4. Macedonian Examples: Only Two, But Not Alone
Since the first part of the title of this text refers to the exploration of recent Macedonian theatrical matters, I would like to deal with this part of the story as well. Macedonian theatre people rarely ‘tackle’ intraculturalism. The examples are few, and must therefore be cautiously explored if an at first glance subtle, but ontologically radical difference is to be made in the treatment of the ‘varied cultures’ in contemporary Macedonian theatrical practice. The examples are often related to non-institutional performances and are frequently led by the idea of creating complete theatre whose poetics is in correlation with the person who manages the institution. In order to develop the idea of intraculturalism, there must be an awareness of the creation of a complete work of art or Gesamtkunstwerk. I feel free to claim, from the position of a young neophyte who has gradually been discovering intraculturalism in the Macedonian theatre, that few directors are important in its actualisation. Of course, this form of artistic expression also takes place within the context of the ‘directors’ theatre’. This manner of theatre-making is still relevant and useful. One of the directors I have in mind is more focused, among other things, on the research and study of intercultural theatre, while the other still works within the context of the idea of intraculturalism, although he does not impose it on the manner of work of his theatre. These examples are interesting, because they are examples of two different ways of interpreting intraculturalism. The man who likes to research, travel, exchange and interpret things with deep insight is Vladimir Milčin. In his exploration of the theatre he is not exclusively focused on a specific period important to his poetics; here I have in mind several separate, but not random examples of intraculturalism. I would like to refer to some of his productions, but before I produce a list which would obscure things rather then explain them, I would like to mention that I have studied Vladimir Milčin’s productions on a number of occasions, primarily in my MA thesis entitled Macedonian Post Modern Theatre. Yet intracultural theatre, too, can be analysed as one of the attributes of Post Modern theatre because we are dealing with classification according to two different criteria (theatre poetics and practice in correlation with spatio-temporal contexts). Milčin begins his exploration of intraculturalism with the play Skici od predanieto Kainavelsko, based on two collections of poems by Slavko Janevski, Evangelie po Itar Pejo and Kainavelia, performed by the actors of the Kaj Sveti Nikita Goltarot theatre.3F This performance was an example of researched intraculturalism in accordance with the then relevant explorations of renowned director-travellers. However, this play is not intracultural in terms of theoretical determinants. Milčin’s second great step in the exploration of intraculturalism – naturally not a direct one, but the result of certain personal efforts in the creation of a self-aware and organized theatre – are the plays Kaluđerički tišini by Slobodan Šnajder (Bitola National Theatre, 1987), Spiro Crna by Blagoja Risteski Platnar (Vojdan Černodrinski National Theatre, 1989) and Krik by Blaže Minevski (Macedonian National Theatre, 1991) and, among others, Derviš i smrtta by Meša Selimović in its two versions: in 1985 on the stage of the then Theatre of the Autonomous Province – Albanian Drama in Priština, with Istref Begoli in the role of Ahmed Nurudin, and in 2003, on the stage of the Albanian Theatre in Skopje, with Refet Abazi in the same role.4F
In the plays directed by Ljupčo Gjeorgievski based on patterns from traditional Macedonian folk life (Begalka, 1995, Makedonska krvava svadba, 1999, Parite se otepuvačka, 2002) an implicit interest in the exploration of the native culture can be detected, as well as its presentation in the context of world culture. However, it should be noted that in these performances intraculturalism, which is in its embryonic form, is the result of the director’s personal affinities.
The director to whom I would like to give special attention is Rahim Burhan and his Romany Pralipe Theatre. Dr. Jelena Lužina, who has studied this theatre on a number of occasions, raises the question as to what kind of theatre the Pralipe in fact is. Her reply is highly useful for the objective of this text: In terms of its ethnic/cultural and linguistic affiliation, this theatre is Romany; in its organization, it is extra-institutional/alternative; it is directors’ theatre according to the theatrical model that it follows and according to the poetics that it builds and promotes; according to its scenic/theatrical expression, it is authentic; it is Macedonian in its origin; at present, it is German, according to its location; it is intercultural in terms of its approach/attitude to every authentic tradition (not only Romany, but primarily Romany); it is international in its mission… (Lužina 2004/www.mactheatre.edu.mk/teatar tekst/Teatar na drugite jazici-Interkulturalen teatar). Explorations of this type of theatre have resulted in a complex body of material on the basis of which the foundations of intracultural theatre can be laid, and which includes the following elements:
– a guru director around whom the theatrical troupe gathers;
– the troupe functions as a brotherhood;
– the subject of research is the personal native culture in correlation with world culture;
– the results are shown, again, through the performance.
Although this model has been familiar since the time of the greatest directors of the 20th century, such as Stanislavski, Meyerhold, Brecht and Grotowski, it has also been practiced as the model for the creation of intracultural theatre. On this occasion, I would like to draw attention to the fact that this text is, in its own way, a primary confrontation with this phenomenon from the theatrical point of view.
The two performances of Federico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding by the Pralipe Theatre, in Macedonia in 1973 and in Germany in 1991, can be seen as a case in point. The director’s personal account included in the Research Report on the 35th anniversary of the Pralipe Romany Theatre prepared by Rusomir Bogdanovski is a most impressive testimony in this regard. The entry on Blood Wedding5F runs as follows: RATVALE BIJAVA (Blood Wedding) by F.G. Lorca; first performance: 1973; language: Romany. We have already rehearsed at the Youth Cultural Centre. I made friends with Iso Rusi. He backed us there all the time. We stayed at the Youth Cultural Centre from this performance until the new version with which we came to Germany. It was sheer courage to dare translate the play into Romany. At that time very few writers wrote in Romany. To us, as Romanies, it was of great importance to speak in our language on the stage. But regardless of that, I took great care over every detail in the performance. Krum Stojanov, the actor from the Drama Theatre, made the stage design. He even gave me a small-scale model of it. I was holding a model in my hands for the first time! He even came to the rehearsal! We made the stage design as best as we could, and on the publicity poster was Krum Stojanov’s name as stage designer! The difference between this performance and the second, except for the stage design, acting, stage metaphors and the play with props, is precisely in the radical cuts. I always search for a sort of unity between the Oriental and European theatre from my own point of view. I give it a kind of interpretation of my own, there is no recipe for it. The play with the props is very important to me. We made the translation together. I never work alone on the translation. I always ask someone to do the first version. (See Research Report for the project Intercultural Theatre: Theatre of Differences, entry 188.8.131.52.)
I quote Rahim Burhan in full since the account that he gives of his practical work can be used as the basis for a theoretical elaboration of the issue of intraculturalism. Firstly, we have here a specific culture, that of the Romany people, in whose genetic code the gene of nomadism dominates, and non-belonging to any state, nation, or system. Secondly, their theatre performed a play by Lorca, a specific poet who belongs to the Spanish culture and whose concept may be close to that of the Romany culture since it is characterised by the basic emotions of Eros and Thanatos – emotions of passion. The Pralipe Romany Theatre worked until 1991 in Macedonia as an independent and alternative theatrical troupe gathered around its guru Rahim Burhan, to whom theatrical creation is an emotional construction, a personal commitment, intuition and talent. Here we do not have a case of conscious exploration which is based on scholarship or guided by familiar theoretical instruments. Here lies the significance of the rich experience of this theatre. Both Rahim Burhan and Vladimir Milčin create a radical change in the theatre and search for its intraculturalism from the position of gurus. A committed and direct theatre, as Peter Brook puts it, requires a leader, someone who can feel the theatre and can situate it within a context from a personal point of view.
The purpose of this text is not to marginalize the work of other theatre directors in the Macedonian theatre, but only to point to the possibilities of offering a perspective for a new theatre in the context of new world trends, not only in the theatre, but in culture in general.
5. The Dicovery of the Magic Formula: Intracultural Incantations
The examples discussed above indicate that intracultural theatre can be explored in the Macedonian theatre as well. However, it should be emphasized that we are speaking of an exceptionally subtle way of life where a distinction should be made between a number of traditional images of the theatre and manners of acting, bearing in mind, at the same time, all aspects of the fashion in which a theatrical performance is created. Potential researchers of the intracultural theatre should consider the following elements:
– it has been confirmed as the theatre of the new age;
– it is part of the ‘directors’ theatre’;
– it is guided by a guru director and develops into a troupe/brotherhood;
– it explores the native culture and places it within a network for the purpose of comparing it with world cultures;
– it explores the sameness between the native and other cultures;
– it studies theatrical anthropologists;
– it develops as a personal and emotional creation of the director and the troupe.
Even in its embryonic stages, the intracultural theatre emerges as a possible site for the exploration of a number of forms in the context of polyphonic cultures which have created the theatre of the new age. The Macedonian theatre, too, can join the network of new theatrical forms perceived as superstructures in relation to the basic monocultural dimension. The purpose of this text has been to give an impetus to and elaborate on intraculturalism from a ‘naked’ theoretical perspective which could pave the way for wider research. If we want to define the place held by intracultural theatre, I would say that, physically, it is at the top of the pyramid formed by the monocultural theatre (base), multicultural theatre (first level) and intercultural theatre (second level). This does not imply literal assessment of the respective types of theatre since we are talking about art, and not a sports competition. However, this is a kind of theatre made of emotion, insight, passion and personal exploration. It is a theatre which corresponds with the times and technical potential. It is a theatre which constantly re-examines itself because the time in which it is created does not stand still, but moves and is measured in bytes. This is not a manifesto of the new theatre, but the personal view of a theatrologist of the direction in which the theatre, the ideal theatre of the new age, is going.
Obviously, the actors will do the rest!
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3. The theatre Kaj Sveti Nikita Goltarot was founded in the Monastery of St. Nicetas the Goltar near Skopje in 1970. It was an experimental theatre company formed on the principles formulated in the manifesto “A Project for a Theatre” whose authors were V. Milčin, S. Unkovski and M. Pančevski. They performed only one play, Sceni od predanieto Kainevelisko, a dramatization of two collections of poetry by Slavko Janevski. This was the first theatrical commune of this type led by a guru director, which searched for its own form of theatrical expression through experiment. (See Teatrot na makedonskata počva: Enciklopedija/Hronologija 1970).
4. I have written on the phenomenon of the dervish in Vladimir Milčin’s productions in my unpublished study “Za dervišite vo pretstavite na Vladimir Milčin”.
5. Lorca’s Blood Wedding was the theatre’s third premiere.