Radoslav Lazić

Some reflexions on the book “American Avant–garde Theatre 1960–1980” by Ileana Ćosić, Ph.D

“Gea”, Belgrade, Yugoslavia, 1996.

Dr Ileana Ćosić, theatrologist, literary critic, literary translator and conference interpreter, was born in Belgrade, in a family of eminent Serbian intellectuals: lawyers, politicians, diplomats and officers. She was educated in Belgrade; at the Faculty of Philosophy she graduated English, French and Italian language and literature. As a scholarship holder of State University of Minnesota, Minneapolis (USA) she continued graduate studies focusing her academic interest on the world and American drama and theatre. She got her MA in 1969 and her PhD in 1974. Her thesis: Plays by American Playwrights Performed ion Belgrade in the 1920–1970 Period is a pioneer work of great value for further research into foreign influence on cultural life in Serbia.

Dr Ileana Ćosić is the author of over 20 essays on American, European and Oriental drama and theatre, published in eminent theatre magazine and by the Serbian Academy of Science and Arts, which had a notable success with the specialists in this field. Also, she has translated about 40 modern plays by American, British and French playwrights, performed not only in Belgrade, but all over Yugoslavia.

Being a linguist dr Ileana Ćosić is also involved in another type of drama, not only close to life, but even shaping it. As a conference interpreter she has participated in several hundred international conferences and important political meetings. Also outstanding in this field of activity she is the only member from Yugoslavia of the International Association of Conference Interpreters (A.I.I.C.) with the headquarters in Geneva.

American Avant–garde Theatre 1960–1980, her first book published in Yugoslavia, is actually a segment of her voluminous research work on American Drama and Theatre — Main Development Trends and Outstanding Playwright.

Her interdisciplinary and complement insight into the world and American drama and theatre ranks dr Ileana Ćosić among the outstanding specialists in this field, whose theoretical work has enriched and broadened the international horizon of Serbian theatrology.

This is an exhaustive and valuable study on the origin, growth and dissemination of one of the most significant phenomena in the American theatre of the second half of the XX–the century.

The American avant–garde theatre came into being under a strong influence of Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty poetics and Grotowsky's Poor theatre is an environment ready for a new kind of aesthetic, social and political involvement and vital enough to produce a positive feedback on the European avant–garde. It is thanks to this fortunate merger that new prospects in the development of environmental — non–verbal, visual para–theatrical expression have not only been opened up, but also brought about a snowballing effect of the post–modern concept of theatre art on the global level.

In this book dr Ileana Ćosić, is an analytical, critical and concise manner, introduces to the reader the crucial representatives and master–brains of the American avant–garde of the period under review, who have initiated determined and streamed the events connected with the theatre events not only in the USA, but also in Europe and all over the world, in all cultural environments where the art of the theatre, as the only living art, has relentlessly followed its creative course regardless of obstacles.

Based on the art of directing the American avant–garde theatre is actually the fruit of the creative efforts of such corypheus as: Julian Beck and Judith Malina, Joseph Chaikin, Richard Schechner, Peter Schuman and primus inter pares, Robert Wilson, the most outstanding directors of the avant–garde and the creators of its theatre aesthetics.

The study American Avant–garde Theatre reflects creative enthusiasm of its author and her thorough insight into the recent developments as well as the historical, theoretical and aesthetic background and evaluation of hetaerae theatre events which have shaped this phenomenon. We believe that dedicated theatrologists and researches into the history, theory and aesthetics of the theatre will find it useful as a reference book and the young theatre amateurs and enthusiast in Yugoslavia and beyond the space of its theatrical boundaries discover in it their favorite and inspiring text.


During the 30 years of BITEF (Belgrade International Theatre Festival 1967–1996) many of the most representative plays of the American avant–garde theatre have been performed in Belgrade. It is, actually, thanks to BITEF that the theatre goers in Belgrade and the Yugoslav critics have enjoyed an almost unique privilege of being offered a systematic insight into the aesthetics of the American avant–garde. Appraised in the tight of the fact American Avant–Garde Theatre by Ileana Ćosić represents an artistic history of one of the most significant theatre phenomena in the world and as such deserves to be translated into the most widely spoken languages.

BITEF 1, 1967

Living Theatre, New York, USA, Sophocles–Brecht: Antigona, directing: Judith Malina — Julian Beck

BITEF 3, 1969

The Performance Group, New York, USA, Euripides, Dionysus 69, directing: Richard Schechner

Bread and Puppet Theatre, New York, USA, Vapaj naroda za mesom, (The Cry of the People for Meat), directing: Peter Schumann (Special award)

BITEF 4, 1970

La Mama Repertory Company, New York, USA, Arden od Feveršama (Arden of Faversham), directing: Andrei Serban

BITEF 5, 1971

The Open Theatre, New York, USA, Mutations, directing: Joseph Chalkin, Terminal, directing: H. Chalkin (award)

BITEF 6, 1972

Free Street Theatre, Chicago, USA, Lexicon, Mind's eye, directing: Patrick Henry

BITEF 7, 1973

The Medicine Show Theatre Ensemble, New York, USA, Medicine Show, directing: Barbara Vanin

BITEF 8, 1974

The Byrd Hofmann Scholl of Byrds, New York, USA, Robert Wilson, Pismo za kraljicu Viktoriju (A Letter for Queen Victoria), directing: Robert Wilson

BITEF 9, 1975

La Mama Company, New York, USA, Sophocles and Seneca, Medea, directing: Andrei Serban

BITEF 10, 1976

Byrd Hoffman Foundation, New York, USA, Robert Wilson–Phillip Glass, Ajnštajn na plaži (Einstein on the Beach), directing: Robert Wilson

BITEF 12, 1978

Teatro de la esperanza, Santa Barbara, SAD, Žrtva (La victima), directing: collective

BITEF 13, 1979

Squat Theatre, New York, USA, Poslednja ljubav Endi Vorhola (Andy Warhol's Love), collective work Squat Theatre (award)

BITEF 19, 1985

La Mama e.t.c. New York, USA, Samuel Beckett: Theatral, Theatral, To doba, directing: Gerald Thomas

BITEF 21, 1987

George Coates Performance Works, San Francisco, SAD, Actual Show, idea and directing: G. Coates

BITEF 23, 1989

Ping Chong and Company, New York, USA, Svedenborgovi anđeli (Angels of Swedenborg), idea and directing: Ping Chong

BITEF 30, 1996

The Living Theatre, New York, USA, Misterije i manji komadi (Mysteries and Smaller Pieces), directing Judith Malina

Open Theatre/7 Stages, New York, Atlanta, SAD, Suzan Janković, Terminal 96, directing Joseph Chalkin

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