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We recall his main theatrical projects.

Ilya Epelbaum has always been interested in the puppet theater. Immediately after school, he entered the Moscow State Art and Industry Academy named after S.G. Stroganov at the Faculty of Industrial Design. As his diploma theme (in 1984) he chose “Mobile enclosure of a mobile puppet theater”. At the same time, the first thoughts about his own theater appeared, which he would embody only in a few years. He wanted to study the entire internal kitchen thoroughly.

He designed decorations for various concerts, decorated the Kremlin Christmas trees, as well as the XII World Festival of Youth and Students, which was held in Moscow in 1985. Acquaintance with his future wife Maya Krasnopolskaya, an actress, a graduate of the Moscow Gnessin School of Music, determined not only his happy family life, but also one of the main activities in life. Maya, like him, was interested in the puppet theater.


In 1988 they founded the first private theater in Russia. His first performance – “The Magic Pipe” – was shady, so the theater was called “Shadow”. At first, it was located in two rooms of a former communal apartment. The walls of Ilya and Maya were sheathed with black plywood with their own hands.

Over time, puppet shows also appeared – Epelbaum’s long-standing hobby made itself felt. The creative married couple immediately took a course towards experiment, unusualness: they came up with the Lilican Royal People’s Academic Theater of Drama, Opera and Ballet, whose artists – dolls only about five centimeters tall – performed short performances, which were a short retelling of world famous works. The main condition is that viewers who have not read the original can easily understand the plot.

The couple came up with a miniature house-theater, the design of which was given great attention: Ilya and Maya decided that outwardly it should not be inferior to a real theater. The building, which could fit on the most ordinary table, was decorated with real stucco molding, a chandelier was hung inside, and places were made for spectators-lilikans. The real spectators would sit around the building and peep at the performance through the windows, like giants. Thus, the show was designed for only five to six people. The theatergoers were surprised – nothing like this had ever happened in Moscow.

Once Epelbaum and Krasnopolskaya joked: they rented a basement near the Vernissage theater and hung signs “Lilikan consulate” and “Lilikan puppet theater”. Unusual names baffled many passers-by, who began to wonder what kind of country it was.

The talent to surprise

Ilya Markovich and his wife did everything themselves: they came up with performances, made decorations, and attracted famous cultural figures to cooperation. For example, in the play “Death of Polyphemus” the giant (or rather, his feet) was played by the ballet dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze, trying not to crush his partner, the tiny doll Galatea.

They came up with Shakespeare’s Cuccafe: the puppets show a play – of course, based on the play of the great bard – inside an antique buffet, and the guests sit at several tables, like in a real cafe. Epelbaum had a lot of plans related to this project.

He also drove a special van, inside which there was a real theater box and stage – so that the audience could watch the performance without leaving anywhere (for example, in the courtyard of their own house). Epelbaum asked to order a car in advance, as this project “Shadows” has always been very popular.

In general, Ilya Markovich always treated the audience with special trepidation, he even created a free Internet laboratory of naive painting in order to awaken their ability and talent to draw. He taught there himself.

Everything Epelbaum could have dreamed of has come true: he created a unique, practically one-of-a-kind theater, which, moreover, was a regular participant in international theater festivals and multiple laureates of many awards, for example, the Golden Mask. His brainchild fully justified all the efforts and resources that its creator put into it.

Ilya Epelbaum passed away on 18 October. He passed away at the age of 59.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.

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