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ACTRESS ANTRA LIEDSKALNIŅA (1930-2000)

Antra Liedskalniņa’s debut at the LSSR State Drama Theater was in 1955 in the role of Irena in Lutovsky’s play "A Family Matter", which was a turning point in the theater’s realistically psychological tradition.  Subsequently, Liedskalniņa became one of director Alfrēds Jaunušans’s closest collaborators in his drive to include more abstract forms in the theater’s productions.

Already during the first seasons, Liedskalniņa amazed the audiences and critics alike with the multifaceted personas of her characters and with her ability of transforming herself so absolutely, yet with hardly any external accessories. She could vibrate with barely perceptible yet deep feeling ("Āksts" by Mārtiņš Zīverts, 1957, "Balto torņu ēna" by Pēteris Pētersons, 1959 ); but could equally well become a coquette and temptress ("Kaijas lidojums" by Andrejs Upīts, 1957) or an eccentric and boisterous woman ("Rīga" by Augusts Deglavs, 1958).

An important watershed for Liedskalniņa was the role of Valya in Arkady Arbuzov’s "Story of Irkutsk" (produced under the title "Esi sveicināta, mīlestība!"). Critics noted that Liedskalniņa was a "new wave" actress who reveals the inner processes of her character as opposed to just showing the result. She was definitely an artist of her age, a minimalist in terms of the external form but with powerful intuition regarding the experiments of the modern theater. In this she reached the summit with the tragic Blanche in "Streetcar Named Desire" (1969). She created the role in a nuanced dialogue with the director Alfrēds Jaunušans and in purposeful, deeply motivated partnerships with Gunārs Cilinskis’s or Juris Pļaviņš’s Stanley Kowalski as well as with other characters and her own demons. In this role the actress set herself high goals and put all her mental and physical faculties to achieve them.

If the fine strings of Blanche’s soul vibrate quietly in other female roles , the "seeker of justice", the loud and rambunctious kolkhoz worker Ļeļa in Pauls Putniņš’s "Paši pūta, paši dega" (1972) is a nasty creature, yet Liedskalniņa’s energy and playfulness mesmerized the audience and was a pleasure to watch. Blanche and Ļeļa ar two poles within the borders of Liedskalniņas expansive talent.

There have been periods when Liedskalniņa felt remote from the theater and unneeded. Yet she always returned to the stage radiant in her femininity and outstanding talent. Her last role was her spiritual twin, the Italian actress Anna Magnani, who is observing and commenting on her own funeral.

Lilija Dzene

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