Were you startled and confused by the long line of people in King Milan Street a couple of days ago? The Yugoslav Drama Theater launched a special project offering extremely cheap tickets to all January and February shows, garnering massive interest and media attention.
It’s no secret that hard economic times have hindered theater popularity in recent decades, however, Serbia boasts a vibrant and long-lasting theater culture... So here’s a little look back at its history...
Theater in Serbia dates back to the middle ages. The first plays were held mainly to amuse or help people get through tough times. At the time, they were considered devilish acts, thus church authorities did the best they could to stop this form of street art. Serbian acting troupes traveled to towns and kingdoms across the Balkan Peninsula, such as Dubrovnik and Zeta.
The first known Serbian actor was Radoje Vukosalić who led a group of artists performing in Dubrovnik in the 15th century. The first Serbian play was a school play “Tragiokomedija” by Manuel Kozačinski in the 18th century. Acting as a profession started in the 1830s, with the establishment of the first professional theater group in Novi Sad.
Actor, dramatist and writer Joakim Vujić is considered the “father of Serbian theater”. He was the first director of the Serbian Royal Theater, founded in 1835 in Kragujevac. Another prominent name is Jovan Sterija Popović, one of the leading 19th century Serbian intellectuals, poets and playwrights. He was the pioneer of theatrical realism in Serbia, as he sought to truly depict the mentality and temperament of Serbian people in his plays. The 20th century theatrical scene was marked by the work of Branislav Nušić who specialized in comedy plays.
Serbian theatre developed under German, French, Russian and other influences, but has managed to create its own distinctive style – with original pieces and a “domestic twist” to popular pieces from around the world.