Between drunkenness and dreams, 2008

In this text I could toy with fact that the program of the 15th International Small Scenes Theatre Festival is fringed by two nights: the boozy one of 1918, opening this year’s program; and the dreamlike, mid-summer, extratemporal one with which the festival closes. Nonetheless, in spite of the extra night (Fosse’s) and the furious darkness (of Delbono), this time I’d rather define these fringes with the words drunkenness and dreams as some sort of metaphorical poles in the midst of which the theater is born and releases its hidden elan vital. The energy that is always inspiring and liberating, even as a theatrical performance, like a virtual parallel of real life, intertwined with dismal layers, provocations, subversions.

“Art that shuts its eyes in front of reality is not art, but a spiritual defilement of itself”, said Dr. Branko Gavella in one of his texts written in 1944. His target were the hypocritical vendors of the theatrical glee of “our artistically gracious brethren”, as he called them; the apologists “of art for the domesticated solacing of philistine cowards”. Some sixty years after Gavella’s text, the “gleeful acrobats” have their way once again. In a world of swift and digested information, trivial media, instant internet knowledge and corporative interests, the theater is progressively becoming “a means for getting drunk and blunting internal alertness”, which in certain, more miserable, transitional countries it has indeed taken on proportions of a “disease with all the perspectives of the disease”. The metaphorical drunkenness of the theater, therefore, transmutes into lightheadedness, and the dream into lethargy, so that what was once an effective theatrical strategy becomes a mode of escape from reality; a means of oblivion and an unconscious glorification of lies.

And that theatrical lie, surely, perfectly coincides with profit theories and greedy methods of rampant capitalism, even though, I will again refer to Gavella, the lie is in essence “uneconomical since we pay it with its result of atrocious interests”. “The conscious artistic lie is a fruitless effort and if it prevails for a longer spell it inevitably drags with it a spiritual lethargy, a spiritual blackout and death”. The performances in this year’s Rijec izbornika / The Selector’s Voice selection are not linked by styles, poetics, thematic determinants; they are connected only and exclusively by the fact of their fighting back against that lethargy and blackout. Even when at first sight they seem amusing and relaxing (as is the case, for example in the Orange Peel or Midsummer Night’s Dream), all these performances are dealing with the unrests that torture us and diffuse through us.

In order to satisfy the ingrained criteria of festival selections we could have put them together under a common denomination (Drunk Night 1918, [mede:a]: Oedipus in Corinth, Dance of Death and Midsummer Night’s Dream could have conveniently been relegated, for example, under the shield of a reinterpretation of classics), but we deliberately refused to do this. We wanted the fifteenth jubilee edition of the festival to be carried out in an unburdened version in which, along with its inescapable financial and organizational limitations, only the most basic criteria is to be considered crucial: quality, originality and problemoriented focus of shows, an author’s approach and an up-to-dateness of expression, with unfettered and persuasive acting. In doing so, we are delighted that this small jubilee will be distinguished for its presentation of new works by four directors (M. Mladenova, V. Docolomansky, D. Mustafic, E. Savin) whose performances were featured in some previous versions of this festival, and likewise because we have the opportunity this year to for the first time present to the audience of Rijeka some great masters of the modern European theater, such as Pippo Delbono and Grzegorz Jarzyna, who is coming with a performance produced by one of the most famous European theaters, the Burgtheater of Vienna. Hence, this year the Small Scenes Festival will demonstrate major theatrical institutions together with independent and experimental theaters, which is just one more of the features that underscore the lasting receptivity of this small, yet penetrating and obstinate manifestation.