Ādolfs Alunāns is the founder of the Latvian theatre, the first professional actor, a
producer, theatre manager, playwright, author of limericks and publicist, and already
during his life time, he was honoured as the Father of the Theatre.
Ādolfs Alunāns was born on 11 October 1848 in Jelgava. His childhood and school
years passed here, and in this city, the little Ādolfs attended the German Theatre and
got to know and became fond of theatre. That encouraged Alunāns to become an
actor. In 1866, he was admitted to the German Summer Theatre in Tērbata; in 1867,
he joined the German theatre in Tallinn (the old name, Revel); spent the winter of
1868-1869 in St. Petersburg; participated in performances of the German theatre in
Vyborg; and in the theatre season of 1869-1870, worked for the Tallinn theatre again.
In 1870, Alunāns assumed the management responsibilities of the newly established
Latvian Theatre in Riga. In 1869, by the comedy, “Raised by Us”, which contained
only one act, Alunāns initiated the development of the Latvian dramaturgy. Then,
several more plays followed: “For Better and for Worse (1871), “Barrel Makers”
(1872), “The Wealthy Bride” (1874), “Icig Moze” (1874), and “John Nailand” (1881).
In addition, Alunāns translated and adapted German comedy plays for the local
From 1870 to 1885, Alunāns managed the Theatre of the Latvian Society in Riga.
He cultivated the first generation of the Latvian actors and spectators, created the
foundations for the acting art, and took care of the first repertoire.
From 1896 to 1904, a theatre managed by Ādolfs Alunāns was in operation in
Jelgava. He wrote plays one after another, and the premiers of his plays, “Who Sang
the Songs?” “All My Relatives Are Crying”, “The Parish Bazaar”, and others that are
still performed in Latvian theatres to this date, were staged there.
All together, Ādolfs Alunāns had written 22 original plays, approximately 400
satirical and humorous poems, and 100 articles about theatre. Biographical essays
were published in the following books: “Prominent Latvians” (1887-1890), “The Life
of Juris Alunāns” (1910), and “Memories about the Birth of the Latvian Theatre”
(1924). The popularity of Ādolfs Alunāns grew also due to the “Zobgala Kalendārs”
(“The Joker’s Calendar”) published from 1896 to 1912.
In the latter years of his life, he returned to Jelgava, and the cosy house on Filozofu
Street was his last place of residence, where on 5 July 1912, the never-ceasing soul
of Ādolfs Alunāns passed away. He was buried in the cemetery named after Jānis, in
Jelgava, where he found the eternal peace, and in 1913, a monument dedicated to him
by the sculptor Burkards Dzenis was unveiled there, bearing an inscription: “To the
Father of the Latvian Theatre Ādolfs Alunāns (1848-1912), from Latvians”.
During the celebration of the 120th jubilee of Ādolfs Alunāns in 1968, the doors of the
Memorial Museum of the Father of Theatre were first opened, where the memorials
of his and his kin lives were displayed, and where the hearty spirit of the Alunāns’
family is still present.