 1817 the troupe divided into two parts, one of which moved back to Poltava. The first professional theater in Poltava was established in 1818. It was called Poltava Free Theater, and this is Ivan Kotlyarevsky, founder of the modern Ukrainian literature, who was its first director. The cast consisted of 15 actors, among whom there was a talented Russian serf actor Mikhail S. Shchepkin, Taras Shevchenko’s good pal portrayed by the latter. Performances after the plays “Natalka Poltavka” and “Magician Moskal” specially written by Ivan Kotlyarevsky for the theater and starring Mikhail Schepkin as Vyborny and as Mykhaylo Chuprun respectively have introduced the history of the Ukrainian professional theater.
On May 1, 1936, the State Musical Drama Theater showed its first performance. So was then called Ukrainian Drama Theater founded in Poltava on the basis of Kharkiv Komsomol Musical Theater. The founder of the theater was V. M. Sklyarenko, People’s Artist of Ukrainian S.S.R, being the theatre director thereafter. Operas were staged there, too. In 1937, due to the formation of the Poltava region it has acquired regional status. This main cultural institution in the city was sited in Nikolai Gogol Educational House on Gogol Street, 22.
During the WWII and Nazi occupation of Poltava, the building was destroyed.
In 1953 Poltava city authorities decided to build a new house for Regional Musical Drama Theater designed by architects A. Krylova and O. Malyshenko for 800 seats. To mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of N. V. Gogol on November 7, 1958, Gogol Music and Drama Theatre opened its doors in the current building on Zhovtneva Street, 23 at the Theatre Square.
In 1950s and 1960s, the Poltava Theater survived epoch of high creative rise and prosperity. Two the following decades made the theater famous as one of the best in Ukraine. It was at the Gogol Theatre where Ivan S. Kozlovsky, USSR People’s Artist, started his glorious life of the artist.