4th edition "THE WORLD OF THEATRE" (1992-1994)
THE THEATRE AT THE CROSSROADS
Once upon a time there was a Macedonia (Makedonia), situated in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula, at one of the oldest crossroads of the main routes which have connected the three continents of Europe, Asia and Africa for millennia, but which was little know until it constituted part of former Yugoslavia.
At the time of Yugoslavia’s dissolution, on November 17, 1991, a new
Constitution was adopted which proclaimed the Republic of Macedonia a sovereign
and independent state.
What kind of theatre does our time need?
Today, Macedonia is a country much talked every where in the world, and Macedonian theatre faces yet another ordeal? We can establish a new network of contacts and co-operation. The admittance of the republic of Macedonia into the Organisation of the United Nations (on April 8, 1993) and its membership in UNESCO, has meant also a beginning of the process of the integration of Macedonian culture (and particularly its theatre) into Europe and the world.
The initiative for and the actual establishment of the Macedonian Centre of the International Theatre Institute(ITI), at the 17th International Theatre Festival MOT(October, 1992), and its admittance into regular ITI membership, at the 25th World Congress of ITI in May, 1993, in Munich, Germany, resulted in a legitimate membership of the world theatre family.
The disintegration of former Yugoslavia meant also a disintegration of the "united Yugoslav theatre territory"(1991), a sintagm which had for years functioned well and were there? no grudges! According to the "old scheme" Macedonian theatres took part in the festivals held throughout former Yugoslavia, - their successful productions won them numerous awards and promoted the "Macedonian theatre school". On the other hand, every year Macedonia was visited by several theatres which took part in the MOT and in the "Ohrid Summer Festival".
During the last fifteen years (till 1991), the great success created through series of productions and individual actors, and directors. achievements at the Dramski Theatre (Drama Teatar in Skopje), - starting from Yane Zadrogaz (1974), Divo meso (Proud Flesh, 1979) and ending with Vavilonska Kula (Tower of Babylon, 1990), all of them written by playwright Goran Stefannovski and directed by Slobodan Unkovski, - "his subject matter is wide-ranging and complex, but he/they deal mainly with the Macedonian past and present, searching through its existential forms". The plays by Jordan Plevnesh, most often deal with Macedonian national history, as in Erygon (1982) and R (1987) directed by Ljubisha Georgievski.
The appearance of Macedonian drama work on the international stage resulted in translation, publications of plays by Kole Chashule, - the first was the staging of Crnila (Darkness), "explored the harsh fate of the country", - G. Stefanovski and J. Plevnesh. Considerable contribution to establishing Macedonian theatre abroad was made by the directors Lj.Georgievski, S.Unkovski, Vladimir Milchin, Branko Stavrev, Kole Angelovski and Naum Panovski whose works were represented in the republics of former Yugoslavia, as well in Russia, the United States, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Italy and other countries.
The new times - theatre without boundaries
In the last two theatrical seasons (1992-93 and 1993-94) the high level of Macedonian drama was confirmed. One worthy of it, able to express and represent it - here and now, on its own ground - and to pave the road to future changes. People of the theatre need to step out through (and beyond) the blockade, the sanctions, the interupted communications and connnections to be (and it is!) a miracoulos merging of all generation united in the desire to make "our Macedonian theatre" finally do it!
The rich theatrical life of eleven professional companies, apart from the already mentioned Dramski Teatar, Makedonski Naroden Teatar (there are all together drama, opera and ballet) and Teatar na Narodnostite(Theatre of the Nationalities in Skopje is an institution where Albanian and Turkish drama work simultaneously), as well the theatres from Prilep, Kumanovo, Strumica, Shtip and Veles, - with over sixty new productions a year and about five/six non-institutional projects, presenting more than 1000 performaces each year.
The masterpieces of world classical and modern drama used to be on the stage lot, - from ancient Greek authors to Shakespeare and Moliere, and Calderons’s Life is dream, Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, d’Gelderod’s Sunset, Gogol’s Dead Souls were successfully directed by S. Unkovski, Lj. Georgievski and V. Milchin, - but now there is a balance of new and old kept in repertoires, performed by new generations of actors (a satisfied audience!), with naturally different style of interpretations.
Makedonskite teatarski igri (Macedonian Theatrical Games) - "Vojdan Chernodrinski" (in the name of the founder of the modern Macedonian drama and theatre, created a national liberation theatre in the period from 1894 to 1943, his most significant work Makedonska krvava svadba (Macedonian Blood Wedding) was performed in 1900), - a festival of Macedonian drama engaged itself on the field of the support and promotion of the younger generation. With hope and imagination, of boundless and the "positive energy of a generation" playwrights Dejan Dukovski (born 1969) and Sasho Milenkovski (b. 1963), - whose Balkanot ne e mrtov (The Balkan is not Dead, 1992) and Igrata Zavrsi (Game Over, March 1992), both of them directed by Milenkovski, - were awarded for the best play and performance in 1993.
Return toward melodrama on the Macedonian stage "is one of the most fascinating phenomena of the new social and political reality of Macedonia", - with the hit spectacles Cija si (Who do ypu belong to, 1991) and Gref ili shpricer (Sin or Spritzer, 1992) plays by Sashko Nasev (b. 1966), directed by D. Stankovski/ DT-Skopje.
The present issue of the 29 MTG held in Prilep (June 1994), has confirmed the high reputation on the Bitola NT, with the prize for best performance, - a production of the latest J. Plevnesh’s play Nasinkata od Pariz (Notre Femme de Paris, April 1994) directed by Vlado Tsvetanovski, - and with other prizes as well. The higest prize for the best play went to Blagoja Risteski for Hid Arsenij (September 1993) and to Venko Andonovski (b. 1964), the newest name of the Macedonian theatre, for his Bunt vo domot za starci (The Riot in the Old People’s Home, May 1994).
The drama programme of the 34th famous Ohrid Summer Festival (July-August 1994), mainly classical, has made a significant step forward in its international affirmation. The premiere’s of Shakespeare’s Mackebth directed by Ljubisha Ristic (FR Yugoslavia), produced by Bitola NT was outstanding event, evaulated as the most notable adventure, as well the Dostoevski’s Crime and Punishment production of the MNT, was the man’s subtle psyhological vivisection. Camus’s Caligula was an acting flexibile energy, directed by K. Angelovski and produced by Drama Theatre.
In its searh for a proper identification the International Theatre Festival MOT took part in the Open Forum (November, 1992, Ljubljana, Slovenia) following which it became an active member of IETM (Informal European Theatre Meeting, Bruxelles/Brussels, Belgium, founded in 1981). The first international project of MOT, was Theatre Colony and its festival production of Aeschylus, Oresteia, which opened on August 16, 1993, in Samoil’s Fortress (from ten century) in Ohrid, as a part of the 33rd Ohrid Summer Festival. Following preparatory work in their respective academies in Sofia, Ljubljana and Skopje and ten days joint work, three independent teams of young theatre workers attempted, in this first joint project, to reveal the Theatre of the Future, today - at the end of an epoch, on the threshold of the mysterious 21st century. The Oresteia was performed again on the 18th MOT, - still, it will remain the most significant achievement on the theme "Antiquity and Myth" a continuation on the project entitled "Research into the Roots".
During the last 19th MOT’s "Return to the Avant-Garde" were represented the selection of the 18 performances (a number unrecorded in the history of MOT), form Europe and the USA. And MOT’s new chance lies precisely in the creation of links between forty Macedonian theatre and dance profesionals with 12 IETM member from Europe (Ms. Hilde Teuchies, Secretary General of IETM, also honoured the Festival with her presence) on the IETM workshop, about "Theatre Management", on the transification of international co-operation and exchange of knowledge and experience in the art of theatre. festivals and other stage arts.
MOT stimulated a variety of forms of alternative groups, discovering and launching productions by young authors, - Curious Dream by Zanina Mirchevska (directed by three directors) and jazz-theatre The New Last Game by Bratislav Dimitrov were represented on the festivals in Slovenia and Croatia, and also choreodrama Salome directed by Christian Risteski, in Hungary.
Macedonian professional theatres have numerous visits abroad through participation in festivals: Drama Theatre in Germany, Theatre of Nationalities/ Albanian drama in Italy and Netherland (with provocative Brecht’s Baal directed by Branco Brezovec), lot of them in Bulgaria (as very active Theatre for children and youth and Bitola NT etc.), Russia, Poland and Albania.
Sarajevo (Tales from a City), a play by G. Stefanovski, an international project directed by S. Unkovski, was performed at the celebration which proclamied the Belgian city of Anwerp the Cultural Capital of Europe 1993. The Roma Theatre "Pralipe" from Macedonia is incorporated into the Theatre an der Ruhr, in Mulheim with the financial aid of the Germany. Since 1991 the group realized five productions, from Lorca’s Blood Wedding to the Big Water by Macedonian author Zivko Cingo and latest Shakespeare’s Romeo and Julia, performed in more than 100 cities of Germany and Europe.
World Theatre Day, 27 March 1994, - translated into Macedonian, the international Message (written by Vaclav Havel) was read in theatres all over the country as well as on the radio and television. The opening of the 6th International Meetings of Theatre Academies "SKOMRAHI" (organised by Faculty of Dramatic Arts) bringing together 8 countries was also preceded by reading of the international Message.
Mr. Andre-Louis Perinetti, Secretary General of the ITI-UNESCO, who came to Skopje to see MOT (October 1993) and to meet theatre people of Macedonia, has opened a new process in Macedonia’s international affirmation: The Meeting of the Theatre Communities of Macedonia, the regions of the Balkans, Europe and other continents which was held in Ohrid (from 6th to 11 October 1994) on the theme: "The Minority cultures confronted by the majority cultures, their integration in Europe and in the World". Ms. Martha Coigney, President ITI, Mr. Perinetti and all of participants launched an Appeal to organize a Festival, which could be held here in Macedonia, crossroads between East and West, North and South, in the MOT’s appropriate framework for Festival.
In the 1995 United Nations Year of Tolerance, we would make "all the world a stage" once and for all.
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5th edition "THE WORLD OF THEATRE" (1994-1996)
A THEATRE IN SEARH OF ITS NEW IDENTITY
Over the last two years (1994-96) and in fact over the last decade, contemporary Macedonian theatre was marked to a significant degree by deep paradoxes. In order to make this better understood, we will endeavour to explain and describe Macedonian theatrical reality, by first presenting the global context (and not only the cultural context) within which contemporary Macedonian theatre exists. Included in this global context, of course, is the fact that the Republic of Macedonia is a relatively small Balkan country (25, 000 sq. km with approx. 2 million inhabitants), whose long and rich cultural history- primarily an urban one- is made up of a dense mingling of different languages and traditions (Macedonian, Turkish, Walachian, Hebrew, Albanian…). Its present reality is dominated by what is known as the process of transition which characterizes all the ex- communist countries trying to assimilate other, more democratic life styles.
Therefore, the paradoxes at present determining to such a great extent Macedonian contemporary theatre are due to the context. We shall define some of the most important ones: the relatively large number of professional theatre institutions (nine) within which 12 permanent troupes operate (ten for theatre, one for ballet and one for opera).
The relatively large number of actors, singers, dancers and musicians hired on a permanent basis (almost 500!) having generally been trained at the higher education level (complete training in an academy).
A relatively modest annual production- in terms of quantity- of new plays (thirty premieres at most).
A relatively small number- again in terms of quantity- of revivals during the course of a year (no more than 1000 preformnces).
The relatively large concetration of theatre life in the capital, Skopje. Outside the capital there are five theatre institutions in opeartion but only one of these, the Bitola National Theatre, reaches a high professional and artisitc standard.
The relatively restricted "mobility", if not the absence of mobility, of the companies from the capital, that rarely perform anywhere but on the stage of their own theatre. (If we consider that in Macedonia ballet, opera and children’s theatre only have one troupe each, which is also the case of Albanian and Turkish speaking theatre, it seems obvious that the existing model of theatrical organization suffers from being far too "static").
The relatively low attendance rate of the theatre public, especially in small towns, and its "preference" for the "lighter" genres (considering the well- known fact that the theatre public is not a preexisting category but a category that is built up over the long term, we believe we can state that the "old- fashioned"/ backward organization of theatre existing to this day inevitably "produces" old fashioned theatre aesthetics- precisely what Peter Brook refers to as "aesthetics of the corpse" which unfortunately still dominates the stages of Macedonian theatres).
The more creative and ambitious potential of contemporary Macedonian theatre (potential of actors, directors, playwrights, organizers) does indeed try to remedy the state of national theatre. Over the last two years and during the last two seasons, a whole series of individual efforts have resulted in several particularly interesting theatre events.
The events in question, less due to chance and increasingly interconnected, are progressively defining and more and more clearly, the general dissatisfaction with the present Macedonian institutional theatre. The latter still functions according to the old (‘socialist’) organisational scheme, with the model of ‘National Theatres’ where actors are civil servants and repertories must include ‘a bit of everything’ and ‘a bit for everyone’ and are totally State funded. This model has proved unworkable in Macedonia as well (as it did previously in Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Russia, Czechoslovakia…).
The most active elements of the theatre world did not, of course wait for the State to organize another/or better quality theatre life for them, but took things into their own hands. In changing the theatre organization model they also changed the theatre aesthetics (of the corpse, as Brook put it), against which they had fought for years.
It was precisely during the 1994 to 1996 period that Skopje’s first private theatre was born. Slobodan Unkovski, one of the major Macedonian directors, established, in an abandoned warehouse in the centre of town, with a few people sharing his ideas, a cultural centre of a new kind called Mala stanica (Small Station). The present and future activity of the centre will focus on theatre in the broadest sense of the term: besides producing its own shows, Mala stanica will publish material and books on theatre, organize training in theatre (acting and directing), work on theory, present performances (their own or from outside) in Macedonia and elsewhere. As it is, flexible, ployvalent, dynamic, Mala stanica has already proved over the last two years that it can do much more for Macedonian theatre than its existing inert institutions.
The impulse given by Mala stanica even managed to stimulate the State Theatres as well as many artists, permanent members of these permanent troupes and they have started to take a stand against the aesthetics of their employers by setting up alternative performances created in a more or less private manner in the official theatres. A particularly interesting exmaple of this took place at Skopje, staged Heiner Muller’s Quartet (February 1996), and achieved one of the most performed, most mobile and one of the greatest successes of the year!
Certain standard theatres and principally the Theatres of Minorities (Albanian and Turkish) in Skopje, have become increasingly versatile, organizing themselves to produce alternative plays of this type. Branko Brezovac, a Zagreb director frequently engaged by minority theatres, toured several productions by the two theatres in well- known European festivals. Last year, the same director then staged Bacchanals, performance based on a text by Goran Stefanovski, with the Skopje Youth Cultural Centre as the organizer (again an alternative and not an institutional form) and with the participation of artists from various theatres. It was presented in several European cities (October/ November 1996). Which again proves that Macedonian theatre can only be successful if it abopts other forms of organization.
1995 and 1996 also saw contemporary Macedonian dramaturgy become established abroad. A Keg of Powder, a play by Dejan Dukovski, was staged by the Yugoslav Dramatic Theatre in Belgrade (November 1994) after its premeire in Skopje, directed by Slobodan Unkovski. This play has become very popular, it was performed several times in Europe (Berlin, Rome…) and was subsequently translated and published in the well- known magazine Theatre Heute (November 1995). In 1997, A Keg of Powder will tour several European countries. Sarajevo and The Tattooed Souls, by Goran Stefanovski, were again presented in University theatre in America (directed by Naum Panovski, 1995) as well as the Theatre a. d. Ruhr, Mulheim (directed by rahim Burhan, January 1996). Jordan Plevenes’s latest play, Happiness is a New Idea in Europe was staged for the first time in a University theatre (Yale, April 1995, directed by Patrick Verscheren). Porcelain Vase, a play by Jugoslav Petrovski, was first presented in an off festival in England (summer 1995) and then in Skopje. Zanina Mircevska’s latest play, There, Where I was not was created on the stage of the Youung Theatre (Mladinsko gledalisce) in Ljubljana (May 1996), it has not yet been staged in Macedonia.
Theatre festivals such as the MOT International Theatre Festival ("Young Open Theatre") and "Ohrid summer" have certainly played an important part in the "new wave", opening contemporary Macedonian theatre to the outside world. Although these festivals tend more to inform the Macedonian theatre public on what is happening abroad (tours abroad are rarely organized along the principle of reciprocity), their role in edtablishing Macedonian theatre is beyond doubt. In the long list of theatre festivals, one should mention the very lively ‘Skomrahi’, traditional meeting of students from the theatre and film academies of all the Balkan countries as well as several European countries (Americans also participated in 1995), organized by the Skopje Faculty of Dramatic Art.
With respect to the Skopje Faculty of Dramatic Art, mention should be made of its indisputable contribution not only to systemizing theatre studies (the faculty trains actors- Macedonian, Albanian and Turkish, each in their own language- directors, dramaturgs, editors, producers- for theatre and film), but also in the establishment and development of Macedonian theatre research. Without a systematic approach, with a well determined profile of responsible people, without methodology, or even accurate terminology, the fragile Macedonian theatre research represented up to now the weakest point of the whole Macedonian theatrical context. Thanks to the systematic activity of the Faculty of Dramatic Art, Macedonian theatre is reinforcing its scientific base foundations.