Jonas Jurašas is a Lithuanian artist and theatre director. He was born in 1934 in Panevėžys. After the deaths of both his parents in 1941, he was sent to Marijampolė, and left secondary school in 1954. He started to study at the Lithuanian Agriculture Academy the same year, but in 1956 he transferred to GITIS (the Russian Institute of Theatre Arts) in Moscow. After graduating from GITIS in 1963, he started his creative work. The first theatre productions he directed were Paskyrimas (Assignment) by Aleksander Volodin (in 1963, at the Russian Theatre in Vilnius), Varšuvos melodija (A Warsaw Melody) by Leonid Zorin (1967), and Tango by Slavomir Mrožek (1967, both at the Lithuanian National Drama Theatre). In 1968, he moved to Kaunas, becoming the leading director at the Kaunas State Drama Theatre. During his career up to 1972 in Soviet Lithuania, he directed 13 theatre productions. According to Jurašas, while many of these productions were very well received and welcomed in the auditorium, they were all received very critically by cultural administrators because of ideological issues. The last production he directed at the Kaunas State Drama Theatre (1972) in Soviet times was Barbora Radvilaitė by Juozas Grušas. After sharp discussions following an official preview of the performance, Jurašas wrote and sent several copies of an open letter to governmental and media organisations. This became the reason to dismiss him from his position as a theatre director. Jurašas and his family were some of the first people in Soviet Lithuania to request permission to emigrate to the West, and received it from the Soviet government.
In 1972, he was dismissed from his position as director of the Kaunas State Drama Theatre. Jurašas did not agree to accept creative work under the proposed conditions of ‘Soviet theatre director’. He expressed his own view of what kind of work conditions and rights creative workers, and specifically theatre directors, should have. His terms were rejected by Soviet cultural administrators. Jurašas became unemployed, and had to endure poor living conditions. He and his family were some of the first people in Soviet Lithuania to request permission to emigrate to the West, and received it from the Soviet government. According to Jurašas, by allowing him to go to the West, the Soviet government tried to show Lithuanian society that only the Soviet system was capable of providing good conditions for creative work. The second motive was the regime’s fear of making him and his family a convenient rallying point for opposition. After Jurašas lost his position, members of the cultural opposition, and even anti-Soviet dissidents, started to see him as an important person in the anti-Soviet movement. It is important to note that the international conditions of detente also played an important role in the regime’s decision to allow him to leave the Soviet Union.
Vilnius Gedimino prospektas 11, Lithuania 01103
- Panevėžys, Lithuania