2 October, 2023
Emilia Mrdakovic (photo: YouTube)

Interview with the Bulgarian Emilia Mrdakovic – director of the Youth Theatre in Novi Sad – about her impressions from the International Festival of the Danubean Theatres in Giurgiu, about its collaboration with the theatre of Giurgiu, about the plays and the successes of her theatre team and the difficulties before the young actors and directors in Serbia

Vladimir Mitev

Emiliya Stoyanova Mrdakovic is an actress and a theatre director. She has graduated from the National Academy of Theatre and Film Arts ”Krastio Sarafov” in 1989. She has directed more than 30 plays for children and adolescents in Serbia, Montenegro, Russia and other countries. She has received more than 60 awards in the country and abroad. Starting in the end of 2014 she is the director of the Youth Theatre in Novi Sad, Serbia.

The youth theatre in Novi Sad participated in the International Festival of the Danubean Theatres, which took place in Giurgiu in between 29 October and 4 November 2018. The Serbian actors presented the play ”Evgeni Onegin”, based on the work with the same name by Alexander Pushkin.

Mrs. Mrdakovic, the Youth Theatre of Novi Sad participated in the International Festival of the Danubean Theatres in Giurgiu. What are your impressions from this festival, in which artists from Serbia, Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania participated?

Unfortunately I could not see all the theatre performances at the festival. What impressed me most, was that the theatre in this small town is in fact a cultural centre, where interesting expositions and concerts are organized in parallel with the theatre performances. I saw a lot of young people, who were watching the spectacles and this is something beautiful! The festival is still young, but one can feel the enormous desire of the organizers to develop it. I wish them wholeheartedly to succeed in their efforts and each next festival to be more interesting and successful, full with performances from the whole of Europe.

The Youth Theatre has been developing relations with the colleagues in Giurgiu, who are also young actors. What follows in the relations between the two theatres?

We plan to invite the Giurgiu theatre in Novi Sad in 2019 with its latest performance, which is made in the style of comedia dell`arte. I think that our public will enjoy this play. We will help our colleagues from Giurgiu to contact the theatre “Dushko Radovic” in Belgrade. This will probably create an opportunity for our Giurgiu colleagues to visit the Belgrade theatre too.

The Youth Theatre in Novi Sad unites a puppet theatre and a dramatic theatre. How does your theatre participate in the social life of Novi Sad and of its young people? How do you choose the plays, which you play, and how do you make them interesting and impressive for the young people in Vojvodina?

Our Youth Theatre or “Pozoriste mladih” in Novi Sad is founded in 1932 as the the first puppet theatre on the territory of the then-Yugoslavia. During the World War Two the theatre stops functioning and suffers great damage. The puppets, the scenography, the costumes were destroyed or stolen. After the war’s end the theatre continues to function with great difficulties as a puppet theatre in Vojvodina. In 1968 it receives its theatre name, which it carries until today – “Pozorishte mladih”. Later, in 1991, it starts a dramatic stage also starts functioning. Since then the theatre has two stages: one for children, where puppet and dramatic performances are played, and a stage for adults. Plays are interpreted upon two different stages – the small has 120 seats, while the big one – 500 seats.

It is a theatre with great traditions. A lot of generations are accustomed to coming and bringing their children and grandchildren here, or to coming with friends. It happens often that some spectator, who has brought his/her grandchild, tells me: “Do you know that when I was young, they took me here to watch puppet performances?”.

Today our theatre tries to develop itself as a modern theatre for children and adolescents. We keep the traditions of puppet arts and at the same time we follow the tendencies in the development of the dramatic theatre. We take into consideration a lot of criteria, when we prepare our repertoire. First of all, we try to make it diverse, up-to-date, to discover new talents and new topics, which would be interesting for a multinational public (there are people of various nationalities, who live in Novi Sad). We want to create a circle of collaborators from other cultural background. We are interested both in Serbian and in foreign authors.

At the same time we search for connections between the classical plays and their modern presentation. When we prepare the repertoire, we pay a lot of attention to the age of our public. We have performances for the youngest – above the age of 3, above the age of 6, for students, for teenagers and for young people above the age of 18…

Some of the headlines in our repertoire for children are: “Peter Pan”, “Palchitsa”, “The Beauty and the Beast”, “Puk” by the Bulgarian playwright Valery Petrov, “Zhozho” by Kuzman Krastev, “How flying was discovered” by Margarit Minkov, “The small elf” by Slavcho Malenov, “Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, “Pinochio”, “The Small Mermaid”, “Puss in Boots”….

Novi Sad prepares to be the European Capital of Culture in 2021. This event will be very important for the Youth Theatre, who is one of the most important cultural institutions in the city. This event also gives a lot of opportunities for development and realization of new collaborations with artists and cultural organizations from all over the Europe. This would lead to diversification of the repertoire, as well.

I have noticed that you play a puppet play, based on a text by the famous Russian writer Viktor Pelevin. This performance has been a global premiere of the text, which I understand has been approved of by Pelevin himself. In another play of yours you approach the Serbian history in a humoristic way. Would you tell us something more aobut some of the non-standard and popular plays in the current theatre season?

We made a very interesting puppet performance for adolescents and adults in the theatre season, which started this year. It is based on the work of the contemporary Russian writer Viktor Pelevin, called “The prisoner and the six-fingered man”. The director Dmitriy Vihretsky and the painter Oleg Katorgin were our guests from Russia. Of course, we contacted the author and received his consent to work upon his work very fast. For the first time a text by Pelevin is directed as a puppet spectacle. Through the views of two chicken the social hierarchy of today and our attitude towards it are ironised. This performance is important for us, because we are in the process of formation of a puppet stage for adolescents. The Youth Theatre is the only theatre, which works in this direction at this moment in Serbia. A few days ago the play “The Prisoner and the Six-Fingered Man” won a lot of awards at the festival of professional puppet theatres in Serbia: Grand Prix for the best performance, an award for taxt, for directing, for art decision on puppets. Our youngest actor Alexa Ilic received the award for the role of the Six-Fingered Man.

At the puppet stage for adolescents we had another premiere – “After the wolf’s trace”, based on the novel “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London. The director of this performance is Jakub Maximov from Czechia, while the painter is Carolina Andradia from Argentine.

The play doesn’t leave anyone from the public indifferent. The director Jakub Maximov is very young. He has recently graduated from the academy in Prague, where he studied directing of puppet performances. Wit the help of his specific creative energy and interesting stage solutions, he managed to make a performance, which is full with emotions and marvelous visual and sound pictures.

Branislav Nuşic has been a part of our repertoire for a few years with his comedy ”The Bereaved Family”. Some of the new titles of the dramatic plays, which we perform are: ”Don Quixote” (director: Slobodan Skerlic), ”Evgeni Onegin” (director Boris Lieşevic). We have also put on stage two contemporary comedias by the director Olivera Djordjevici, which are watched with great interest by both the young and the elder. ”A Completely Shortened History of Serbia” is another interesting play. The authors of the text are Maya Pelevic and Slobodan Obradovic. They have intertwined different national and historical notions, mythologemas, fallacies about the superheroic history of the serbs and Serbia. At the festival ”Days of comedy” in 2015 in Jagodina the play was selected by the public as the best comedy performance. Another spectacle – ”Until I Feed you and Dress you” , is a comedy for those who have the joy or misfortune to be born, to grow, to study, to marry and the give birth to their children in Serbia.

What is the place of the actor profession in Serbia today – in social and economic plan? Do actors need to work at a few places in order to make a living, or on the contrary – the profession gives the necessary security to artists?

For the last four years in Serbia there is a law, which determines the maximal number of servants in the public sector. This law doesn`t allow for hiring even when a new workplace has been freed. This prevents the young people, in our case the actors, from starting to work for any of the state theatres. They are forced to work in theatres for small remunerations or to do something completely different. All of us, who are dedicated to theatre know that it is impossible to make a repertoire without young actors and that each theatre needs actors from any age. Today hiring a young actors, director, dramatist in a theatre in the country, unfortunately, is difficult and borders science fiction. Taking all that into consideration, our theatre makes everything possible to open its doors to the young creators, even though this happens through projects and for payment of remunerations.

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