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After most actors at Atelje 212 petitioned for the removal of their controversial director, Kokan Mladenovic, his future is in the hands of the theatre’s founder, the city assembly.
|Kokan Mladenovic | Youtube printscreen|
After 25 of the 33 actors at Belgrade’s Atelje 212 theatre signed a petition demanding the replacement of their director on June 5, Belgrade City Assembly will decide how to respond after it is reconstituted following May local elections in Serbia.
In an open letter, the petition seeks Kokan Mladenovic’s removal on the grounds of his “arbitrariness, arrogance, bad taste, self-marketing, dilettantism, disdain for actors, sowing seeds of evil among actors” among other factors.
The petition group, which includes Anica Dobra, Tihomir Stanic, Gordan Kicic, and Anita Mancic, Branimir Brstina, notes that this is the fourth time in 18 months that they have attempted to replace Mladenovic.
The straw that allegedly broke the camel’s back was the ending to the performance of the play “Zoran Djindjic”, about Serbia’s former Prime Minister.
In it, the names of actors who had refused to perform in the play were read out aloud to the audience.
The Belgrade Assembly, the founder of the theatre, named Mladenovic manager in 2009.
From then on performances have sold out, and according to some actors, he made it one of the most productive theatres in the region.
“This theatre has since won most festival awards and most of the plays sold out,” Ivan Jevtovic, one of the actors that did not sign the petition, said.
Struggling with tight budgets for new shows, Mladenovic often made public statements criticizing the cultural system.
Meanwhile many of the actors and board members resented what they considered his high-handed behaviour towards them.
Gorica Popovic, a member of the theatre board who signed the petition, said: “From the start he had a rigid attitude to the actors… it was as if he was managing a correctional facility instead of a cultural institution.”
Actors felt insulted:
|A scene from the play Zoran Djindjic by Oliver Frljic | Youtube|
The decision to draw up a new petition was made at a union meeting just before the main rehearsal for Zoran Djindjic began.
However, the petition had been written much earlier.
Ivan Jevtovic said that his colleagues called him to a union meeting where they asked him to declare for or against Mladenovic.
“I didn’t wish to sign it because I disagreed with their arguments, as Atelje 212 has become one of the most productive theatres in the region under Mladenovic’s management,” Jevtovic said.
The trigger for this, the fourth, petition seeking the replacement of Mladenovic, was the ending of the play, first performed on May 18, in which the names of the actors who had quit were read out.
Oliver Frljic had a special technique for directing – rehearsals started virtually without scripts, so the play arose from the recorded discussions of the participants.
The actors had an agreement with Mladenovic that they could back out from the play if they wished.
Two actors gave up after the first rehearsal, Dubravka Mijatovic and Marinko Madzgalj. Anita Mancic quit three days later.
According to Nenad Milic, most remaining actors were also opposed to the directorial approach.
As everything they said was to be used in the play, and became a part of the project, Milic also quit, additionally offended by content that included throwing up on the Serbian national flag, organising a trial for the former president Vojislav Kostunica and other issues.
Not just the play:
|Gorica Popovic | Youtube|
Gorica Popovic said actors were especially insulted by the public reading out of their names at the ending.
“Kokan had allowed actors to decide if they wanted to act or not. Some left but then Frlic made a theatre scene out of all of this,” Popovic recalled.
“People objected to this, though that was not the sole reason for the petition.”
Popovic stressed that those who signed the petition had no common stance towards the play, and that the real target of their petition was not the play but Mladenovic himself.
“This has nothing to do with the Djindjic play, as it [the petition] was written long before the rehearsals started.
“We have a very long list of things for which we blame Mladenovic, and we wrote it all down on paper so it wouldn’t be misinterpreted.
“We will present this to the public at our press conference in a couple of days’ time,” she continued.
She said that actors didn’t wish to make a spectacle out of their protest, because they wished “to be fair toward the City, our founder.
“When the new Belgrade City assembly is formed, we expect it to bring a final decision,” she concluded.
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