Once Upon a Festival…

…about the Youth Open Theatre Festival

My first remembrances of this festival originate from the days I had in Yugoslavia. Then I was in high-school. But even when I was in primary school I decided I wanted to be an artist in films and theater. At that time there was no Internet. The distribution of the international magazines – that were tackling the subject of the contemporary theater was bad.

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Almost everything we – the young people – could find about theater was through the cultural centers (the British, German, French one, etc.) and of course through the MOT (Youth Open Theater) festival. In this period, at the end of the eighties the distribution of the theatrical performances was also restricted. The only open minded space for theater in those years was this festival. During this time it also had very flexible timing. The period of its events sometimes extended almost during the whole year. I remember one season, when during the summer vacation we could see various domestic (Yugoslav) and foreign performances. However for me as an author more influential period was the one that continued in the nineties.

At this particular time our new independent state wanted to invest more money in its promotion, or so it seemed. So I could see some very important theatrical authors, which were critically acclaimed in the region and internationally as well. Such was the name of Robert Wilson (with his “Hamlet/Machine” – a play from Heiner Müller, staged in The Romanian National Theatre in Bucharest), the innovative performance “The Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol” from John Berger, directed by Iain Sinclair, than many avant-garde, radical directors from France…

The presence of the Slovenian authors was remarkable too, since they presented their new generation of directors which in that period of time were considered the best in the world. All media across the world were filled with reports about their performances. I still remember the report about the performance directed by Vito Taufer “A Midsummer Night`s Dream” in which the journalist asked “why should this Shakespeare classic be performed in a form of a puppet theater?”. I most honestly admired this generation of artists that nowadays became sort of classic, although as far as I can see they are still very innovative. Some of them became my pen-friends that lately were transformed into Facebook friends.

What is the connection between this festival and the theater in Northern Macedonia? As far as I can see- there is no such. I haven’t noticed any development in the theatrical poetics in our country ever since I was in high school. What is the reason for this – I don’t know. But I can comment that this is the case unfortunately in the other domestic spheres and cultural institutions. It seems as nobody wants to learn anything. Though according to my little survey – when they see the performances from abroad many local artists wish to work elsewhere. However many still have this festival in there happiest memories. This is of course a good point to begin with, or for initiation of certain progressive changes. The photographs are from the this year`s edition of the festival…

The 44th edition of  MOT – International Theatre Festival was taking place from 13th to 21st of September 2019 in MKC in Skopje.

Igor Pop Trajkov
Photos: Igor Pop Trajkov

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