Puppetry in Montenegro
Theatrical tradition in Montenegro dates back from the ancient times. There was an ancient theatre in the town of Risan. In the XVI century plays of the “church theatre” were played in vernacular in front of the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon in Kotor. In the Napoleon’s time, Marshal Marmont donated here the theatre building to the town of Kotor on 12/10/1808, one of the oldest still preserved theatre buildings in the Balkans. In the afternoon of February 12, 1829 the first puppet show was performed in the Kotor theatre, as it was noted by Darko Antović, PhD in the text “Kotor in the History of the Theatre”, 2002, Ten Festivals of the Children’s Theatres, 1993-2002, Kotor, 2002.
The great poet Petar Petrović Njegoš (1813-1851) wrote in his philosophical poem “The Ray of Microcosm” (Luča mikrokozma, Beograd, 1845): “This world of ours is a formidable theatre”. The Montenegrin folklore heritage of customs and rituals is rich, as in other South Slavic countries, which is eloquently testified by “folk acting”. We can imagine that the puppet and puppetry occupied the appropriate place among the multitude of manifestations of the “folk theatre“ and the very fact that the child and childhood cult represents high ethical value of the folk tradition.
Religious-ritual-folklore tradition testifies that Vertep or Jesus’ manger known as Bethlehem with elements of puppetry was widespread in the South Slavic regions at the beginning of the XVII century. In the XVIII century during the Rococo era, and it also refers to Montenegro, especially the Bay of Kotor and the ancient Kotor, Vertep as referred to in the Orthodox tradition or Bethlehem in the Catholic tradition, used to be staged during the Christmas holidays. This ritual tradition faded and became almost extinct at the time of the communist rule, in the period from 1945 to 1991.
The famous building of Cetinje Theater, called “Zeta House” was built in 1892. Puppet performances were also shown there from time to time.
The Russian theatre person and director Vasiliy Ivanovich Shutskin (Novocherkassk, 1896 — Titograd, Podgorica today, 1969), came to Montenegro in 1936. He is the founder of several theatres in this area. He also founded the first children’s theatre, in Cetinje in 1939. Shutskin is credited for the first theatre performance of the Little Red Riding Hood, directed by Mirko Sirnić, on 12/01/1951. Pioneer theatre was founded at that time. This professional theatrical company has been active up till now. In 1959 Pioneer theatre merged with the Children’s Library to become the Pioneer Cultural Centre, while in 1994, the theatre became independent and got a new name, Children’s Theatre, Evening Stage — apart from the Children’s Drama Stage and Children’s Puppetry Stage. It was transformed in 2002 into the City Theatre with three stages: Children’s Drama Stage, Children’s Puppetry Stage and Evening Stage. Four plays are on the repertoire of the puppet stage: Puppet Play, text written by and directed by Ljubomir Ralčev; Fairy-Tale Eagle, text written by and directed by Bonjo Lungov; Touchstone, text written by and directed by Davor Dragojević; Rudyard Kipling's Mowgly, directed by Bonjo Lungov.
Festival of the Children’s Theatres, Kotor — founded as the Yugoslav Festival of Children’s Theatres in 1993. Festival is organized for “nurturing theatrical art for children, development of aesthetic education of the young, affirmation of values created through work and creativity in this field, as well as for encouragement of development of Children’s creativity in general”. Every year, dozens of plays and additional programmes are performed at this festival and it is attended by thousands of spectators who grow together with this festival.
Festival of Children’s Theatres, Kotor — founded as the Yugoslav Festival of Children’s Theatres in 1993. Festival is organized for nurturing theatrical art for children, development of aesthetic education of the young at the different sites of the town of Kotor, where dramatic performances for children and puppetry plays for children are shown indoors.
In 1972 the subject Stage Expression and Puppetry, later renamed The Introduction to Puppetry was introduced at the Department of Preschool Education of the Teachers’ College which is now the Faculty of Philosophy in Nikšić. Prof. dr Zoran Koprivica is to be credited for valuable, practical, artistic and theoretical knowledge of the future teachers about puppetry as an art, who accomplished with his students over 700 Guignol puppets in a very short period of time.
Comparative studies of puppetry, aesthetics and history of puppetry were introduced at the Department of Acting of the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Cetinje in 2009-2010, but due to lack of qualified staff, these precious and much needed studies were discontinued.
The animator Željko Vavić has been leading successfully his ecological puppetry Little Theatre “Scatula” in Igalo for more than 20 years already. He performed his puppetry shows for more than 5000 times, which include: The Prince Marcipa, The Nightingale and The Emperor of China, Karius and Baktus, Hansel and Gretel, Guardians of Nature, The Little Mermaid and others.
The play Little Red Riding Hood of Igor Bojović, directed by Goran Bulajić, was performed for the first time on May 20, 2013 at the Musical School in Nikšić. It was the first production of the newly founded Nikšić Puppetry Theatre “Shutskin” which was launched at the initiative of the Foundation “Ćano Koprivica”.
In 2012 the first International Festival of Puppetry was established in CIC “Budo Tomović” in Podgorica. The festival was visited by 7,000 children and their parents, half of them from Podgorica, and the rest came from Tuzi, Cetinje, Tivat, Bijelo Polje, Rožaje, Herceg Novi, Kolašin and Petrovac. The entry was free to all the performances. The creator and main animator of this Festival is the actor and director Davor Dragojević.
A puppet play and exhibition of puppets and scenography for the play of Marija Čolpa “Jujube and Thistle”, “vegetable fairy-tale with fruity ending” was performed in Herceg Novi on 24/09/2013. This puppetry fairy-tale was translated into Russian, while the puppets were made by the puppet artists from Petrograd who live in Herceg Novi. Having in mind the significance of the theatrical tradition in Montenegro, there is a need for establishing a unique representative, professional puppetry theatre, in the name of the rights of the youngest to have their own art and aesthetic education, and for the purpose of achieving overall theatrical culture.
Siniša Jelušić, PhD, Professor at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Cetinje writes the valuable theoretical essays about puppetry as an art, from the aspect of aesthetics, anthropology, semiology, philosophy.
Ten Festivals of the Children’s Theatres, 1993-2002, Kotor, 2002, Radoslav Lazić, Umetnost lutkarstva / The Art of Puppetry, Beograd, 2007; Kultura lutkarstva / The Culture of Puppetry, Beograd, 2007; Propedeutika lutkarstva / Propedeutics of Puppetry, Beograd, 2007; Lutkarski Theatrum Mundi / Theatrum Mundi of Puppetry, Beograd, 2010; Fenomenologija lutke i lutkarstva u svetu deteta / Phenomenology of Puppetry in a Child’s World, Novi Sad, 2013; Siniša Jelušić, Ontologija lutke / The Ontology of the Puppet, Novi Sad, 2010; Ontologija igre: estetika ili psihologija kontroverze pojma lutkarskog teatra “za decu” / The Ontology of Play: Aesthetcs or Psychology Controversies Related to the Term “Puppet Theatre for Children”, Novi Sad, 2011; Mudrost lutke: Pinokio analitička psihologija i teologija / The Wisdom the Puppet: Pinocchio Analytical Psychology and Theology, Novi Sad, 2012; Postmoderna i tekst “za decu” - kontroverze čitanja? / Postmodernism and Text “for Children” Reading Controversies?, Novi Sad, 2
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