Summer is a true season of awakening. Different kinds of music festival sprout all summer-round (for more on this read Paulina’s article in VOICES June edition), new artsy initiatives take place, from vintage clothing, artistic and cultural exchanges to exhibitions’ crawl. This summer, the alternative scene in Skopje is gaining a resurgence of fresh blood that undoubtedly revitalises the creative stream of the city. Naturally, many of these projects and endeavours take place in Debar Maalo, Skopje’s other centre of artistic, cultural and nightlife, along with the more postcard-famous Čaršija.
Among the ranks of the newest inivatives in Debar Maalo, at 47 Miroslav Krleza street, one can find a curious and innocently appealing small frontage. Comfily embedded in a typical yellow façade of the neighborhood, its front window quietly affirms itself with simple, yet bright colors. Modest, yet protective, red eaves shield the front window. Bright green doors contrast with the theatrical red of the entrance’s contours. The frontage discreetly distinguishes itself from the rest of the neighborhood, alluding to the innocent mischief of puppet characters and the guilelessness of shadows. In a playful, green child-friendly font, the sign reads :Senki i Oblatsi(or “Shadows and Clouds” in English). The venue is a creative theatre dedicated mainly to shadow and puppet theatre. A few minutes away from Gradski park and the St-Kliment Ohridski church, the theatre just recently, on the 1stof June, celebrated its opening. Until then, Macedonia had never seen the establishment of a permanent address dedicated to Shadow theatre. Shadows and Clouds is so far, the only theatre of its kind in the whole of Macedonia.
As such, the opening was a resounding success. It kicked off at four in the afternoon with a short introductory speech about the artistic identity of the theatre and the aims and ambitions of its founders. The speech was quickly followed by a performance of hand shadows directed at children and enacted by the same artists that worked day and night for months to make this opening happen. After a stimulating jam session, children started playing on the stage, the artists briefly showing them the rudiments of puppet theatre, the techniques of shadows and how to blend the two together to create this world of enchantment that shadows is capable to produce through its charming magic. Until one in the morning over two hundred people “came and went”, from friends of the organisers, to curious passers-by, triggered by such a peculiar event, in such a intriguing new venue. “People didn’t expect something like this to open” says Ivona Gorgiovska, member of the founding team, “they thought it was exciting and not ordinary” adds Blagorodna Koceva, her partner in crime and friend.
Because Shadows and Clouds is not merely a venue for shadow and puppet theatre. Indeed, before becoming a physical place for people to meet and enjoy shadows and puppets, Shadows and Clouds was first and foremost a troupe of passionate artist, who, for lack of living off their art, live for their passion. Krume Stefanovski, the jammer of the band, Katerina Stekovska, a sort of runner of operations, Blagorodna, a committed pupper master, Ivona, the youngest but not least passionate and Aleksandra Stojanovska, have all been brothers in arms, friends in adventures and comrades in this artistic journey for years now. All have jobs on the sides to pay the bills and put food on the table, yet all spend all their time, energy and focus, into their art and for their ambition. As a matter of fact, Shadows and Clouds have been around for a while now. They have been incredibly active, being both involved in their local communities and engaged for the international cause of shadows. Ever heard of Cohot Na Oblačeto, or Little Cloud Dream, the international kids shadow theatre festival happening every year in Skopje around November for six years in a row ? That’s them. “Stories From the Hallway”, which you can go and check out on youtube right now ? That’s them too.
Shadows and Clouds have proven, by their drive and energy, that it possible to make a change through your art. From 2013 to 2015, they worked in partnership with MTV Adria on a campaign to raise awareness for sexual education among young people, first by introducing them to its basic tenets, then by working with educators and finally by working together solely among youngsters, all of that, through shadows. They had addicted drug-user work and perform a play called “Stigma”, whose aim you might guess by the name… Through Little Cloud Dream, they have met and exchanged with artists from all around the globe, strengthening a solid network. They have travelled the whole, going as far as China or Brazil, to present their production, their play, their world. They learned from their peers. China, as the birthplace of shadow, offers very traditional performances. Brazilian puppeteers, use industrial wastelands as open areas to blend different styles, using both body and puppet, while the Dutch have mastered the art of lightning, particularly developing a signature ambiance through 19th century lamps.
For four years, as passionate friends, they had been meeting at their respective places to work from home. Eventually, they rented a workplace that had enough space for a small audience, although “there was not much difference between working from home or from the “workspace”. The collective needed a more ambitious space, somewhere that would entirely be dedicated to their art, a true sanctuary of shadows. Their experience, working with international shadow artists and puppet-masters, have driven them to create a haven of experimentation. A creative studio where they can meet “people who are more educated in a way, with whom we can collaborate for creative exchange”. Like the Cabaret Voltaire offered a haven for Dadaism, Shadows and Clouds wanted their own headquarters, their own home, as they put it, to buzz ideas and creativity in a respected hotspot for shadows, lights, music and puppets. Their new home is the head start for new artistic explorations. They will be kicking off slowly, but surely, with a small program for the summer, which you can find on their Facebook page.
However, the collective is aiming high. From September, workshops will be offered to children and youngsters, with a focus on shadows and puppets for kids and more exploration towards physical theatre for youth, to liberate their expression through their own bodies. They are buzzing : “All have ideas to provoke active participation and inspire curiosity”. In six years of activity, Shadows and Clouds have already achieved a lot of interest and realised a significant outreach to with local kids, through their festival. “Our door is open for people on the same page as ours” Blagorodna tells me. Ivona later told me how they all met kind of accidentally, to which the former interrupted : “Nothing is accidental…this is exhausting, but it is our passion, every artist has this urge, this enthusiasm… we are 5 different people, but with this friendship, you can dream”. Shadows and Clouds are bringing dreams into life, and by pushing their doors, you might give life to your dreams together.
Театар на Сенки “Сенки и Облаци” Ul. Miroslav Krleza 671000Skopje
Facebook : www.facebook.com/senkiioblaci
Tel: +389 75 426 943