Contemporary Slovene theatre

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Introduction

Theatre is an art form that has been shaping Slovenia's image abroad, with several successful guest appearances and individual artists gaining international acclaim. The independent sector, comprising a range of non-governmental performing arts organisations, was established in Ljubljana in the late 1980s and 1990s and has since produced primarily visual and physical theatre, experimental drama theatre, street theatre and other interdisciplinary theatre forms. Slovenia has also gained international recognition for performing arts theory, research, publishing and documentation initiatives.

Annual production statistics

At present more than 100 productions are staged each year by the public theatres and about 40 projects by independent professional groups. The non-professional or amateur sector is very active, with approximately 170 amateur groups producing drama. Within a population of just under two million, Slovene attendance at theatre productions amounts to around 1 million sold tickets a year.

In 2004 the 42 theatres which reported on their activities attracted total audiences of 719,450 people; in 2005 that figure rose to 928,629, an increase of 29.1 per cent over the previous year. In 2004 these theatres staged 195 new productions and in 2005 this figure increased to 246. However, during the same period the number of performances held by theatre companies in their own venues decreased from 6,124 to 5,226, while the number of performances by visiting theatrical groups in those venues increased from 793 in 2004 to 830 in 2005.

Letopis SGM - Annual survey of the National Theatre Museum 2005-2006

The annual survey of the National Theatre Museum of Slovenia for the season 2005-2006 polled a total of 25 theatres and theatre groups which played 5,345 performances of 392 plays, of which 186 were new productions. Meanwhile, 2,045 performances by Slovene theatre groups were performed abroad.

Theatre groups mostly staged plays by foreign authors (211 plays), with Croatia, Austria and Italy as the most popular foreign destinations. Theatres and theatre groups moreover had 1,444 full-time employees in the 2003-2004 season, 78.5 per cent of which worked in professional theatre houses. The number of professional and experimental theatre groups, and consequently the number of theatre-goers, greatly increased in comparison with the 1989-1990 season, when eight such theatres sold 395,000 tickets. Meanwhile, the number of professional youth and children's theatre houses remained the same in the period, however, these theatre houses staged many more plays. Four amateur theatre ensembles meanwhile played 447 performances in the 2003-2004 season, 200 more than in the 2002-2003 season. The number of independent theatre groups remained the same in 2003-2004 compared with the previous season, but played 994 performances in comparison with 662 in the 2002-2003 season.

Co-operation between institutional and non-institutional sectors

Fruitful co-operation of the institutional and the non-institutional sectors has been a long-term aim of cultural policy. The sectors are interrelated in many ways: some professionals working at theatre and ballet houses also take part in independent stage productions, and institutional premises are used from time to time by independent cultural organisations, primarily if they organise a festival. Nevertheless the two sectors still differ heavily where funding is concerned. Independent theatre has only recently begun to be more substantially supported by the state. With the new policy of three-year contracts for selected independent producers (13 in the field of theatre/dance/puppetry in 2004-2006, 12 in 2007-2009) the Ministry of Culture now tries to ensure continuity and improved working conditions, with regular support for NGO cultural programmes and running costs. Another principal funder, the Ljubljana Urban Municipality, has applied the same type of grant scheme.

Repertory theatre

The three theatre houses, Slovene National Theatre Drama Ljubljana, Slovene National Theatre Maribor and Slovene National Theatre Nova Gorica, represent the core state-supported performing arts infrastructure. There are another nine public professional theatres in Slovenia: the Ljubljana City Theatre (MGL), the Mladinsko Theatre, the Prešeren Theatre Kranj, the Slovene People’s Theatre (SLG) Celje, the Koper Theatre, the Ptuj City Theatre, the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre and the Maribor Puppet Theatre, as well as the Anton Podbevšek Theatre established in 2006 in Novo mesto. Most of these theatres are financed by the national budget, while three (Prešeren Theatre Kranj, Ptuj Theatre and Koper Theatre) are financed by the budgets of their respective local communities. All theatre houses other than the Ptuj, Koper and Novo mesto theatres have a permanent resident company. All of the afore-mentioned theatres are repertory theatres with productions that are usually text-based, featuring international and Slovene classics (Ivan Cankar, Slavko Grum, Dominik Smole, Gregor Strniša) as well as works by contemporary writers (Drago Jančar, Vinko Möderndorfer, Matjaž Zupančič). The exception is the Mladinsko Theatre, which is orientated towards modern theatrical research and has employed not only actors but also two stage directors, V Taufer and M Pograjc. The Mladinsko Theatre has been a regular guest at prestigious theatre festivals in Europe and South America.

The theatre houses in Maribor, Kranj, Celje and Ptuj organise annual festivals, mostly overviews of recent Slovene productions with a focus on various theatre genres, for example, the Borštnik Theatre Festival, Slovene Theatre Festival, the Days of Comedy in Celje and Slovene Drama Week in Kranj, and the Festival of Monodrama, Ptuj. Apart from receiving domestic tours, these theatre houses regularly host international productions (mostly within festival programmes or as institutional or group presentations) as well as occasionally lending their stages (usually small stages) for independent artists’ productions.

Independent production

Slovenia, especially its capital Ljubljana, has a long tradition of independent cultural production dating back to the 1960s. In the early 1980s a strong independent art movement developed, featuring completely new artistic concepts and ways of presentation, peaking in the mid 1980s when new conditions for the production and organisation of culture were established. Thus, the alternative art of the 1980s could also be seen as politically avant-garde in interpreting and manipulating ideological and artistic liberalism.

In 1986 the Cankarjev dom Culture and Congress Centre staged the anthology show Krst pod Triglavom ('The Baptism under Triglav') by director Dragan Živadinov, and hosted the Scipion Nasice Theatre, which was a part of the Neue Slowenische Kunst movement. This event initiated a strong conceptual, non-verbal and physical theatre movement which continues to this day. A consistent conceptually-focused auteur approach, original forms of stage presentations and aesthetic innovations in the field of diction and motion were quite powerful and made important shifts in the cultural scene, both domestically and at the international level. At the end of the 1980s the new names coming from the Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television (AGRFT) included Tomaž Pandur, Vito Taufer, Vlado Repnik, Bojan Jablanovec, Matjaž Berger, Marko Peljhan, Janez Janša, Matjaž Pograjc and Barbara Novakovič.

In the 1990s the Slovene alternative cultural scene underwent a drastic change with the emergence of a new generation of directors. Some (such as Sebastijan Horvat and Tomi Janežič) began introducing their new concepts directly into the institutional theatre repertoire, while others (including EPI Centre, GVR and Via Negativa) worked through the independent sector. International festivals were launched by several producers, notably the Exodos International Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts run by Exodos Institute, the Mladi levi Festival run by Bunker Institute and the Eẋ Ponto International Festival with its focus on Balkan region co-productions organised by the B-51 Cultural Society. Many non-institutional organisations extended the scope of their activities (including Maska Institute which expanded from publishing to production activities), while others began to breach art-form boundaries. For example, the Muzeum Institute began producing performing arts works by architects, visual artists and theoreticians, while Projekt Atol Institute and others focused on visual installation, intermedia and sound projects. Nowadays performances of independent professional theatres usually feature physical theatre (for example Betontanc), Theatre of the Real, the Symbolic and the Imaginary (see Noordung Cosmokinetic Cabinet as well as those mentioned above) or street theatre (eg Ana Monró Theatre). Rozinteater is a vehicle for the talents of well-known Ljubljana poet, dramatist and actor Andrej Rozman Roza (b 1955), who co-founded Ana Monró Theatre and has received several awards for his productions. As an ingenious author, witty observer and poet, he has been engaged in hundreds of Slovene drama performances and films, both as actor and songwriter. He prepares also his own productions, ranging from simple street performances and children's shows to satirical performances for adults. Most of these are performed at the KUD France Prešeren Arts and Culture Association in Ljubljana as well as at festivals at home and abroad.

Venues

In addition to the main theatre houses, a small number of independent venues have stages and technical equipment. These include the Glej Theatre (the oldest independent theatre venue in Slovenia), the Dance Theatre Ljubljana, the Mini Theatre at Ljubljana Castle, and the KUD France Prešeren Arts and Culture Association, and Klub Gromka in Ljubljana. The staging of the Mladi levi Festival has resulted in the creation of further new venues and since Autumn 2004 the Stara Elektrarna - Old Power Station run by Bunker Institute has functioned as a venue for rehearsals and performances. More recently, with the relocation of Kolosej Cinemas from the city centre into the suburbs, the former cinema Šiška has been developed into an alternative music hall and has recently reopened under the name Kino Šiška, Center for Urban Culture. Outside Ljubljana, professional performing arts are closely linked to regional theatre houses or to individual municipal cultural centres, generally called kulturni dom, which have only the most basic equipment.

Theatre production is also an integral part of other public cultural institutions, such as Cankarjev dom Culture and Congress Centre. Annually, Cankarjev dom presents around 140 theatre and dance performances, plus post-productions of approximately 50 performing arts works in Slovenia and abroad. The Theatre for Children and Youth (GOML) holds a theatre festival for children every year. Ljubljana Festival is primarily music-based, but does occasionally participate in theatrical co-production.

Street theatre and improvisation theatre

Slovenia's main street theatre company, the Ana Monró Theatre, organises an important annual festival known as the Ana Desetnica International Street Theatre Festival. In recent years street theatre as an art form has gained many devoted fans in Ljubljana, Maribor and Nova Gorica, and the number of Slovene street theatre groups has increased steadily. Ana Monró Theatre has successfully performed at several festivals abroad. The online database of the Slovenia Cultural Profile includes other key street theatre groups such as Little Flying Circus, as well as circus art groups such as Buffetto Mini Circus, Little Flying Circus and Saltimbanko Magic World. Improvisation theatre has also been developed under the auspices of the Improvisation Society of Slovenia and its annual Naked Stage International Improvisational Theatre Festival, and some young groups such as Kolektiv Narobov have enjoyed international success.

Commercial theatre

In the second half of the 1990s there was a popularisation of commercial theatre. Commercial venues are normally located on the outskirts of the city and attract crowds of people, particularly for the dominating genre of comedy. Špas Theatre was established in 1997 as the first private commercial theatre in Slovenia, while Djurić-Djuro established his own company Theatre 55 in 2001. To date the team has created around seven comedies, enjoying enormous box office success with its formula of popular comedy delivered by a high-profile cast of professional actors known for their popular TV appearances. The emergence of commercial theatre has presented quite a challenge to the overall production of Slovene theatre.

Non-professional theatre

Youth theatre has developed mainly under the umbrella of grammar school theatre groups. Today there are over 170 amateur theatre groups which seek to stimulate interest, discover talent and educate future professionals at an early age across the entire country. These amateur theatre groups are funded by the Public Fund for Cultural Activities of the Republic of Slovenia, which has branch offices around Slovenia and organises workshops and festivals. Domestic touring by non-professional theatre companies is organised individually and on a fairly small scale.

Further reading

Independent production

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