This theatre is a unique place where history, art, supreme literature and superior stagecraft meet
To talk about the history of Yugoslav Drama Theatre is to look back on seventy years of creation of the most significant plays that have often marked the most important intellectual endeavours at the territory of the former country. The idea of establishing this theatre arose in 1947. Yugoslav Drama Theatre was founded with a unique concept of gathering artists from the entire Yugoslavia of the time – from Belgrade, Split, Ljubljana, Novi Sad, Zagreb. Bojan Stupica stood at the helm of the newly founded theatre, as its Art Director. Today, one of the stages in the theatre bears his name.
The first play, directed by none other than Bojan Stupica, opened on 3 April 1948. It was “Kralj Betajnove” by Ivan Cankar and the theatre’s program, from that day onward, was always focused on pieces at a high literary level, on modern interpretation of the classics, on the most important writers primarily from European drama.
From its very beginning, Yugoslav drama theatre gathered the best actors. Numerous acting legends saw their careers peak exactly on these stages. In addition to the old-school representatives, like Mira Stupica, Marija Crnobori, Branka Veselinović, Ljuba Tadić – after whom the grand stage is named today, generations of actors have left their mark on the history of Yugoslav Drama Theatre. The theatre produced plays by writers like Moliere, Racine, Shakespeare, Shaw, Chekhov, Brecht, Ostrowsky, Gorky. Among the domestic writers, plays were produced based on the works of Cankar, Marin Držić, Sterija, Nušić. It was Sterija’s drama “Rodoljupci” (“The Patriots”), directed by Dejan Mijač, that reopened the Yugoslav Drama Theatre in 2003. Six years earlier, in 1997, the theatre had burned to the ground due to an electric wiring malfunction.
Jovan Ćirilov is another major name in the history of this theatre. He was the theatre’s director for fourteen seasons, from mid-eighties, and he invested a lot of effort into making the Yugoslav Drama Theatre a theatre focused on the contemporary stagecraft and thus relevant in a European context. After its reopening in 2003, Yugoslav Drama Theatre remained true to its programming roots. The stages of this theatre are now home to classics from different periods, as well as contemporary drama writers.
The most significant directors from Yugoslavia directed plays that still give the Yugoslav Drama Theatre a reputation that is rarely seen. The cast of the theatre now comprises many acting greats, such as Nikola Đuričko, Vojin Ćetković, Branislav Lečić, Dragan Mićanović, Nebojša Glogovac, Nikola Rakočević, Nebojša Milovanović, Nataša Tapušković, Srđan Timarov, Milena Vasić, Radovan Vujović and many others.
The theatre awards its annual award on April 3, on the date of that first play, seventy years ago, in this cultural institution that bears both a historical and an artistic significance.