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Projekat RastkoDrama i pozoriste
TIA Janus

Petar Marjanovic


Summary from the book:
Petar Marjanovic
Srpski dramski pisci XX stoleca.
Beograd - Novi Sad
Fakultet dramskih umetnosti - Matica srpska - Akademija umetnosti

This book is intended for those who create theatrical performances. The author utilizes the analytical procedure never used in this form in Serbian literary criticism and theatrology before. He had in mind that every dramatic work implicitly includes the theatrical performance, but also that the dramatic text can only be a reason for the creation of a new work of art – the theatrical performance, and be one more or less equal element of its language. This attitude is being supported by contemporary drama theoreticians and historians of theatre stressing that the authentic life of a drama is only on stage ("A drama must be seen"). Therefore, these treatises on the works of twentieth century Serbian dramatists could be a proposal for the creation of one among possible scenic images, a starting point in the search for an appropriate path leading from the dramatic text to the performance text, regardless of the fact that directors of dramatic work have at their disposal unlimited possibilities of reading, often totally opposed to theses unfolded in these treatises. It has been acknowledged that dramas are "literary works of a peculiar sort", that they have specific particularities (both literary and theatrical) and that they, as any other work of art, depend in a way upon their temporal and social surroundings. In his approach to every selected drama, it is manifest that the author is also well acquainted with Mikhail Bakhtin's postulate that any literary work of art is a world for itself, having its forms and its meanings and its interior overhistorical sense.

The theatrological method has been used for analyses in the book The Twentieth Century Serbian Playwrights. Just as theatrology as a science is based upon interdisciplinarity, this method is also set up on intersection of different approaches. In a word: the author uses methods of the science of literature (positivist, philological, psychological-analytical, anthropological, comparative and others); it does not mean that he deals with drama as a literary genre, but it is apparent that in its text he looks for latent scenic features, having in mind its effectuation on the theatrical scene. For that reason he relies on basic scientific disciplines of theatrology: theoretical dramaturgy, history of theatre (with its main subdisciplines – theatrography and theatre sociology) and theatre aesthetics.

The author's experiences as dramaturgist-practitioner in theatre and theatrical critic of a daily paper have determined him to choose this method. Therefore, these treatises show that he is more inclined towards those approaches offering a visible support for tracing a path from dramatic work up to its visualization on the scene, i.e. that he regarded dramatic works in a way first applied by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing – the line of vision directed to the scene. In his analysis of dramatic works; the author used dramaturgical theories from Aristotle and Freitag up o the theoreticians of drama active in the twentieth century, whenever he thought he could use them efficiently in his own analysis. Characteristically, he has not used the works of those modern theoreticians of drama who are not sufficiently interested in concrete scenic praxis, and rarely, and only fragmentarily, he used the elements or terms of structural analysis of text in the manner of Ann Ubersfeld.

In the treatises of this book authentic texts of dramatic authors were considered, although in this century (and particularly in the last two decades) they appear in more or less successful versions of theatrical producers. The author's subjective choice of the best works of the twentieth century Serbian dramatists does not differ essentially from the best known contemporary valorizations ( Slobodan Selenic, Antologija savremene srpske drame / Anthology of Contemporary Serbian Drama, 1977, a group of authors, who created the prestigious edition Srpska knjizevnost – Drama / Serbian Literature – Drama/, 1987), but his approach to the majority of these works is free-standing, although he obviously does not intend to write about issues not discussed by other writers before. In theatrographical fragments of the book there are data on all participants in the most important performances (made according to the works presented here), a commentary on their success among the auditorium, selective choice of the most important theatrical critiques of these performances and choice of noted theatrological studies and treatises.

In spite of the fact that he knows about resistance of contemporary historians of literature and theatrologists to nonliterary and non-artistic chronologies, the author has, for practical reasons, divided his book into three periods, using the so-called historical divisions: first, from 1900 to 1914; second, from 1918 to 1941; third from 1944 up to the last decade of the twentieth century. As a sort of prologue; at the beginning of each period a summary review of theatrical circumstances and properties of directions and acting as given, which works naturally in this book so pronouncedly directed towards the scene. Accepting a counsel of Friedrich Nietzsche ("Do not trust in those who speak too much about their righteousness?") the author does not explain why he picked out the writers and works he did (which can be from the contents of in the book), but it is obvious that those are the most important Serbian of the twentieth century. It could also be confirmed by the summary of the book.

In the first of the introductory treatises the author states that at the end of the nineteenth century m the theatres of the Serbian theatrical space, the dominant influence of the German models ceased to exist: until that time, the Burgtheater in Vienna had been the centre of theatrical trends that influenced the organizational pattern, forming of the repertoire and basic features of the style of direction, acting and outfit of performances; the Budapest theatres were, very often, transmissions of that influence. The influence of the French theatre became much stronger, because young people educated in France were returning home, particularly to Belgrade. Therefore» at the beginning of the twentieth century (more radically in Belgrade, than in Novi Sad), there were some changes in the repertoire policy and the scenic expression; while the Serbian drama literature went through thematic and structural changes. Newer styles of European dramaturgy (naturalism, symbolism. Expressionism) influenced the Serbian dramaturgy, too, first of all in the dramas of Vojislav Jovanovic Marambo (Nasi sinovi / Our Sons /); a renewal of the Serbian historical drama was tried by Milutin Bojic ( Kraljeva jesen /The King's Autumn/); while in the already too much used genre of folk plays with songs, Borisav Stankovic with his Kostana introduced a new sensitivity and poetic tone in a realistic proceeding.

Between the two World Wars theatrical people in Serbia were greatly influenced by the tours of the Moscow Art Theatre (MKHAT) (1920-1921 and 1924), that became a classic example. In practice, however, there appeared various stylistic trends: from Expressionism and symbolistic stylization up to naturalism and psychological realism, in parallel with traces of romantic diction in acting (as a lapse of the nineteenth century), that also lasted during the first postwar decade; urban natural speech and contemporary sensitivity appeared more and more often. At that time Belgrade had an actors' ensemble of a high Central European artistic rank. The important dramatic works of this period are: Maska (The Mask), apoetic antiromanticist comedy of the great Serbian writer Milos Crnjanski, a work of early Expressionism written with a resourceful inspiration and a good ear for scenic word and rhythm, and Kod "Vecite slavine" (At "The Eternal Tap") by Momcilo Nastasijevic, a dramatic chronicle of fascinating construction dealing with incestuous love. The entire period between the two Wars, as well as the whole twentieth century, was marked by Branislav Nusic. In his early comedies, written under the influence of Gogol, Nusic described the second half of the nineteenth century authorities in Serbia and their relations with the citizens. In his later works, he depicts Belgrade at the beginning of the twentieth century and between the two World Wars. The world of citizens he knew so well – from petits bourgeois and insignificant civil servants up to rich citizens and ministers – he presented with his refined gift for observation and knowledge of mentality (Gospodja ministarka / Madam Minister's Wife /, Ozaloscena porodica /The Bereaved Family /).

After the World War II, the Serbian dramatists found themselves in a society basically changed, where the nearly entire former tradition was thwarted. Forced to write in the spirit of socialist realism, in the first decade after the War, they wrote plays characterized by dissimilarity between the theatrical scene and the scene of life – reality. The turning-point play in the postwar Serbian dramaturgy was Nebeski odred / The Heaven's Detachment / (1956), written by two debutantes – Đorđe Lebovic and Aleksandar Obrenovic. This is a moving story about seven inmates of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz, who acquiesced to kill their fellow sufferers in order to prolong their own lives for only three months. This play has disproved the socialist realism, revitalized the realism and bravely aroused a discussion about ethicalness and human nature.

In the next decade the characters and situations in the works of Serbian dramatists became psychologically more complex and closer to the problems of contemporary society. Historical analogies and Aesopian language were used in order to explain the contemporary social situation and actual historical processes ( Borislav Mihajlovic Mihiz – Banovic Strahinja, JovanHristic – Ciste ruke /Clean Hands/, Velimir Lukic – Dugi zivot kralja Osvalda /The Long Life of King Oswald/).

A new turning point in the third postwar decade was designated by Aleksandar Popovic, who radically brought into question the basic normative assumptions of Aristotelian dramaturgy. Popovic put in the foreground the linguistic qualities not intensively taking under their control nearly all dramatic manifestations. A reliable connoisseur of life and mentality of his fellow citizens, in some of his dramas he writes with critical acuity about socialist social reality (Razvojni put Bore Snajdera / The Development of Boris Tailor/ ). The author tries to prove his uncommon estimate that the Ljubinko i Desanka (Ljubinko and Desanka) is Popovic's best dramatic work, by analyzing it.

The most prominent contemporary Serbian dramatists, besides Popovic, are Ljubomir Simovic and Dusan Kovacevic. Simovic belongs to the circle of the most talented and most important Serbian writers. The basic features of his works are moral sensitivity, melodiousness and richness of language and extraordinary giftedness for humorous imagination. His dramas are based upon experience of the folk and the written tradition, but are also open to the pictures of contemporary life. In three dramatic works (Hasanaginica /The Wife of Hasan-agha/, Cudo u Sarganu /The Miracle in Sargan/, Putujuce pozoriste Sopalovic /The Sopalovic Road Theater/), the humanist and skeptic Simovic, depicts with his elegant and transparent associations, in gloomy colors the society and conditions of his time and says disquietly that for a long time nothing in them will change essentially.

Early comedies of Dusan Kovacevic have shown clearly that in his case we have to deal with a writer who possesses all the virtues of the people he originates from, but who often exposes to merciless laughter their deficiencies, mistakes, meanness and blunders. The characters in his comedies excel by their endeavor to take from life everything they can, although all of them, after the conflicts of comical plot flowing on the wings of irresistible writer's gift for humorousness pass, will be frustrated and defeated (Maratonci trce pocasni krug/The Marathon Winners ' Circlet /, Balkanski spijun /The Balkan Spy/).

In this book works of other important contemporary Serbian dramatists have also been analyzed: Milica Novkovic (Kamen za pod glavu /The Under the Head Stone/), Deana Leskovar (Slike zalosnih dozivljaja /Pictures of Unfortunate Events/), Dragoslav Mihailovic (Kad su cvetale tikve /When Pumpkins Blossomed/), Jovan Radulovic (Golubnjaca / The Grotto Where Pigeons Breed/), as well as three writers originating from Montenegro and belonging to the Serbian literature, Borislav Pekic (Generali ili srodstvo po oruzju /Generals or Brothers in Arms/) Zarko Komanin (Ljudsko meso-Pelinovo /Human Flesh-Wormwooden/) and Veljko Radovic (Medalja /Medals/).

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