Theatre in Search of its New Identity

/, Theatre/Film, Blesok no. 07/Theatre in Search of its New Identity

Theatre in Search of its New Identity

Over the last two years 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 endeavor 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 performances).
The relatively large concentration of theatre life in the capital, Skopje. Outside the capital there are five theatre institutions in operation but only one of these, the Bitola National Theatre, reaches a high professional and artistic 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’) organizational 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 Macedonian 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 and/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.
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 establishing 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 Spoke Faculty of Dramatic Art.
With respect to the Spoke 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, dramaturges, 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.

AuthorJelena Lužina
2018-08-21T17:24:00+00:00 February 1st, 1999|Categories: Theory, Theatre/Film, Blesok no. 07|0 Comments