Selected Serbian Plays
Modern Serbia’s theatrical drama began in 1804, when Serb leader Đorđe Petrović, also known as Karađorđe (1762-1817), liberated Serbia from the Ottoman Empire. This volume follows the culmination of a long and progressively successful tradition of the dramatic arts in the country, leading to the zenith of Serbian dramaturgy in the twentieth century. The theatre’s limited achievements in the eighteenth century were the result of the Serbian people’s negative and sarcastic perception of theatre as an institution. Yet this attitude changed in the subsequent two centuries, when plays based on the concept of realism–both political and social–became popular, contributing to the development of the country’s dramaturgy and theatre. Selected writers from this modern period include Branislav Nušić, Dušan Kovačević, Biljana Srbljanović, and Milena Marković–names readily recognized by today’s Serbian theatre-goers. The choice of authors for inclusion in this anthology is based on their acknowledged reputations and individual excellence in areas of topical significance, theatrical innovation, continuous performance and acclaim, and enduring truth and message.
– Branko Mikasinovich
After Tito died in 1980, the Yugoslavian government tried to pretend nothing had changed. Their motto was “After Tito – Tito”. The rules may have become less strictly enforced, but their presence still hung in the air. Holding on to the days of Tito, of course, proved more aspirational than actual. Without him, the economic imbalance between different regions continued to grow more severe and the historical grudges between ethnic groups floated back to the surface, making the eventual dissolution of the country, in retrospect, seem like a foregone conclusion. Milošević, eventually, was a poor imitation of Tito – and, where Tito controlled political subversion with a nuanced cleverness, Milošević lost control of it through a brazen arrogance. This allowed for a short period of more explicitly political and defiant works. Nothing of that nature, however, is included in this collection. The socio-political connections within the most contemporary works in the collection, Barbelo and A Ship For Dolls, are less local in their concerns – responding with a wider attack on the human condition within the 21st century. The theatrical imagination at work within these plays provokes and inspires simultaneously . . . Though not about to compete yet on an international scale with the likes of NewYork or London, Belgrade has an astonishingly prolific theatre scene, and as Harold Clurman reminded us at every opportunity, great theatre can only exist where the efforts to make theatre are legion. Belgrade is such a place and as the reader who becomes familiar with the plays in this book will avouch, Belgrade has produced some of the greatest.
– Dennis Barnett