Conquering freedom

/, Theatre/Film, Blesok no. 19/Conquering freedom

Conquering freedom

One of those who would definitely, almost revolutionarily so, subscribe to Epsthein’s critique of modernism would be Jordan Plevneš, who would later turn out to be much “stronger” when he declared his positions rather than using them in practice, both in his work as a critic and as an author. Plevneš arrived on the Macedonian stage in 1982, debuting with the play Erigon. His debut was almost triumphal, supported by the lucid direction of the master Ljubisha Georgievski, and also from the excellent cast of one of the best Macedonian theaters, Drama Theater of Skopje. It should be mentioned that six of the ten plays printed in this book were first performed on the stage of this Skopje theater and this did not occur by chance. In the course of its entire existence, this theater (which has continuously operated since 1961), has operated under the banner of difference/otherness. Such difference/otherness is not only seen from the repertoire itself, but more so in the way in which this repertoire is performed, from the aesthetics used. The Drama Theater from Skopje is one of the most prominent Macedonian theaters in general and is well known abroad since it has often and with great success performed in many countries. Erigon is a strange, even bizarre, shockingly constructed play about the eternal search for identity, to which an entire accursed nation had been sentenced. Its formal/metonymic protagonists are a mysterious/doomed artist and his alter ego, a dog, fatally accompanied in the utopian search for the peace of his own tortured soul. The first, Erigon, is conceived by the author as a “Macedonian dog, born during the second world war, an emigrant in Paris, the spiritus movens for the theater Necrologist M., adopted by the manage of the Bureau for the Bathing of Corpses in Paris, sentenced to death by the European congress for Canine Rights and Freedoms of the 20th Century.” The second protagonist, Isidor Solunski, is described in the casting as a “famous artist from the Balkans from the troupe of Vojdan Černodrinski, born during the Balkan Wars in Banica, near Florina in the Aegean part of Macedonia, an emigrant in Paris, where during the Paris Peace Conference he formed the Theater Necrologist M, and dies in the infirmary for the homeless in the city of lights”. Even without reading the drama that follows, such an extensive characterization of characters, the part by the way, played out in a baroque style, dispersed along an simply enormous number of most various characters and even more episodes – it is completely clear that, standing behind this all, is a authentic and strongly intuitive author, which, realizing himself in the theater medium, will not limit himself in any way, since he feels that he is already crowded and over-crowded by everything he is in contact with: drama models, forms, canons, genres, principles. From 1982 until 2000, Plevneš wrote exactly ten plays which followed this same poetics: close to the manner of German expressionism or the Russian avant-garde of the Daniil Harms or Alexander Vvedenski that the local Macedonian tradition, his emotional, almost neurotic, drama-writing have continually been produced even more boisterously, more elliptical, more eclectic texts whose dramatic voice is not only reduced (fragmented, in a palimpsest way, and, even more often, coded in pictures. These pictures are the creation of Jordan Plevneš, a neo-pagan, post-hippie romantic (more than a “real” postmodernist) who continues to pile them up.
Blagoja Risteski has shown a different obsession with the colorful: the pictures which he has created are experienced as dramatic, so that an “additional” attempt at dramatizing them is made, giving them a dramatic form, but no longer poetic (like Plevneš), but mythical. The motif by which his dramatics operates are most often generally known or at least recognizable myths, Macedonian and Balkan, suggestively woven into the history not only of the nation to which the author belongs, but to all nations which are united by the turbulent Balkan fate. Most often we are dealing with myths which have become almost traditional in the Balkans and which have for centuries been allegorized, through all types of oral folkloric works, as well as other forms and types of art (fresco painting, icon painting, wood carving, silver work, weaving). Some kind of intuitive mythical consciousness “floats” through the Balkans and is centered on a very strong collective feeling that the knowledge and experience found in the myths far surpasses that which we, as individual, are capable of knowing. From this proceeds the general Balkan, honest belief in the power of myths, an incorporeal power which is revealed only through symbols and archetypes on which are built their transcendental pictures. According to the functional theory of myths, a myth is alive as long as it confirms a belief which is necessary or useful for a given community, while the length of its life is guarded by ritual. A ritual is not just a ceremony. The idea of a ritual is in its ability to remind, by the repetitions which are conditio sine qua non, of that which is deemed necessary for all of our survival or that which is simply stabile/unchangeable in the general transformation of the world around us. Ritual, then, is a “invitation” to eternity! Or, better, a futile passion for it!
Risteski’s plays, especially the most successful, Lepa Angelina (1995) which is included in this selection, with great courage treats that which in dramaturgy is extraordinarily complicated: the staging of the mythical, archetypal ritual.

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The youngest generation of Macedonia dramatists, of which fully half of this collection are members – entered the Macedonian theater stage at the end of the eighties.
And not by accident!
From the end of the eighties and into the nineties – and also in the widest European and non-European sense! – several new “views of the world” have been affirmed gradually but also inexorably. These were objectified/signaled by with new ideas/qualifications, such as multiculturalism, transculturalism, diversity, decentralization, deconstruction, intertextuality… In short, the period coincided with yet another fine-de-siecle, years which witnessed a natural beginning of yet another major revision of almost all established aesthetic values. Of course, these revisions directly provoked the then existing, but still continuing crisis in the field of investigation of and the commenting on cultural manifestations and phenomena. Because there were and are still affected by these changes, the youngest generation of Macedonian dramatists can be called the crisis generation.
This crisis, equally noticeable/intensive both on the receptive level and also on the creative plane, in essence appeared as a result of the critical investigations of the then ruling hierarchy of taste. Mainly, the generally known civil hierarchy, which until then precisely determined (but also still, to a certain degree, determines) culture as a whole, drawing a strict and unbreachable border between its so-called high/elite and its popular/common variants. Such hierarchical division categorically position cultural values, determining (once and for all) the proper “place” of Shakespeare and rock music, of harlequin romances and of Beethoven, of television soap operas and classical tragedies, of the paintings of Leonardo de Vinci and of inner city graffiti.
At the very end of the eighties the barriers gradually began to erode between lasting (elite) and disposable (popular) cultural and artistic values, which for a long time had divided so-called high and low art. Beginning at the end of the eighties, all cultural and artistic artifacts – regardless of their “ideological” pedigree – (gradually) began to be treated in approximately the same manner. “Eternal” and “sacrosanct” culture of books, museums, galleries and theaters began to be seen/experienced also from the “profane” perspective of everyday art, created from ephemeral, disposable, common, everyday objects, or to paraphrase Fiske “the sacred is a realm/area of crucial cultural importance, since this sacred place alone has remained the only place on which national culture began and achieved its own importance. Culture is common, and commoness is highly marked” (Fiske 1995).
The youngest generation of Macedonian dramatists – the crisis generation, as I have called them – showed that they understood this exactly, but also intensively felt this moment of crisis. What’s more, they were able to competently transcribe/form their own feelings into excellent theatrical texts.
The fact that we are dealing with a entirely new/different structure of sensibility (Williams, 1961) is shown at least by two indisputable arguments which determine the work of the authors belonging to this generation: the exceptional reception of their texts in the local/Macedonian cultural context, and the exceptional interest that was stirred by some of these texts outside of Macedonia.
The first argument in favor of a different reception of his young dramaturgy of crisis, is afforded by the case of Saško Nasev. We are faced with an author whose plays, exactly because they so wonderfully play with both the trivial genres and the conventions/canons of popular (everyday) culture, besides the fact that they have been reprised 200-300 time, have also managed to change the social structure of the Macedonian theater audience. The audiences that came and are still coming to see Nasev’s immensely popular neo-urban melodramas (all of which, by the way, written and performed on the stage of the Drama Theater in Skopje under the direction of the routinized Dimitar Stankovski) is not just that conventional-elite theater public to which we have grown accustomed, but is predominately an audience that does not frequent theaters. Their own standards of theater have to be built up. This is done, mostly though Nasev’s plays, which have come to be identified equally strong as the popular television “soaps”.

2018-08-21T17:23:48+00:00 February 1st, 2001|Categories: Theory, Theatre/Film, Blesok no. 19|0 Comments