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News 18 Dec 16

Tech-Savvy Tesla-Inspired Play Premieres in Belgrade

A new multimedia play about famous inventor and scientist Nikola Tesla blends historical fact with speculative fiction.

David Galic
BIRN
Belgrade
This year marks several important anniversaries for Tesla’s legacy. Photo: Flickr/Thierry Ehrmann.

A new play entitled ‘FBI – The Tesla Files’ premiers at Belgrade’s Sava Centre’s main hall on December 18.

Written by Nele Karajlic, a popular Yugoslavian musician, writer, performer and overall Renaissance man, the play premiered in November in Novi Sad and has now taken up residence in Sava Centre.

2016 marks several important anniversaries for Tesla’s legacy. It’s his 160th birthday this year and the 80th anniversary of his naming as an honorary citizen of Novi Sad. The play starts symbolically at 8.21pm, to remind people that Novi Sad has won candidacy as a European Capital of Culture for 2021.

However, the play’s plot unfolds far from the Balkans – in New York City. The year is 1943, soon after Tesla’s death on January 7, 1943. The great inventor’s death sparks a race begins between secret governmental organizations as they scramble to find documents and information regarding a secret weapon which could have a very profound effect on the outcome of World War II that Tesla reportedly designed.

While the plot takes place after Tesla’s death, he is still very much present in the play. In fact, the play highlights some of Tesla’s most important life events, from his birth in the Austrian Empire town of Smiljan, in what is now modern Croatia, to his schooling and first important scientific discoveries made on European soil, to his relocation to America and the many achievements and failures that he experienced there before his death.

Karajlic has long been a prominent figure of the Yugoslav cultural scene. He is best known as the leader of Sarajevo-based band Zabranjeno Pusenje (and its more-recent incarnation, Emir Kusturica and the No Smoking Orchestra) and sketch comedy troupe Nadrealisti (Surrealists).  He said at a press conference for the play that his research on Tesla led him to many correspondences the great inventor had with members of the media as well as letters from his sisters in Serbia.

“Tesla was a very interesting character. He was a very funny person, he played billiards very well and he loved to gamble,” Karajlic said, adding that he was so inspired while researching Tesla that he ended up writing the play in verse.

He said that about 70 percent of what is presented about Tesla in his new play is true and only about 30 percent fiction.

Another major aspect of the play that makes it so interesting is the scenography, which is very technology-heavy.

The play is full of multimedia. Instead of the typical stationary scenery, 3D technology is used to project each new scene on a screen backdrop. In total, five state-of-the-art video projectors and intelligent robotic lighting are being used to provide the scenery on stage.

“We wanted to experiment a bit with modern technology. We are projecting very realistic photographs of New York streets onto the screens behind the actors. With one click of the computer, the entire scene changes from Tesla’s hotel room to a completely different place,” Karajlic said.

Young actor Nikola Rakocevic was given the role of Tesla. He said that he was thrilled to get the call from Karajlic, adding that Karajlic’s “Surrealists” played a big role in his upbringing.

“With my performance in this play, I would like to make the audience aware of the fact that great scientists and inventors are regular people, they are not gods, and that their success was achieved through curiosity born out of a love for what they do,” Rakocevic was quoted as saying at the press conference by daily Blic.

Tickets for “FBI – The Tesla Files” cost in between €15 and €25 depending on seating and can be purchased at the Sava Centre box office.

This article was published in BIRN's bi-weekly newspaper Belgrade Insight. Here is where to find a copy.

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