DAH Theatre (Serbia)
DAH Theatre (Serbia)
how did you begin– as an individual/as a group?
When I think about how I came into theatre and what is the base for my training I have to look back , into my childhood. Not because, like many other theatre professionals, I always wanted to be a theatre artist. In fact I understood that I wanted to be theatre director much later, when I graduated in Special Psychology at the University of Belgrade and realized that I did not want to follow that career path.
But in my early childhood I spent the biggest amount of time seriously being involved with adventures that I undertook with a group of special people. Of course, all of that was happening in my head , but it was for a long time more real then “real” life. I think that it was the seed for my future life in theatre , specifically the theatre group with whose members I share my training for years now.
DAH, the name of the theatre, is a Serbian word that means “breath” or the process of breathing. Anyone who has investigated the psychophysical level of performer training knows that much emphasis is placed on the breath. Every movement of the body, from the largest gesture to the smallest synapse is structured like a breath. Even the traditional dramatic structure of a rising and falling action can be found in a single breath. Breathing is a way that we commingle with our fellow human beings and interact with the physical realities of our environment. It is a definition of being alive and an apt appellation for a theatre that explores the human condition so tirelessly. When one reads it the other way round it is HAD, in Serbian haddes which in Greek miyhology represents the God of underworld.
The birth of my theatre and its formation took place during a very difficult period (1991) , which was the beginning of the civil war in our country . It was of course a tragic situation for our country and it’s people but it was very fortunate moment to start a theatre group. We had all possible obstacles in front of us, such as lack of any support, political disagreement with our government , no space- just to mention a few. But the fortunate fact was that we immediately knew that our work was important, we immediately realized what it’s sense was. In a world where many other theatre groups and artists could not find their audience, their topic , their need to do their work, from the beginning my colleagues and I understood that we have a big reason to do theatre: to create sense, to purge ourselves and our society.
It was that fire that was once lit in our souls that has kept burning in us all these years. That fire is essential for my development as a theatre director, that fire kept me alive and warm through all those hard moments. One has to find a way to awaken that fire in the soul to be able to go on. My need now is also to transmit that fire to those who are coming after us.
- who gave you the first impulse, the necessity to do theatre?
I would like to share two stories that I tell in my lecture/performance 25 Glasses of Wine, which I created in 2016, for the 25th Anniversary of DAH Theatre.
A special date in my childhood was the 25th of May, the date when Tito’s birthday was officially celebrated. The name Tito had a special meaning for all of us who lived in the “country that is no more”. Adored by many, condemned by quite a few too, Tito, the then president of Yugoslavia, presided over the country known for being somewhere between capitalism and communism, the only country of self-administrative socialism in the world. The country that disappeared during the tragic wars of the nineties in the Balkans.
Every year, weeks before the 25th of May, rehearsals were held for slet, a massive gymnastic festival and the central celebration of Tito’s birthday, held at the stadium of the Yugoslav People’s Army in the very street where I lived. My street would be filled with buses overflowing with girls and boys – young people from the entire country. Everybody would rehearse all day, tirelessly, practicing one thing only – making oneself a perfect part of living tableaus. This enormous spectacle was different each year, but was always held on that particular date.
I believe that this was the exact moment when I became fascinated with spectacle.
The voice of my schoolmate’s father echoed through my street, shouting over a megaphone for hours directing rehearsals.
On the day of May 25th the street looked as if besieged. A sniper would move into the attic of our residential building, to protect Tito. Slet’s finale was always marked with spectacular fireworks and I was standing on the balcony each year, looking at the sky with awe. These fireworks still light up inside me at the end of each performance of my theatre.
When I was a little girl, I used to draw patterns on the foggy glass of my apartment windows for hours. Ever since I was little, I’ve been enchanted with the idea of a group of special people with whom I share the good and the evil, and with whom I’d have many adventures. Nobody in my family ever wanted to hear me tell my daydreams so, fortunately, I had a next-door neighbour to go to, my uncle Milan, who would listen to me every day as I told and performed my imaginary adventures to him. In order to make the stories more exciting, he used to cut bacon into thin slices and put them on the bread spread with ajvar, sweet-pepper relish, that we ate. Uncle Milan was my first audience.
who would you identify as your master(s)?
Eugenio Barba and Torgeir Wethal of Odin Teatret.
- why does theatre continue to be an imperative for you?
Through common participation (i.e. projects, performances, meetings) theatre can be one of the most powerful mediums for creating live contact between individuals from opposing sides of a conflict. In this way, theatre helps remove barriers between people and nudges them to face the truth and overcome harsh experiences, thus directly contributing to reconciliation. Theatre can answer people’s need to understand the moment they live in, and it can help them meet the fear, anger, prejudice, pain, and suffering in safe surroundings. It can remind people of the suffering of others. It can influence people profoundly without political pressure and propaganda. It can give the energy of life manifested in the dancing, singing body of an actor. It can make people smile together again.