The second theater festival of the Balkan cultural space “Theater at the Crossroads”, which was postponed twice due to the corona virus pandemic, will be held from September 7 to 14, 2021 at the National Theater in Nis.
On September 7, the festival will officially open with the premiere performance of the play THE MIRACLE OF SAINT GEORGE, directed by Nikola Zavišić, based on the play of the same name by Rusomir Bogdanovski. It is a co-production of the Ivan Radoev Theatre – Pleven, Bulgaria, the National Theater in Nis – Serbia and the Ioan Slavici Classical Theatre – Arad, Romania.
This year’s selectors, Prof. Vlatko Ilić PhD (director) and Spasoje Ž. Milovanović, MA (theatrologist), selected six plays from the region for the competitive part of the Festival:
- Authored project by Nataša Rajković, Snežana Trišić and the actors of the play, based on the play “the Window” by Nataša Rajković, EVERYTHING IS OK FOR NOW, directed by Snežana Trišić, Kruševac Theater, Kruševac, Serbia
- Roland Schimmelpfennig, THE DAY WHEN I WAS NO LONGER ME, directed by Tara Manić, Belgrade Drama Theater, Belgrade, Serbia
- Based on the play by Pedro Calderon de la Barca, LIFE IS A DREAM, adaptation and direction by Dina Markova, Theater “Zong”, Sofia, Bulgaria
- Srečko Kosovel, KONS: THE NEW ERA, directed by Žiga Divjak, Preseren Theater Kranj, Slovenia
- WATCH OUT FOR THE VOID, written and directed by Romano Nikolić, Croatian National Theatre in Varaždin, Varaždin, Croatia
- Tijana Grumić, WHO KILLED JANIS JOPLIN ?, concept and direction by Sonja Petrović, Serbian National Theatre, Novi Sad, Serbia
On September 14, at the closing of the Festival, the audience will have the opportunity to see performance LIFE PLAYED WITH ME A LOT, Citizens’ Association “Novi tvrđava teatar” in cooperation with Novi Sad Theater “Ujvideki Sinhaz”, Novi Sad, Serbia, which will be performed in honor of the awarded.
On that occasion, awards for the best show, direction, four acting awards, for costume design and scenography, for original stage music, for stage movement, as well as a special award of the Festival will be formally presented. In addition to these, the Round Table of Critics ‘Award and the Journalists’ Jury Award will also be presented.
As part of the Festival’s Accompanying Program, the audience will have the opportunity to see two more performances from Croatia and Northern Macedonia:
- SOUNDTRACK FOR A MOVIE THAT HASN’T BEEN SHOT, by King of Čačak and Nina Bajsić performed by Radio Theater Bajsić and Friends, Zagreb (September 13);
- HEROES 4.33 by S. Dimoski, directed by D. Damjanovski and performed by the National Theater Jordan Hadzi Konstantinov – the Giant, Veles
(September 9 and 10).
The “Theater at the Crossroads” Festival aims to affirm the similarities and differences of the cultural identity of countries and people that share the same cultural space, affirm the country Serbia and the city of Nis as the crossroads of European and world routes, strengthen international cultural exchange, promotion of theater art of Balkan cultural space as well as the exchange of ideas and theatrical practices.
What will we do when we meet again?
Man is not a machine!
The motif of the crossroads emanates from the feeling of a special spatial location, and we often encounter it in our reflections on our region. The metaphor by which we describe how others perceive us, but also how we perceive ourselves, points to a place of encounter and divergence, and to the rift between different cultural influences that has marked our history. However, as we know from many stories about travel, movement actualizes not only in space but also in time, which is why this year’s edition of the Theatre at the Crossroads Festival, in its changed fall term, will dedicate special attention to the question: what will happen after the great slowdown in social life that we are witnessing?
The experience of a pandemic will certainly haunt social life as a whole for some time to come. Theatrical art, along with some other activities, was hit particularly hard by the extraordinary circumstances in which we found ourselves. All theaters were closed at one point, followed by a period of performances in front of only partly filled auditoriums, or through new technologies, while the survival of many formal and informal groups, as well as individuals who make up the world of theater, is still endangered. In addition, and no less significant, the theater, as a gathering place for the community, is faced with a fundamentally changed environment, towards which it is established as art, and in which every encounter is potentially hazardous.
The process of selecting plays is never based only on recognizing the involvement of their creators or the achieved results, and their aesthetic values, where some of them stay aside. A successful selection is, I would say, the one that provides a new insight by bringing different performances into one frame of reference which is why this year’s selection includes primarily those poetics that, with clear intention or not, reflect the experience of life during the previous theater season, while anticipating further development theater trends. Let’s not forget that the production of the aesthetic often precedes the establishment of social mechanisms (simply put, how we see, hear, etc. will determine the way we treat it), and that we are once again able to learn from art.
In addition, the curiosity about this year’s edition of the Theatre at the Crossroads Festival is that, due to limited production in many surrounding countries, the main program includes as many as three plays from our country, which can be understood as a kind of selection within the selection. Although this did not affect their choosing, it is worth noting that they come from three seemingly different theatrical environments: For Now, Everything is OK, authored by Natasa Rajkovic, Snezana Trisic and the actors of the play, produced by Krusevac Theater (Association of Professional Theaters of Serbia); then The Day When I Was No Longer Me, based on the play by Roland Schimmelpfennig, directed by Tara Manic, produced by Belgrade Drama Theatre (Belgrade); and Who killed Janis Joplin? written by Tijana Grumic and directed by Sonja Petrovic, produced by the Serbian National Theatre and the Youth Capital of Europe Novi Sad, OPENS (Association of Professional Theaters of Vojvodina). When it comes to these shows, it would benefit to have at least two things in mind. First of all, although we tend to overlook it, they belong to one theater system that would be improved only if we think of it as such, taking into account the local circumstances in which plays are created, but also noticing the potential for exchange and collaboration. At the same time, I doubt that it is a coincidence that the authors (Rajkovic and Trisic, Manic, Grumic and Petrovic) are behind these bolder approaches to theatrical creativity. For now, Everything is OK is an intimate show in which, if we pay attention, we recognize something from life under a state of emergency (it was partially created during the period of isolation) – a smaller number of actors on stage, and even their mutual physical distance are not the result of the measures we all had to undergo, but thanks to the delicate directorial and acting work, we face a feeling of disturbed loneliness and a desire for human contact. The staging of the contemporary German play The Day When I Was No Longer Me, written in the best tradition of the drama of the absurd, is a rarely successful example of the theater of the absurd on our venues. Let us reflect that in the middle of the last century, it was also called the theater of the post atomic man, since the only absurdity on the stage could be seen after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In addition, this staging is characterized by a special quality of directing and acting expression similar to the (best) series that flooded today’s global media market, thus conditioning our perceptual habits, which is why, I believe, we will soon talk about Netflix generations of theater creators. Finally, the play Who Killed Janis Joplin? draws its value from the contagious enthusiasm of the young team it gathers, as well as from the atmosphere of a rock concert, although it does not talk about musical theater in its usual sense. It is to be expected that in the next period, the theater will approach other forms of live performance, so that the festive spirit would reign over it again.
In addition to the above, the audience in Nis will have the opportunity to see three more plays from the surrounding countries: Kons: A New Era, based on the poetry of Srecko Kosovel directed by Ziga Divjak, produced by Preseren Theater Kranj from Slovenia; then Watch Out for the Void, an authored project by Roman Nikolic, produced by the Croatian National Theater in Varazdin, and Calderon’s Life is a Dream produced by the Theater “Zong” from Bulgaria, adapted and directed by Dina Markova. In the spirit of topics that have preoccupied us over the past year, the focus of the setting of Calderon’s famous work Life is a Dream is on the experience of the physical. Despite the fact that in addition to sporadic, noteworthy stage works, physical theater still fails to establish itself institutionally in our country or environment (unlike, for example, dance and choreographic stage), we can assume that an increasing number of younger authors, due to the noise of modern life (primarily media), will dedicate themselves to the research of bodily expression. The research character of the increasingly present format, the so-called authored project, such as the play Watch Out for the Void, also testifies to the loss of trust in word, speech, and the order of reason (logos), replaced by a sequence of partially connected scenes. In addition, the play by Roman Nikolic is characterized by a valuable met theatrical plan, from which a question about the situation of coming to the theater, performing and observing events on stage, as well as distinguishing reality from fiction arise. And finally, the most poetic and most avant-garde play in this year’s selection, Kons: The New Era, will give great pleasure to those who indulge in it, while its post-apocalyptic atmosphere echoing Kosovel’s verses probably most directly oppose the concept of “New Normal”, which the current techno-fascism conseals.
Like life, theater will survive, but only if it allows the crisis which it faces – production, technology, poetry – to thoroughly transform it in order to offer its audience an aesthetically valuable experience now and here. And life will, hopefully, follow.