Blesok no. 55, July-August, 2007
Dušan Jovanović – Game of Faith and Humanity
Liberation of Skopje by Dušan Jovanović (Matica Makedonska, 2007)
– Editor’s essay –
A view up to the lifework of Dušan Jovanović (1939), its limits, views on his widely various theatrical and wider opus, his linkage and significance with/for Skopje, are the light-motive for the book Liberation of Skopje, subtitled as Anthology ─ game and Destiny. The book, which has the title of the most played and most highly ranked drama by Dušan Jovanović Liberation of Skopje (474 pages), I split it in four parts: Dušan Jovanović About Himself: Who am I now?, a brilliant autobiographical text and Are the Theater and Politics a Same Thing?, essay; Selected Dramas: Liberation of Skopje (translated by Gane Todorovski), Karamazovi (translated by Ilija Milčin), Top Secret (translated by Branko Varošlija), Antigone (translated by Maja Lape), The Wall, The Lake, then Exhibitionist and Karayan Ce (all translated by Lidija Dimkovska); Trialogue: theatrology works – Long and Sincere Love Relationship (Liljana Mazova), Dušan Jovanović, the Liberator of Skopje (Jelena Lužina) and A Theater that Speaks of the Man and Only of the Man (Alja Predan); Factography: Bibliography and Theatrography of Dušan Jovanović, Dušan Jovanović through photographs and Theater Plays by Dušan Jovanović played in Macedonia (seven plays staged five of his dramas). The publishing of this book was financially assisted by the Ministries of Culture of Republic of Macedonia and Republic of Slovenia, m-r Trifun Kostovski and RICO, Ltd. Ljubljana, Slovenia.
The idea for this book is by Dušan Jovanović himself, author that works on many fields: drama and theater, essays, human studies, scenario, pedagogy, etc. His plays are being translated in numerous languages, played at as many theater stages around the world and awarded at as many Festivals and Reviews. The most famous, most played, most translated and most awarded of his plays, is Liberation of Skopje. On one of ours meetings in Skopje, he simply told me about his wish to publish a book of plays in Macedonian language, at least those played in Macedonia. And that should happen a long time ago, but it just didn’t occur to anyone up to now! That should occur to someone much before, because Jovanović firmly placed Skopje at the world’s theatrical map and memory even three decades ago with his play Liberation of Skopje. That play is also memory of the part of his childhood in Skopje.
Dušan is the only child born at the marriage of Ljubomir (son of Ana Hrisafidu, Greek from Athens and of Rista Jovanović, Serb from Skulanovo near Lipljan in Kosovo) and Emilija Geber (daughter of Ferdinand from Osijek and Marija Zelenko with Croatian-German origin). Born in 1939 in Belgrade, his early years were nomadic, traveling from place to place, but definitely grown up in Ljubljana, had his education in English and Romanic and as theater director; in Ljubljana he lives, works and there he made his family. As a child, he spent some time living in Skopje. In the midst of the Second World War his family splits up, and he settles in Skopje with his grandmother Ana. They live with Zora, Ana’s daughter married to the Macedonian Georgija Potevski. They lived in the house that is at the left side of Macedonian Government building complex, on the Boulevard Kliment Ohridski No.9, today a Government property. The events and the people from his play Liberation of Skopje origin exactly from that house: from that house, from under that roof and house yard his memories has their origin, when, as a six year old child, he lives in Skopje… Those are the memories from which Dušan Jovanović in 1976/77 writes his play Liberation of Skopje.
About those times in Skopje and the imprint from that period in his life experience, Dušan Jovanović wrote (for this book):
Officially, Dušan Jovanović is in and with the theater since 1963, when his first drama There Will Be No Play was staged. The next year, in the season of 1964/65, at the Student Actual Theater in Ljubljana he directs Plough and Stars, Jolly Game and Tiger. Through numbers, his opus is huge: written 23 dramas, directed 130 theater plays, published 5 books of essays and 1 novel, made 4 theater adaptations of world’s classical novels, few novellas, numerous TV and Radio dramas and scenarios, and has educated numerous students in acting and theater directing… The theatrologist Alja Predan (Slovenia) in her text for this book, states /… / So, comes up that this man, in his 14.600 days of creating – he hasn’t slept, eaten, made love, chased women…, shortly put – he hasn’t lived at all. And that’s not true, of course /… /. So, besides often directing his plays, he witnesses the translations of his dramas in English, German, French, Italian, Hungarian, Polish, Serbian, Croatian, Macedonian, and in other languages.
During establishing himself and his love-relationship with the theater Dušan Jovanović at first came up with radical formalist experiments. That was during the global anti-bourgeois movement, located in the 1960’s. The whole of his work at that time was interlaced and enriched by the rebellion spirit of his generation: the attack on the taboo-subjects and themes, freeing of the mind, opening of the ideological knots and junctures, making way for the more beautiful, simplified and relaxed way of life. As for instance, his well-known play from that time – Pupilia, Father Pupilio and the Little Pupilees (1969) has its subject in the popular culture (both as aesthetics and as political subversion). There, as an answer to the political truth hiding numerous trivialities as in many of his other plays: the horoscope aspects, small-talks, photo-novels, nudity and erotica.
The Worthless of the Content, according to Jovanović, is a glove thrown in the face of the pathetic vision for the future, and the humor is the element which confronts the sterility, modernity and all dogmas. Reality interlaces with theater, the threads of the game are getting perplexed, and the characters within that game are subjected to unexpected turnovers in any possible mean. The rebellion against the rationalism and the emphasized morality of the previous generations – for Dušan Jovanović – is the most important thing in his art-work. He has wider vision of everything around him, and in his own way, he plays games with the theater, naming his deeds with purposely ‘over-length’ titles.
Later on, he slowly abandons his interests in the formal aspects of the theater aesthetics. In time, he becomes more and more interested in the excitement of the human voluminosity of the theater: less as aesthetics, and more as a play of humanity and human values. The theater becomes a story-gathering place with human destiny in its center. He starts a quest and enterprises realization of the ideas, characters, bodies, and of all that is human. The human material is his everlasting treasure for creation. Upon this simple truth of being, he creates his own personal theater that speaks only of the man, as his categorical attitude toward the fact that the human material is the single and only guide of/in the theater and that the theater can not speak of anything else but of the human. He abandons almost all abstract areas and landscapes with unknown names and countries, and he starts telling the stories with the concrete/actual context-location-country. That kind of a context-theater is undertaken in his play Liberation of Skopje. The action in this play takes place in 1943/44 in Skopje, and it speaks of the several human destinies in the midst of the concrete war and in the concrete city. In his play Karamazovs, the first story goes on in Belgrade in 1948 and 1956, and it speaks of one man’s destiny during and after the Inform bureau, and the second story speaks of the one man’s destiny in the rebellion 1968. Top Secret is written in 1983 as allegory, or as zoo linguistic miracle about the ghosts upon the Federal States of Yugoslavia, and of the actual decay of that country, where the actual ghosts are of animal origin. In his play The Wall, The Lake, written in 1989, action goes on 14 years after the event that took place at 8th of March 1972 in Slovenian city of Bled. In Antigone, written in 1993, the story is about the people and the events of 1992 in Sarajevo, a city that the author compares with the antic Theba, where antic story of Antigone took place. The monodrama Karayan Ce, written in 1998, is a comic mix for voice and body: Moderato / Scherzando ma non tropo / Adagio sostenuto. With this play, Jovanović steps out of the public-event spheres and enters the small personal human destinies of his heroes. Through convincing humor and sensitivity, he presents destinies of the depressed characters on the margins of the society. Exhibitionist is the play written in 2001, signed by the pseudonym O. J. Traven (after the premiere of the play and after the Award given to the play, the real identity of the author – D. Jovanović – is revealed). The idea for the story came to Jovanović from a newspaper article – daily ‘black chronicle’ – about one unusual love relationship between an exhibitionist and a social worker in a Slovenian prison.
Exactly that kind of theater – theater that speaks of the man and only of the man – is the kind of theater plays in this selection of Dušan Jovanović’s theater work in this book in Macedonian language. Actually, this is an anthology – maybe the largest by the number of plays involved in it – on Jovanović and his work; also, even three authors speaks of him through many various aspects on his work: as a theater writer, director, then as a pedagogue, as an essayist, and as an artist and art-worker with constant provocation, polemic and cynic author who dares to challenge all anomalies of the world he encounters, who creates with his eyes wide open, and who lives with the full and endless life energy all of his life and life-work.
Almost all of his plays, dramas, essays, TV & Radio productions, as well as his way of teaching his students – are made of human material. And his complete opus, also, has at least three flows/paths: creative – aesthetical – educational. In those parallel and only his personal, long and sincere theater love-game in which the human destiny is placed, Dušan Jovanović – the theater director and Dušan Jovanović – the writer, are constantly within the whirlpool of creative passion. The Game and the Destiny flow together. The darkest landscapes of the human world are revealed, which, in principle, aren’t necessary open for the common sense. They lead up to human integrity and freedom.
Translated from Macedonian by: Petar Volnarovski