Slovene week

Contemporary Slovenian Drama (in English) about (Contemporary) Slovenian Drama

/ by Simona Hamer

 

A red velvet curtain in the Theater of Slovenian plays opens and…

Nothing?

What?

An empty stage.

No, this is not a joke. Or a haiku. Or a metaphor.

On a gigantic stage is a simple, clearly visible…nothing.

NOTHING. No set, no actors. Nothing. Not even a chair or some other piece of furniture. Or a hatchet – a Slovenian interpretation of Chekhov’s gun - that would lead our respected audience to believe that someone is going to appear, pick it up and chop someone’s head off. Or prep some wood for his mother’s furnace.

Nothing.

But that's ok. Our audience is used to all sorts and types of theater. As long as it's good. That's the only relevant criteria. Our dear audience awaits, with great patience, someone or something – as we said, they are very open – to appear on stage.

Still nothing.

Not even a sign reading “Out of order” or “I’ll be right back” or “The End” that would lead the experienced audience to believe that maybe, just maybe, they are already experiencing art. Performance art.

No song, no music, no light design, no words. Not even a noun or a letter.

Nothing.

Audience is becoming impatient. Especially so-called “professionals” who are here on business. To find new plays. New talent. New magic. Yes – they do exist. And yes – they are foreigners. Slovenian professionals don’t bother going to the theater. Or to read plays.i They just ask around and then offer an opinion.

Nothingness on the stage.

What’s going on? They paid for their ticket (or got them for free) and prepared themselves for a nice evening in the Theater of Slovenian plays. And now all they see is an empty stage. Why?

Well, the answer is quite simple – (and it comes with a slight change of genre, so brace yourself, dear reader) - Slovenian plays are being held hostage. Trapped in a basement – which is more of an Austrian thing but we, Slovenians, like to copy-paste important others… Come – let’s have a look!

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So – we are now on the other side of the red curtain. Backstage at the Theater of Slovenian plays. Let’s skip the symbolic and metaphoric journey and just say that we are here. In the basement!

Before us we find a heavy iron door. We must sneak by big shiny offices of the guards. Don’t worry, dear reader, they are just taking a nap – the job is exhausting. The guards have to keep Slovenian plays locked up. Especially contemporary ones – the most dangerous of them all! That’s how it’s been done for years. Just every now and then – so that nobody gets suspicious – they will let a play out on the stage. And then, after five minutes in the spotlight, they will lock her up again. The guards usually pick a classic. It’s less risky. History already-confirmed as okay, and the audience has heard about them in school. No surprises. But still – you have to be careful. Slovenian plays are sneaky little bastards, and you wouldn’t want them confusing fragile audiences that are used to seeing only the best: Classic Greek tragedy, Shakespeare, maybe some Russian stuff for the melancholic Slavic soul or – if you want to be really out there and wild – some superstar of contemporary drama that is being played all over Europe.

But enough about the guards.

Let’s see what is going on behind the double-locked doors:

 

SLOVENIAN PLAYS:1

We had a dream we’ve managed to escape this prison.

We had a dream that we were on stages, on radios, in books, magazines and the world wide web.

We had a dream that we were fulfilling our purpose.

We had a dream about waking up and taping a piece of paper onto a red velvet curtain. Or just nailing it onto the door of Ministry of culture. Or the parliament. Or on all of them. This part of our dream is a little foggy, so it’s hard to tell…

We had a dream that, on this paper, our demands were written:

- that the commissioning, staging and publishing of Slovenian contemporary plays should be mandatory for recipients of state money and, therefore, a long-lasting strategical key point of development in the national cultural plan of the Ministry of Culture

- that young, emerging, never-staged or published playwrights should be supported extra and encouraged

- that translations, promotions and presentations of Slovenian plays and playwrights abroad should be financially and logistically supported and executed

- that scholarships, residential programs and positions of house authors should be widely available

- that theoretical interpretations of plays should be encouraged.

Is this monologue getting a little long? And boring? We know – nobody likes manifestos. We dreamed about that, too. Our reader, yawning away … So – we suggest a little brake. Go and see what is happening to our venerable audience in the theater, ok?

 

With the half of the venerable audience – you mean? Well, those who stayed are quite restless. They are talking to each other, looking at their phones, sleeping. Do you see a guy sleeping, there in the 14th row? Hey? What are you?!?

 

While I was checking up on the remaining audience, you, my dear reader, have secretly unlocked the basement door and freed Slovenian plays from their involuntary imprisonment! Bravo! I applaud you! Now, the plays are running like Lassie towards their home – the stage. (Yes – another change of genre.) I can see a piece of paper in their hands. It’s good to be prepared. You never know into which reality you will wake. I guess all we have to do now, dear Liberator, is find ourselves nice seats because the performance is – finally! – going to start.

 

A red velvet curtain in the Theater of Slovenian plays opens and

 

SLOVENIAN CONTEMPORARY PLAY:

I’ll take it from here.

 

 

1By Simona Semenič, Rokgre, Vinko Möderdorfer, Draga Potočnjak, Matjaž Zupančič, Nebojša Pop - Tasić, Žanina Mirčevska, Dušan Jovanović, Andrej Rozman – Roza, Peter Rezman, Tamara Matevc, myself... and so on and on – of all the “youngsters” and on and on, plays of Cankar and Linhart and on, into the beginning with first official Slovenian play of Father Romuald – they are all here. Together.

iSIMONA HAMER: Well, about that... Let's say that we already exchanged all the juicy gossip about bastard nature of theater plays and that you, my dear reader, are now well aware of this unique “in between” position of plays, where Mother Literature is saying: “Sorry, I have other mouths to feed!” and Father Theater is saying: “Sorry, I have other children, more interesting and less demanding than you!” Or – shortened – “Fuck off!” from both sides. Being last in line also applies in the “international market.” The only way foreign theaters or publishers can come across a Slovenian (contemporary) play is by accident. Slovenian theaters almost never tour abroad with contemporary Slovenian plays, there are no organized presentations of plays and playwrights in (theater or literary) festivals, no database or archive* and so on and on... The list of non-existing practices of the Ministry of Culture, theaters, publishers, (government) cultural organizations (and so on and so on) is reaching infinity. So it all comes down to the playwright. First, you have to write a play (usually for your own amusement). Then you have to translate the play (quite a luxurious and risky investment), and then – wait. And keep your fingers crossed for a miracle.

* LITTLE SNOWFLAKE OF GOOD PRACTICE: There is an archive in the making on www.sigledal.org, but it’s only in Slovenian.

 

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Simona Hamer

(1984) is a freelance playwright, dramaturge, performer and publicist. As a dramaturge and a playwright, she co-created more than thirty performances in Slovenian theaters, including children and puppet theater, radio and experimental theater. Her plays Silent Figures, C-o-u-n-t-i-n-g-r-h-y-m-e-s, Tick-tock and Lovebirds had numerous (international) stage readings. In 2017, she won a Slovenian national award for best play for Postcards or Fear is Hollow on the Inside and Empty from the Outside, which was staged in SNT Drama Ljubljana.