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Such a voluminous, but also such heterogeneous, book cannot and does not try to avoid the pitfalls that every thick book creates by its very appearance, in other words, problems created by the sheer volume of material that it presents. First of all, at hand is a book that has the courage to involve ten different authors, who not only belong to three different generations, but to three relatively divergent poetics and aesthetics, in other words, to three different models of theater. They are so different that it is entirely natural and expected that they confront each other.
How and why, then, did these ten plays end up between the covers of a single book? What was it anyway that was seen as common, in the sense that it warranted such a common presentation, and even more so for a foreign reading and (potential) viewing public?
First of all, it is a fact that all ten plays are good, compact, well-written, and let’s admit it, of the highest quality, whose relevance is proven most eloquently by their numerous and variegated theater productions.
The criterion of production, and for that matter, successful production, was one of the most important in the creation of this selection: all ten have successfully passed their theater verification, all ten have been staged not only in the Republic of Macedonia but also abroad. This proves that all ten, long before they were collected and printed in a single book, were able to fight for their own place in the sun not only in the widest Macedonian theater context, but also outside of it. Breaking through (independently) to the European and non-European stages, these ten excellent (representative, emblematic) plays, in fact, promote, and also affirm the recent/modern Macedonian theater outside of its national framework.
If we must “verify” this thesis by making use of the most mundane statistics and facts, then:
Of the ten selected plays, two have enjoyed more than twenty different theatrical productions (Darkness, The Powder Keg). A third (R) continues to develop successfully, having, up till now, seven different productions.
Six of the selected plays, besides being produced on Macedonian stages, have played to great success abroad, in one or more countries, in one or more foreign languages (Darkness, R, Who Do You Belong To, Powder Keg, Porcelain Vase, A Place I’ve Never Been To). Powder Keg, which we could call the most watched Macedonian theater export of all time holds the record (for now), and it will be difficult to surpass: some twenty foreign premiers, performed in more than ten languages…
Before the appearance of this volume, seven of the selected plays had been not only performed, but also published individually in foreign languages, either in separated theater journals, or in individual books…
In any case, I could recount many additional arguments that would argue in favor of such a selection of plays as found here. Nonetheless, I have decided to forgo this, judging that each interested reader of this book will himself become aware of them on his own with little effort.
I have just one technical explanation that I must add concerning the organization of the total material, which is presented on the following 500 pages:
As can be seen already from the table of contents of this book, the order in which the ten selected plays are presented does not correspond to a generation, a typological, any type of model, nor to any of the more usual (conventional) principles usually applied to anthologies. (Haven’t I already said: this book is not an anthology, although, judging by the aesthetic value of all the chosen drama examples, it cannot, nor does not try to avoid the exclusively anthological criteria, on the contrary!).
Instead of resting on some historical, generation, typological, or any other principle and/or criteria, which, as much as they are inescapable, always imply misunderstanding and disharmony of some type – this books orders its material according to the simplest diachronic principle. This means that the ten chosen plays are ordered exactly the same way as they themselves were previously arranged, while they were writing the history of Macedonian theater: according to the date of production, that is, exclusively according to the diachronic order which is defined as the date of their first public/official production before a theater audience. This quintessential principle of theater studies is rigorously followed, but also affirms the position that drama is written-down theater (and not as for literary “content of the paper”). Such a specific development of the entire Macedonian drama, not only the modern and post-modern, strongly supports such a definitive theatrological method of commenting on its essence, giving it an absolute advantage over those “more conventional”, according to which, a play belongs, first of all, to one of three literary genres, which can be “understood” without having experienced its theatralization.
Because a drama text is treated exclusively as one of the elements of theater production and because literary values are not sought in it and it is read only as a virtual theater performance for which it is imminent (Ubersfeld, 1982), the theatrologist is concerned exclusively with the complicated process of the imminent theatralization of the drama material which is just now being read. Thus, a drama text is first and foremost a theater text, and only then anything else, and this includes literary works of the highest caliber (e.g. Hamlet, Oedipus Rex, To Damascus).
Because this present collection was made by a theaterologist (and not a literary critic), the ten dramas presented in this book could only be ordered according to the chronology of their first staging. The book then, must begin with Darkness (1961) and end with Slavic Chest (1998), since the ten selected dramas were produced for the theater in exactly this order. In other words, between 1961 and 1998 the modern and post-modern Macedonian theater very successfully passed between its two terminal points, mainly the path from Darkness to Slavic Chest!
As can be seen, less than four decades passed between the production of the first and the last of these ten plays. In the history of any national drama, this is a long period, years in which (especially if they coincide with the extremely dynamic second half of the twentieth century, and even more, if they occur in the turbulent Balkan context) different theater poetics and aesthetics were evident which means: many different ways of reading, directing, acting… even different ways of viewing. And not just viewing from the perspective of a theater performance, but also viewing/conceiving of theater, as art, as a phenomenon, and as a medium of mass communication.
While we cannot notice such differences at first glance (or, perhaps, we do not pay special attention to them, viewing them as “incidental” or “accidental”), any attentive reading of a drama manuscript could convince us that these facts are always there in front of us. And is true for everyone! When a theaterologist (instead of a literary critic) reads a drama text, he always decodes it exclusively as a description of a theater performance for which it is intended. Description in the sense that it covers everything: the dramatic story (plot) in the narrow meaning of the word (that famous “content of the paper,” which is usually referred to as it literary quality), the architectonic of the drama/stage space in which the story develops, the way in which it is interpreted (“acted”) by its actors, the method used by the one who “directs” the entire play (whom we usually refer to as director), the effects which the entire production has on those who follow it with heightened or lessened interest – its recipients or its viewers… Thanks to such a method of total reading, theater studies (as a science) can/is able to reconstruct not only the theater performance which has long ceased to exist, but also entire theater epochs, entire theater histories: regional, national, international…
Since such an all-encompassing view is assumed towards the subject of inquiry – the theater – theater studies in its analysis should not and cannot give priority to any single element which comprises it or from which it is structured. So, the drama text is only one of the many equally important elements which “complete” a theatrical performance – theater studies understands and interprets it absolutely functionally, taking into account only its functioning in the larger whole. This whole is colloquially and by tradition usually called a theatrical performance.