Dubravka Knezevic

IN DEFENSE OF DIFFERENCE

Fragments of the essay in the book by Zoran Stefanovic "Slavic Orpheus and Other Plays", Belgrade, 1995.

[...] That which singles Stefanovic out as an original author, which is the pledge of his authenticity, and which is quite obvious in these plays, is his harshness, bitterness, lethality, his direct provocation. The credit for this does not go to his age, but seemingly to the heritage of the forcefulness of "barbarogenius", the dregs of a true artistic rebellion characteristic for this here part of the Balkans. That combination of a Central-European seeing of the world and a forceful, [Ljubomir] Micic would say "savage", spirit and motion, now dark, now brazen, is the specificity of the author Stefanovic.

[...] His discursive playwriting technique is apparent in the very subject matter Stefanovic merely starts from traditional myths, converting them to anti-myths or, better said, meta-myths, and not from causally logical stories to be told. Such a topical orientation necessarily dictates the appropriate structure of his full-length plays, a fragmentarily organizes dramatic whole. Several principles, more or less characteristic for each play individually, are true of all of Stefanovic's plays here included.

It could be said that "Slavic Orpheus" is the very play that defines the future style of this author, the manner and style of discourse, and here we shall conditionally speaking name it the principle of poetic-philosophical engagement. The fact is that almost all playwrights from these parts, either directly or indirectly, used dramatic form in order to deal with reality. Therefore in poetic-philosophical plays, with few exceptions, we have the situation that the plays are but an allegory of a given political subject matter. With Stefanovic reality, even the social-political one, exists as a pre-play fact. The author performs interventions upon it by finding appropriate mythological and archetypical counterparts to give himself the space to speak from the point of view of pure philosophy, in order to present the dubious tragedy of the heathen 20th century with a passageway towards antique tragedy. In "Orpheus" this link can even be directly observed.

The next creative principle of Stefanovic is the principle of the oxymoron as a symbol. [...]

The principle of role-playing. It seems that this principle is the driving principle of Stefanovic's playwriting and as such deserves a separate chapter in this essay. In his previous two plays playing with role-playing is visible already in dramatis personae where it is immediately explained to us the Orpheus (or should we say artist) is in fact acting Apollo (we should say his mentor, god of death and warriors), i.e. as the author says "leader-evilboder". [...] All of Stefanovic 's characters keep turning up as something they are not that they would like to be, or what they might be, and vice versa, which opens to the author the possibility for various combinatory possibilities of discourse.

[...] The time that is coming will be a lengthy test for the plays of Zoran Stefanovic that will one day, we hope, deserve a much lengthier, more precise and methodologically more organized expert analysis. In this time and place, where plays like "Slavic Orpheus" and "A Weekend with Marija Broz" are rare or completely absent, where the number of those that enjoy and respect them is shamefully small, where every stirring, not only on the stage, is doomed in advance to intolerance, and so young authors are also taking the easier road, it is much more important to point them out as a precious sociological phenomenon. Thus their very publishing is a great enlightening step for us that are still groping in the dark.

[Dubravka Knezevic author, theater critic and former lecturer at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts of the University of Belgrade. She has been living somewhere in the USA for several years.]


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