During this month Terazije Theater marks its jubilee – seven decades from its foundation. Almost all media that transmitted this news reported, indeed, the powerful words of Radivoje Lola Djukic, which marked the beginning: “I want the hall to be on Terazije.”, and it seems to be enough, the Terazije Theater, that used to be called Humorist Theater, started working on December 23, 1949.
Four years earlier the World War II ended, empowered by the idea that they were not broken, driven by the founding passion, the citizens of the then great country and its leaders opened new cultural institutions. In accordance with this, Lola’s explanation of the request should be quoted: “Humorous or boulevard theater, which is lacking in Belgrade, must be where the homeless and the people without friends walk, where people are spending time, and then we offer them a ridiculous killing of solitude.”
For modern young audiences, music show is a recognized art genre. Terazije Theater represents the home of musicals in our country, where directors, composers, choreographers, costume designers, set designers, screenwriters, actors, singers, dancers, musicians, masters of light and sound, and many other theater goers, share the same commitment under the same roof. In addition to the permanent repertoire, there are also performances which are being performed on Bitef, Belef, Bemus, the Dance Festival.
In fact, it took a little less than a century for this nowadays acknowledged cultural institution, to affirm and fight for its position in the cultural life of the capital as well as in its literal sense. The theater began functioning as a tenant of cinema named Belgrade. Given the nature of the owner, the rehearsals had to be completed by half past one, and the decor could only be installed after seven o’clock in the evening.
In these circumstances, the first premiere comedy was a play from Nusic named “Dr” in 1951. Soon the Humorous Theater changed its name to Belgrade Comedy, and with merging with the Belgrade Drama Theater in 1959, the Theater was created with two scenes – on Terazije and on the Crveni krst.
After the separation from BDT, it has the name of Terazije Theater. Since 1991, due to the reconstruction of the main building, the repertoire, employees and inventory have been temporarily placed in the Cultural Center of Vuk Karadzic, where they will remain until 2005 when they finally return to Terazije.
Musicals here, musicals abroad
Musicals are a symbol of America, a performing form that has been shown on Broadway. Theater specialists clarify that the development of this genre was appropriate for the American ground, because it was a young nation that adopted diverse cultural patterns, which has an enormous tendency for music, which is appropriate for many different immigrant traditions and the lack of separation between lower and high culture.
Above mentioned was precisely the reason why comedies and operettas were considered to be an “easy genre” in our country and it took a long time to get recognition of art criticism in Serbia.
In our country, the National Theater, defined by its academic tradition and classical repertoire, was created in the 19th century. Afterwards, in 1947, the Yugoslav Drama Theater and the City Theater (soon Belgrade Drama Theater) were founded. According to the writings of Svetozar Rapajic, theater director, YDT was “an elite sample of our ‘art theater'” and BDT is “a kind of our ‘Broadway’ center for the researsh of young artistic forces.”
However, there was an awareness that the capital should get one boulevard-type theater where comedies would be played, as well as genres of musical theater, such as operettas and revue. And that is exactly what was occurring.
Home audience conquering
On the repertoire of the Terazije Theater for the first twenty years mainly were comedy and opera, which did not delight theatrical criticism or attract the cultural public of that period. Even so, the theater was working all the time, and Radivoje Lola Djukic was finding ways, new artistic solutions, but also people with whom he could make flawless the work of his troupe. With the arrival of Zeljka Rajner from Zagreb, the Belgrade operetta finally had its first primadonna.
In 1966, the first musical “Oklahoma” was presented. Then the premiere of “The West Side Story” in 1968 and a year later “Kiss Me Kate”. The audience enthusiastically accepted every following performance and every new premiere, although, according to Jovan Cirilov, the term musical has not yet been included in our genre classification.
However, successes were repeated. Music plays began to command new tasks, and our actors, directors and composers faced new demands. The acting, song and dance, or successful synchronization of all this, has created new challenges.
By listing the titles “Chicago,” ” Gypsies Are Found Near Heaven,” “Cabaret,” “Some Like It Hot,” “Hair,” “Mamma Mia,” “Phantom of the Opera,” and also setting up musicals that have works of local literature for libretto, it can be said that not only the term musical instinctively became part of our vocabulary and that this genre has its audience, but that it slowly but very successfully managed the scene on Terazije.
During its seven decades of existence, in a theater that changed names and locations 286 premieres have taken their place. This jubilee season began with the performance of the licensed musical “The Drowsy Chaperone”, and in the spring of 2020, the domestic musical “The Other Side of the Pillow” was announced, which will be made according to the music of Momcilo Bajagic Bajaga.
By: Ivana Slavkovic