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The stage reading of a play is an extraordinary opportunity for a contemporary playwright to have their words heard.

The program of the Rural Cultural Center Markovac, ‘Demilitarization of Drama’, is aimed at the affirmation of plays written by female authors and promotes gender equality while ensuring visibility for minorities or marginalized groups. Although the plays performed or read were created in different centuries and continents, they share, in addition to the gender identity of the authors, a common theme – the demilitarization of everyday life and the marginalization of texts. This means that these plays, for various reasons, face obstacles in being staged in theatres.

On the first day of the festival or the day before the official opening, an exciting, emotional, poetic, humorous, gentle, powerful, sobering, and courageous distinctive text titled ‘Boys Will Not Carry Guns’ by Jelena Paligorić Sinkević was read. Written in 2019, it examines the role of educational institutions and the modern way of life on parents who are forced to expose their children to a malfunctioning system at a very early age. The author won a regional anonymous competition ‘Eurodram’ for her play in 2020. She also emerged victorious in a competition held by the publishing house ‘No Rules’, which explores the theme of the city in a broader sense. The book was published in 2023.

The central character of the play is New Belgrade, a settlement built in Yugoslavia with the idea of creating a place to live for the working class and its residents. Through Jelena’s writing, contemporary New Belgrade has become a symbol of the semi-successful transition of our society from socialism to capitalism.

‘We don’t earn it; we inherit it’, characters in the play declare loudly, repeating the sentiment. Not only do today’s generations manage to solve their housing issues only by inheriting apartments provided by earlier generations, but we also inherit their fears and traumas.

The central figure of the text is a woman, a single mother in her mid-thirties caught in the clutches of capitalism. She must self-exploit in a marketing agency, the queen of capitalist society, to secure a life for herself and her son. The main characters through whom the author makes her point are Gavrilo and Maksim, boys who intuitively refuse to be part of a violent and aggressive society, and whose rebellion is a refuge for thinkers. Only if we think, have a critical stance, question, and resist militant narratives can we change the present and the future. The author skillfully and authentically portrays the collective and personal history through a palette of characters, both children and adults.

The reading of “Boys Will Not Carry Guns” is directed by Anđelka Nikolić and supported by the Reconstruction Women’s Fund. It took place at the ‘Little Theatre Duško Radović’ and was performed by the ensemble from the ‘Little Theatre Duško Radović’, the ensemble from the RCCM Children’s Club, and the ensemble from the ‘Two Angry Earthworms Drama Studio’.

Divna Stojanov is a dramaturg and playwright. She also writes theatre reviews.