Puppet theater in Serbia and Montenegro
Nowadays there are about ten professional theater groups mostly performing puppet shows for the youngest audience. In Serbia these are: MALO POZORISTE (The Little Theater) DUSKO RADOVIC in Belgrade, (1948), POZORISTE LUTAKA (Puppet Theater) PINOKIO in Zemun (1972), SCENA LUTAKA (Puppet Stage) KEKEC in Belgrade (1980), POZORISTE LUTAKA (Puppet Theater) in Nis (1951), LUTKARSKA SCENA (Puppet Stage) FENIX in Nis (1974), POZORISTE MLADIH (Theater for Juniors) in Novi Sad (1931), DECJE POZORISTE (Theater for Children) GYERMEKSZINHAS in Subotica with the repertory in Serbian and Hungarian language (1946), NARODNO POZORISTE (People s Theater) TOSA JOVANOVIC in Zrenjanin with mixed repertory which includes puppet shows (1956), MARIONETSKO LUTKARSKO POZORISTE (Puppet and Dummy Theater) (1956), and in Montenegro PIONIRSKO POZORISTE (Theater for Juniors) in Podgorica (1951). Numerous amateur groups also have puppet shows on their repertory. In addition to that TV Belgrade, TV Novi Sad and TV Podgorica have puppet shows on their regular programs. The production of short puppet show films started already in 1946 and the first feature film with puppet actors, entitled MRAV PESADINAC (Ant, the Pedestrian) , directed by Slavko Tatic, was produced in 1992.
The puppet theater has developed from religious rituals and a rich tradition of the Serbian people. TEATAR S LUTKAMA (Theater with Dummies) covers a whole range of performances, from the symbolic to the anthropomorphic ones, as is the case in the tradition of all South Slavs. In such shows the dummies, or puppets are the main protagonists of the performance on the stage. THE THEATER OF SHADOWS is a more ancient form, mostly consisting of the play of hands and fingers in the dark, against the flame of a burning candle. Similar to these are PUPPET GAMES WITH MASKS, performances with masked actors or jesters. VERTEP was a religious ritual performances fostered until the Second World War.
The first modern puppet shows were performed in Serbia at the beginning of the XX-th century by travelling puppeteers and jesters performing at fairs. Ilija Bozic was the first Serbian puppeteers famous for his puppet show KUKU TODORE, which was also the name of his small theater. In Belgrade he used to perform his shows at the Tasmajdan park near St. Mark church. Marija Kulundzic, writer, director and the doyen of puppetry in Serbia has successfully revived this show and published its text in her book MOJ ZIVOT S LUTKOM (My Life With Puppets) (1988).
In the period between the First and the Second World War the well known magician Kostolani used to perform his puppet shows in circus tents, inns and streets His puppet by the name of Cira (Tchira) in mariner clothe was his famous character, later on joined by a girl puppet Mileva. The audience liked very much their dancing and other forms of entertainment. On the eve of the Second World War, along with the development of the Sokol Movement, many puppet stages came into being and even two professional puppet theaters were opened, one in Novi Sad and the other in Subotica.
It is after the Second World War that professional puppet theaters were established, with professional actors and directors and a regular repertory attracting regular, mostly young audiences.
The sixties is the period of high achievements of the puppet theater in Serbia. One of the best was the show NA SLOVO NA SLOVO (Beginning with a Letter…?) by Dusko Radovic, directed by Vera Belogrlic, which in 1970 won the award of STERIJINO POZORJE (The Yugoslav Theater Festival) By using various technical possibilities (dummies, guignol, shadows, yavayka, the black theater) the puppet theater in our country has developed into a respectable performing art. Many playwrights, directors and actors have dedicated themselves exclusively to the art of puppetry and its modern possibilities of artistic expression.
Jovan Jovanovic –Zmaj, our greatest poet for children, is the author of the first puppet play NESRECNA KAFINA (Misfortunate Kafina) (1881) successfully revived and directed as a modern puppet show by Miroslav Belovic, one of our most outstanding theater directors. Stevan Pesic is a successful playwright for puppets and his play PETAO SA REPOM DUGINIH BOJA (A Coq With a Rainbow Colors Tail) was awarded at the Biannual Festival of Puppet Theater in Bugojno.
The author s project MITOVI BALKANA (The Myths of the Balkans) by Srboljub Stankovic represents the highest achievement of our puppetry . The show was performed by the puppet scene of the theater TOSA JOVANOVIC from Zrenjanin and in 1992 awarded at the XXV-th BITEF (Belgrade International Theater Festival) .
In Serbia and Montenegro annual puppet theater festivals are regular cultural events. The XXV-th jubilee was organized in Belgrade in 1992.The Festival of puppet theaters in Yugoslavia was established in 1993, in Kotor. The International Festival of Theaters for Children was established in 1994 in Subotica, with a predominant puppet repertory from all over the world with the annual award MALI PRINC (The Little Prince) for life achievement in puppetry .
Essays and articles on the professional, artistic and pedagogical aspects of puppetry are occasionally published in professional theater magazines SCENA and POZORISTE and some others. Among the rare books on puppetry three deserve to be mentioned: POZORISNA UMETNOST I DETE (Theater Art and the Child) by Milenko Misailovic (1991) and two by Radoslav Lazic: TRAKTAT O LUTKARSKOJ REZIJI(Tractate on Directing Puppet Shows) (1991) and ESTETIKA LUTKARSTVA (Aesthetics of Puppetry ) (2002).
Puppetry as one of the subjects is taught at the Faculty of Performing Arts of the Art University of Belgrade and Novi Sad.
Puppetry and puppet theaters play an important role in educating and motivating young amateurs of the theater and future keen theater goers.
Nowadays, Puppetry in Serbia and Montenegro follows the modern trends in this art and promotes its European and global values.
Prof. Radoslav Lazic, Ph. D.
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