Slavko Milanović

A view of Serbian playwrights: Introductory notes

Објављује се у сарадњи са Издавачком редакцијом Народног позоришта у Београду, уредник Жељко Хубач.


Службена страна „Позоришних новина“, Издавач Народно позориште.

In the opinion of many of our theatre critics, playwriting is the most compelling component of the Serbian theater, and the facts seem to bear them out. Some 20 playwrights are active in the Serbian theater, with both theatre management and audience eagerly awaiting the latest work of at least 10. Their appeal rests not only on style and technique but also on challenging subject matter, dictating imaginative approaches to direction and staging. 

Serbian drama is well known and appreciated abroad, most prominently in the work of Biljana Srbljanović. In the last five or six seasons alone, her plays have been performed in 120 theatres around the world. Her extraordinary success has, however, tended to obscure the notable achievements of other Serbian playwrights. Thus Staffan Valdemar Holm was astonished to learn, for instance, that Ljubomir Simović's „Touring Theatre Šopalović“ had been performed in 37 theatres in France, as well as in Korea, and that Dušan Kovačević's „The Professional“ had been staged worldwide  (the USA, Europe and, recently, in Iran).

Accordingly, the Belgrade National Theatre is pleased to bring contemporary Serbian drama to Sweden.

By „contemporary Serbian drama“ we mean current productions, but also drama that  must be considered and appreciated within the context of work produced during the last 50 years. Some of the most popular plays staged today were, after all, written some 30 years ago, such as Aleksandar Popović's „Ljubinko and Desanka“ and Ljubomir Simović's „Hasanaginica.“

Moreover, contemporary Serbian drama must be considered within the social and cultural framework of former Yugoslavia. So strong were the inter-dependence of theatres in the former state, for example, that even today one can trace elements of influence on the Serbian theater to theatres in Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia. And, of course, vice versa. Similarly, after Yugoslavia broke with the Soviet Union in 1948, there appeared almost simultaneously young Yugoslav playwrights pursuing comparable themes and subject matter: Andrej Hing and Primož Kozak in Slovenia; Jovan Hristić and Velimir Lukić in Serbia;  Marijan Matković and Ranko Marinković in Croatia.

An individual's resistance to totalitarianism was a prevalent theme ( with inspiration coming from classical drama, „Antigone“ by Hing and „Oedipus“ by Hristić, for instance), creating common dramaturgical methods and modes. In the 1970s the so-called „political theatre“ emerged, when playwrights from different milieus openly and directly took on controversial issues and posed political questions that had been banned for decades: in Slovenia, Dušan Jovanović, with „The Liberation of Skopje“ and „The Karamazovs“; in Serbia, Veljko Radović, with „Each and Everyone“ and Vida Ognjenović, with „The Root, the Trunk, the Epilogue“; in Croatia, Slobodan Šnajder, with „The Croatian Faust“; and in Macedonia, Goran Stefanovski, with „Proud Flesh“, and many others.  

However, it was theater practice--one that had kept pace with the world's avant-guard movements and  had been for a time more advanced than the playwriting--that finally had the most decisive influence on Serbian contemporary drama. The Belgrade International Theatre Festival (BITEF) and Sarajevo's Festival of Small and Experimental Scenes broad to a head discussions on stage language and the text itself. The term „literary theatre“ had become a derogatory expression, used in reference to what was considered to be old-fashioned, out of date or „dead.“ At one point, „director's theatre“ so overwhelmed the theatre scene that the term „drama“ in critique terminology was another way of saying „pretext for a play.“ Fortunately, that state of affairs was brief.

Playwrights like Dušan Kovačević and Aleksandar Popović had already incorporated into their work facets of modern theatre, and today the situation is quite different. But in the 1980s playwrights put up with arrogant directors who, paraphrasing Pirandello, joked that Yugoslav stage writers were „actors in search of an author.“ Today the playwrights are in search of directors capable of creatively grasping their ideas and stagecraft.

It is hoped that this selection, which does not aspire to be representative or serve as an anthology, will provide basic insights into Serbian playwriting. It was chosen solely for a specific occasion, the Belgrade National Theater's visit to Dramaten. A more comprehensive presentation of Serbian plays would have necessitated English translations, which was not feasible at this time. We therefore present only those playwrights currently active in theatre production. A more complete presentation would have certainly included all the plays of Popović, perhaps our most significant modern playwright ( his „Development  of Boris Tailor“ has been acclaimed the best Serbian play of the last 50 years), plus anthological drama by Milica Novković and Deana Leskovar (who ceased to write for the theatre some time ago). Perhaps at another time on another occasion.   

Playwrights of the younger generation will be presented in Stockholm, at the workshop organized by the Power Station (Royal Dramatic Theater) and NadA Project (National Theatre Belgrade).

На Растку објављено: 2008-04-14
Датум последње измене: 2008-04-15 19:30:44
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