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Confession Of a Theatreholic

Hello. I’m Minja and I am a theatreholic. 

I don’t know if you know what a theatreholic is. In fact, I’m not even sure this word actually exists, but I think it means I can’t live without theatre!

The truth is I’ve never tried to, either, but – if I only imagine what I’d do in a world where theatre doesn’t exist, the only thing that comes to mind is that I’d have to invent it! Or I’d be bored and very sad. 

Fortunately, I live in a world where theatre does exist; what’s more, in a world whose very centre is – theatre. This world, my world, a world revolving around theatre, is a world I’ve created for myself; chosen for myself, quite a long time ago too, when I was still a child… Many years later, I’m quite certain this was the best choice I’d ever made. For this very reason I still believe that children are very clever. 

That’s why whenever I make theatre for children, or with children, I feel a very special kind of responsibility. My colleagues sometimes say: “Children are an audience you cannot lie to!”, but I don’t agree with this statement at all. On the contrary, I believe children are a smarter audience than grown ups are, because they sincerely believe certain things that grown-ups may mistake for a lie. 

Children are smart because they know: there is a space between truth and lie. This space in between is called fiction. Sometimes it’s also called imagination. This is a space in which all ideas that change the world begin… And it is in this very space that theatre is created!

Grown ups sometimes tend to oversee this space. To fail to see it. To forget how to step into it. On the other hand, children are sovereigns of this space! Within it, they move easily, steadily and with no problems whatsoever. For instance, when they cook dinner in an empty pot. When they have a stuffed teddy drink from a perfume bottle, or when they build houses of blankets, papers and leaves, resolved to move in straight away, completely free of all the irrelevant, “grown-up” notions such as statics, resilience of the walls, building permit or tenancy rights. 

Grown-ups say: children are playing… and the grown-ups are, in part, right. Because, when children play, children actually make theatre, completely unaware of doing so. 

The only difference between children and us theatreholics is the fact we do it consciously. We, the theatreholics, consciously and deliberately, keep our tickets to the space between truth and lie, because this space offers the best view of truth and the keenest ability to recognise lies. 

And that’s why theatre is the most natural place for growing up!

In theatre, just as in childhood, playing is the most important and most serious thing in the world. 

In theatre, as in childhood, it is through playing that we understand and explore everything that’s within us and around us, whether it’s truth or lie. 

Besides, we’re never alone in theatre. We’re together there, as cast members, as a  team or as audience, but always as “us”, and that’s good. In theatre, we learn that WE can achieve more than you alone… or me. 

Theatre constantly proves that there is something every single “I” and every single “you” in this world have in common. It’s the art of playing, but also the art of reaching an agreement. Because theatre is made of people, for people, and about people. Thus, theatre is the most human thing in the world. 

Take children to theatre, in order for them to become better people!

Take children to theatre, because it’s a space where only good things happen. 

No one ever comes there out of trouble, or because they had to, so the worst thing that can happen to you in theatre is to become what I am. 

Remember: I am a theatreholic!

And even if I don’t know whether this word exists in a dictionary somewhere, I know that whatever I invent does exist, in theatre. 

Take children to theatre so they don’t forget how to invent things!

Because, without that, the world is a boring and very sad place. 

Milena Bogavac, theatre practitioner

MILENA MINJA BOGAVAC (Belgrade, 1982) is a writer, dramaturg, theatre director, screenwriter, poet, drama pedagogue, activist and culture worker. As of June 2018, she is the head of Šabac Theatre. 

She graduated from the Department of Dramaturgy of the Faculty of Dramatic Arts. Her plays are translated into numerous languages, published in anthologies of contemporary plays, staged at numerous Serbian and international theatres and presented at relevant international festivals. 

She is the laureate of Sterija Award (in 2018, for the play “Jami District”). Other awards include: “Borislav Mihajlović Mihiz” for playwriting; “Josip Kulundžić” for “extraordinary achievement in the field of theatre”; two annual awards of Little Theatre “Duško Radović”, “Andjelka Milić”, for a work of art relying on feminist theories; “Good Example of New Optimism”, for human rights advocacy and encouraging youth activism.

As of 1999, with director Jelena Bogavac, she leads Drama Mental Studio theatre company, and, independently of her work within this company, collaborates with numerous directors, artists, institutions and organisations. She is a co-founder of independent theatre company Reflector Theatre, where she works as dramaturg and director. 

In collaboration with director Vojislav Arsić, she developed a collective authorship method entitled “Theatre as Young People’s Work”, on which they gave lectures at significant international symposiums and conferences. 

Since 2001, she works on organisation of Bitef Festival, and in 2015 she received the Polyphonic Author Award (with four of her plays being a part of Bitef Polyphony programme). From 2016 to 2019, she was a member of Bitef Festival Management Board. 

She worked as a selector and artistic director of Ex Theatre Fest in Pančevo (2006-2010), selector of “Joakim Vujić” Festival (2016), and Selector of May Play in Bečej (2018). On regular bases, she leads workshops on the use of theatre in education, and in the period of 2016-2018 she taught dramaturgy and screenwriting at Artimedia arts high school.

A member of Assitej Serbia, she was a member of the Association’s Executive Board from 2015 to 2017.