The first coordination meeting for the international project Against The Wind – A Response to SLET, as part of Novi Sad, European Capital of Culture, took place in December 2021 in Novi Sad, Serbia. Naima Baraka, my colleague from ZID Theatre as choreographer, and I, as director, participated in it, along with 10 other theatre makers from Serbia, Denmark, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. We started working on this project with three artistic teams, from which three parts of the performance would eventually emerge. The starting point for the performance was that young people of today will respond to the manifestation SLET, which celebrated the power of youth in former Yugoslavia.
In March, we held the first workshops with young people and in June, a group of 100 young people met to participate in creating scenes for the play. After final rehearsals in August, the large-scale production was performed on the 1st and 3rd of September, on the open-air stage, which was especially built for the purpose. More than 1,000 people came to watch.
Getting to know young people aged 14-18 from Novi Sad and its surroundings was an interesting and organic process. Young people signed up, called their friends to join, came and sometimes left. It was also a very complex and difficult process to work on the play. But those who decided to stay and worked diligently to create this extraordinary show were more conscious and stronger on stage every day. From this process, driven only by outline, an unusual collectivity emerged, which even led to tears at the farewell. After the last performance, I wrote them the following:
Dear children, as Luka said: Now it’s over! And that’s how it feels for myself too. But since every end is like a new beginning, I hope that this experience you had at the performance Against The Wind 2022 has led to something new in you. New friends, new feelings, new experiences, new ways of working together, new talents… All of this means that you have started something that you, each of you, are moving forward with.
I think the power of theatre lies in three things. The first and most important for me is the process of creative work itself, where things that we could not have predicted are revealed, and which came into being in the moment when we are looking for ideas, texts, movements for the future performance. The second is performing the play for the audience. This is that fantastic moment when everything you have been working on takes on the function of an “open door” through which guests come into your home. Not literally, of course, but the audience is invited to participate emotionally, mentally and sometimes physically in a performance. And then comes the third: a personal experience that each of us has gained and taken with us, as a precious thing that will mean a lot to us in the future. That’s what you felt and experienced and you don’t know how to describe it, it’s excitement and later convert into tears and emptiness when this event is over. But like I said, when something ends, something new emerges and I am sure that will happen with you too.
You were incredibly good and every day everything in the performance got better and stronger. I believe I will meet you again in a new adventure, send the invitations when you play, post it, create, dream and keep in touch.