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Maribor Theatre Festival Awards

Friday, 1 November 2013

Announcing the Award Winners of the 48th Maribor Theatre Festival

Maribor, 27 October 2013 – The Winner of the Borštnik Ring Award, the most important recognition of the Maribor Theatre Festival for Lifetime Achievement, is the actress of the Slovene Mladinsko Theatre, Olga Kacjan. The expert jury awarded the Grand Prix for the Best Performance to the production The Crazy Locomotive directed by Jernej Lorenci and performed by the Slovene National Theatre Drama Ljubljana. In addition, the Award of the Association of Theatre Critics and Researchers of Slovenia for best production in 2012/13 was presented to the production 25.671 performed by Prešeren Theatre Kranj.

Following is the explanation of the expert jury.

  • THE GRAND PRIX FOR THE BEST PERFORMANCE OF THE MARIBOR THEATRE FESTIVAL

Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz’s THE CRAZY LOCOMOTIVE directed by Jernej Lorenci performed by the Slovene National Theatre Drama Ljubljana
The performance The Crazy Locomotive represents a serious challenge: how to stage an experimental, avant-garde drama from 1923, a work based on the barely defined doctrine of "pure form” that the author neither finished nor staged in his lifetime. This staging of "pure form” is filled with powerful music expression; transforming the grotesque into a show – a duel of two rivals where a jam session becomes at once a battlefield and a space of resistance. All of this creates a contemplative, consistent and marvellously played dramatic tension. The thorough, convincing and meticulous collective play, the brave solutions in the interpretations of the relationships between the characters and the setting of the individual scenes, the lively music ... are the elements because of which The Crazy Locomotive is an outstanding creative achievement. All of the theatre elements "play” together in it, leaving the spectator with a strong, deep, and noteworthy impression.

 

  • BORŠTNIK AWARD FOR DIRECTING

Mateja Koležnik for directing the production JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN performed by the Drama of the Slovene National Theatre Maribor
Mateja Koležnik has reduced the classical dramatic text to sheer essentials. She has also applied the same method in her directing, depriving the text, set design, costumes, props, mise-en-scène as well as acting and directorial elements of everything excessive. From the mobile set to the film framing of scenes and the polished acting, each segment of the production emanates a precisely conceived directorial approach, elaborate in each and every detail of the execution. A direction thus conceived compresses Ibsen's play while charging the fundamental problems exposed by the author with power and suspense. At the same time, it enables the actors to interpret the dramatic characters with utter conviction, both in details and in their entirety. Music, lighting, set, costumes and acting all merge into a concentrated dramatic fresco of misspent and misfortunate lives, into a tragedy of sick human ambitions in the world dominated by gloom, snow, winter and the lack of emotions.

 

  • FOUR AWARDS FOR ACTING

Nataša Barbara Gračner for the role of Mother in the production of THE MOTHER performed by the Slovene National Theatre Drama Ljubljana
Nataša Barbara Gračner is the actress of a minimalistic play who knows how to just sit quietly on the stage and seemly do nothing, yet do it with such internal impetuousness, that the atmosphere is charged the entire time. The transformation of the uneducated housewife Pelagea Vlassova into a frontline fighter of the revolution is at first carried out as a nearly unconscious act, an instinctive act of a mother who wants only to protect her son and, to that end, neither questions the mechanism of the world nor her own actions. But in her silent, modest, reserved posture she is constantly impetuous. She functions like water that slowly, imperceptibly, yet unfailingly, washes away the riverbank. In her world there is no space for doubt, no space for irony, thus in the moment of the greatest fervour the actress steps out of her role and simply leaves.

Polona Juh for the role of Ophelia in the production of HAMLET performed by the Slovene National Theatre Drama Ljubljana
Polona Juh is a different Ophelia than the one we are accustomed to. In the beginning she really does seem only an object of manipulation, a doll to trade with, a girl who does what she is told. But behind that external appearance her interpreter gradually expands her into a complete personality. Juh’s Ophelia has her own standpoint; she knows what she doesn’t want, she’s aware that she’s abused, yet against prior determinacy, against the position which they have assigned her, she can do nothing. Polona Juh draws upon Ophelia’s madness from a feeling of determination, from the immobility of the role that she has been dealt, and at the same time from the sensitive awareness of the world and relations. Therefore her madness goes beyond the level of poetry and tragedy of this character and raises the questions whether well-intentioned, caring, sensitive people can by their actions change at least their own destiny (or simply withdraw into themselves or death) if not that of the world, and are real changes only in the domain of brutal, ruthless, pragmatic, manipulative individuals.

Nataša Matjašec Rošker for the role of Miss Ella Rentheim in the production of JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN performed by the Drama of the Slovene National Theatre Maribor
The Ella of Nataša Matjašec Rošker is the perfect image of fragile, glass despair. From the first instant as a stumbling shadow, all the way to just before the stage machinery is literally about to grind her up. She shockingly proves that Ella is the only one who was unable to – not even momentarily –replace her loss with any other value or merely illusion. But from the moment of the naked truth in front of the bare wall with Samobor’s "self-fighter” Borkman – when the glass of pain shatters – it slowly gets put back together in a new form.

Igor Samobor for the role of John Gabriel Borkman in the production of JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN performed by the Drama of the Slovene National Theatre Maribor
A replay of realistic relationships from the time of Ibsen’s drama that call after renewed identification and open the interpretative space between the universal message of the drama and the current condition. Samobor fills that space superbly. By his merit we have received a clinical portrait of a person who in the absence of moral standards and empathy cannot understand the human dimensions of the tragedy – neither the one caused by others, nor the one caused by him, when it enfolds upon him. And indeed, Igor Samobor is, just as director Mateja Koležnik has based her choice for the lead actor, truly the best possible Slovenian Borkman.

 

  • YOUNG ACTRESS AWARD

An award presented to a young actor or actress under 30 years of age.
Tina Gunzek for the role of the Girl in the production EXERCISES FOR ANXIETY performed by Slovenian Civic Permanent Theatre, Trieste

In shaping her role as the simple village girl, Tina Gunzek has shown an exceptional acting sensitivity. She has convincingly carried the dramaturgical arch of a person who travels a long path from a shocking family tragedy, enters the brutal urban world of prostitution, and finally returns to the (seemingly?) peacefulness of rural life.
The young actress commands her dramatic character and develops consistently throughout – despite the tragic circumstances that tarnish her life, she persistently, already even stubbornly, seeks happiness and strives for a better life. Without grand gestures, Gunzek adeptly avoids pathos and exaggerated acting (which the character offers on the first try). Tina Gunzek reveals mature acting and the competence for transformation; with the two of them she draws in the spectator’s attention and builds an artistic full-blooded acting performance.

 

  • AWARD FOR STAGE DESIGN

Numen and Ivana Radenović for stage design in the production of BLACK BEAST SADNESS performed by Ljubljana City Theatre and THE MASTER AND MARGARITA performed by the Drama of the Slovene National Theatre Maribor
The scene in the performance Black Beast Sadness in which the clean, virgin, immaterial forest is converted into a fire of destruction is a coup de theatre that engraves itself in the memory as a pure example of stage magic. It is all just a metaphor and yet almost reality.
The simple and innovative stage design in The Master and Margarita discreetly quotes Russian Constructivism, at the same time it remains a practical, suggestive, imperceptible machine for a number of episodes of this epic production.
This is an award for subtlety and suitability of the stage design solutions in two completely different challenges and poetics.

 

  • AWARD FOR MUSIC

Branko Rožman for the music in the production of THE CRAZY LOCOMOTIVE performed by SNG Drama Ljubljana
In this year’s Competition Programme music is emphasised as a co-shaper of the production, the music of Branko Rožman in The Crazy Locomotive grows into the role of a protagonist that completely carries the production. In its conceptual design the role of the composer is equal to the role of the director.
Instead of the machinery of a locomotive, two pianos narrate a concert. The live controls of the piano keys dictate the deathly speed of the train and the beating hearts of the passengers. The carrying actors are at the same time also protagonists-musicians who change into the roles of conductors, instrumentalists, and singers; music is actually that which transforms all the other actors into sovereign musical machines, or rather, determines their movement and the action of the play itself.
The performance of the music which after the logic of unpredictability builds into a crazy jam session shapes the first-rate theatre event that without restraint also absorbs the spectator into its neck-breaking rhythm.

 

  • AWARD FOR ARTISTIC DIRECTION

Marinka Poštrak for artistic direction of the production 25.671 performed by Prešern Theatre Kranj
Artistic direction is an autonomous, yet often overlooked element of the arts, the Supreme Being of every production. In the case of the production 25.671 it reflects a brave and socially aware and engaged act, not only in the choice of the fundamental theme of the production (which "stings” at the core of social events) as well as in the choice of director and the creative team, but also in the boldness of approach.

Marinka Poštrak – and with her all of Prešern Theatre Kranj – was prepared to risk, even though she knew that from the mix of all the mentioned elements (theme, creators, against the creation of the text) it would be possible to make only a provocative and contradictory performance which would sharply cut into Slovenian social and political reality, at the same time strongly echo in artistic circles or rather open wide the questions of manipulation, the relation between the actor’s privacy and role as well as awaken uneasiness in the spectator. The production 25.671 is a logical continuation of a long-standing prudent repertory policy.

 

  • AWARD FOR TRANSLATION

Srečko Fišer for the translation of HAMLET by William Shakespeare, performed by Slovene National Theatre Drama Ljubljana
Srečko Fišer is not only an exceptional translator and authority on Shakespeare, he is also an experienced and sensitive theatre practitioner. He knows how the versified words will be spoken on the stage and how they will sound in the ears of the spectator.
Hamlet in his translation functions as a completely updated text which grows from the experience of contemporary poetry and adapts the form to the contents and consistently stems from it. The language of the translation is always compact, grounded, understandable and close to today’s reader. At this the translator remains faithful to Shakespeare. He enables the spectator to instinctively, so to speak, through the imagery borne out of the spoken word, easily decipher the rich puns and metaphors.
And although previous translations of Hamlet still reverberate in Slovenia, what has anchored in our consciousness is Fišer’s simple, clear and direct translation of the verse: "The time is out of joint ... That ever I was born to set it right!”

 

  • BORŠTNIK JURY AWARD

Award for the collective creation of the production EXERCISES FOR ANXIETY performed by Slovene Civic Permanent Theatre, Trieste
Exercises for Anxiety testifies to the exceptional artistic harmony of all the elements in the production. From the choice of the script about the ruthlessness of neoliberal capitalism (in which the individual is no longer important, but just a mere puppet in the game of acquiring profit), through the directorial process which gradually condenses the problem and interprets it increasingly dynamically, to the perfection of the ensemble play – this project is a model of well-conceived theatre. All of the stage elements are coherently integrated into the production. Even the scenery changes, anticipated in the fragmented dramaturgy of the text, become in Exercises for Anxiety a part of the acting and artistic interpretation. The animated, stage consistent and coherent production is an example of quality contemporary theatre. Every little detail in it becomes a part of the overall artistic creation that grows into an imaginatively and innovatively executed production.

JURY REPORT
The Competition Programme of the 48th Maribor Theatre Festival selected by Primož Jesenko shows a wide spectrum of production aesthetics. In them the creators’ concepts sovereignly confront various scripts ranging from classic to contemporary dramas, including adaptations, dramatisations, and texts created in the rehearsal process. Works from the period of the historical avant-garde from the first half of the twentieth century are significantly represented. The productions were designed by directors from the middle generation with only one representative from the youngest generation.

The Competition Programme includes highly designed creations that revitalise the fundamental characteristic of theatre as a collective creative act and communicate about the power of group creations in today’s world. There is a strong emphasis on the collective-ensemble play and the dominant role of music that turns into an active protagonist of the enacted world.

From the ten competing performances, six originated in the production of national theatres, three in city theatres, and one in the production of the independent sector. The jury joins the selector’s warning concerning the alarming production conditions which in the recent few years have strongly eaten away the established infrastructure of Slovenian theatre and have especially interfered drastically in the production of the independent sector.
We conclude that contemporary Slovenian theatre with its repertory choice corresponds to the ruthlessness of the world in which we live. "The time is out of joint,” as the great Elizabethan dramatist would put it. And it would be desirable that theatre in a greater measure carry out its role as a medium that "was born to set it right”.

Expert jury:
- writer, dramaturg, and theatre scholar Jasen Boko,
- dramaturg, translator, and theatre scholar Tomasz Kubikowski,
- dramaturg and curator Tea Rogelj,
- writer and theatre critic Petra Vidali, and
- theatre critic and theoretician Barbara Orel, president.

 

 

  • AWARD OF THE ASSOCIATION OF THEATRE CRITICS AND RESEARCHERS OF SLOVENIA

The Award of the Association of Theatre Critics and Researchers of Slovenia for the Best Production of the previous season goes to the original project 25.671 directed by Oliver Frljić and performed by Prešeren Theatre Kranj.

The original project 25.671 is a performance that confronts the spectator with a reality so sharp and cruel, that only reality itself has the capacity to be so sharp and cruel. With a weighed selection of diverse theatre processes, already deliberated until almost manipulative dimensions, it collages documentary with acted scenes and the personal intimacy of the performers with bits of the wider spiritual fresco of the existing society; and thus with merciless directness demands from all those present the questioning of their conscience, but also uncovers the long forgotten possibility of catharsis.

 

  • BORŠTNIK RING

Olga Kacjan, actress of Slovene Mladinsko Theatre

These days, this season, and in still another future one Olga Kacjan will be a Madame. The Madame in Jean Genet's The Maids. Just like years ago when she was the blind girl Katica in the film The Story of Good People (Povest o dobrih ljudeh). Between the young girl and the Madame decades have passed, life and the world have changed. Theatre has also changed and is changing, which is always, whether desired or not, a reaction to the demands of the time. Olga Kacjan married the arts, theatre arts, which is as much a stage deception as the truth of our existence under the indifferent and cold stars. The gift of theatre madness is measured out only to the few. Some might say to the fortunate ones, but the fortune of the artist is also and mostly in forfeit, denial, doubt and even pain.

At the end of her studies at the Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television in Ljubljana, she spent a good decade as an independent artist, as we would call it today. Then for a short time she was employed at the Drama of the Slovene National Theatre Maribor and in the beginning of the 1990s settled into the Slovene Mladinsko Theatre in Ljubljana. She has spent the majority of her acting career creating in this theatre family, an exceptional theatre family for the Slovenian and international space, with its long-time speciality of being collective-based. For an individual career that can pose a sort of obstacle or at least a noteworthy circumstance. The fact that Olga Kacjan, in such a conceptual environment and being the type of personality that she is, modest and unassuming, has reached such exceptional artistic achievements in the theatre and in film, speaks not only of great talent but also of extraordinary dedication to acting.

Olga Kacjan is an actress who stepped into theatre and onto its stage prepared for bold challenges and big risks. And thus she also chose to participate in the moments of the greatest turning point of the theatre of Slovenia as well as of the former Yugoslavia. In atypical working conditions with risky and unexpected results, she worked and created with the most penetrating and predominantly visionary directors of that time. Many an actress would have preferred to renounce such challenges, Olga charged ahead into the torrential waves. She was actively embedded in the birth of a new world, of which the Theatre of the Sisters of Scipio Nasica and Cosmokinetic Theatre Red Pilot conceived by the young Dragan Živadinov: she performed in the cult performance Baptism Under Triglav as well as in Ballet Observatory FIAT and Drama Observatory ZENITH.

She worked with director Ljubišo Ristić in the group KPGT [trans. note: an acronym derived from the word for theatre in four languages of the countries of Yugoslavia: kazalište, pozorište, gledališče, teatar], which brought together actors and theatre artists from all ends of the former Yugoslavia. In Slovene Mladinsko Theatre’s production of Ivo Svetina’s Schererazade directed by Tomaž Pandur, she travelled almost the entire world. Her collaboration with directorial names, alongside those already mentioned, such as Dušan Jovanović, Martin Kušej, Paolo Magelli, Eduard Miler, says enough, as they are artists who created the history of the contemporary theatre, not only in Slovenia and Yugoslavia, but also Europe. She has played most of the major roles for women from Irina, Alice, Lulu and Jacinta to Gertrude, Nausicaa, Agatha Schwarzkobler and Jocasta. In the previous season she amazed us as the singer Marija in Vito Taufer’s trilogy Portraits and in the current season as the Madame.

To see only one of her performances means to experience theatre in its essential and existential form; since Olga Kacjan gives of herself in a way that people speak of ancient rituals of sacrifice, like the scapegoat upon which they lay the sins of people and then release into the wilderness so that people are cleansed of their sins. The actress must take into herself all the expectations, built up in the creation of the performance and then when the curtains have risen and the blinding lights shine on her body, on her character, the next two hours are left to the dramaturgical mechanism, to the interaction with fellow actors and actresses, everything has to maintain its innocence and purity till the end.

Her film opus is also worth watching: she began as Katica in France Štiglic’s The Story of Good People (Povest o dobrih ljudeh); she was unforgettably dreamy as Kristina in The Raft of Medusa (Splav meduze) by Karpo Godina; she played in Matjaž Klopčič’s Heritage (Dediščina) and in The March of Igman (Igmanskem maršu) and in numerous other films, such as Cross of Iron by the renowned American director Sam Peckinpah.

Her rich acting career has received a sufficiently long and exceptional list of awards, with which the theatre and film community have honoured her creations: three Borštnik awards, the Golden Laurel Wreath (MESS), the Silver Arena (Pula Film Festival), the Golden Bird and numerous others – including last year’s Župančič Award for Lifetime Achievement.

All of us who have had the good fortune of being able to follow Olga Kacjan on her artistic path, have always recognised that before us is a grand artist. But at the same time, an understanding and forgiving being who has emanated, even when she steps on the stage into the prosaic every day, something special, concealed, almost a hidden beauty; as if in her resides the magic of theatre making.

We can say, therefore, that Olga Kacjan is like a distant comet: she shines in the full light and then disappears. Actually she only steps back, quietens, conceals, so that she can return and shine again. And she has done so for already nearly 40 years. She is a special actress. She’s never in the frontlines, never in the headlines. She almost seems absent, she lives in the shadows. They don’t speak about her a lot; it seems that she even prefers it that way. They don’t write about her very often; it seems that she herself decided for that, since Olga Kacjan does not need speaking and writing about herself. She does not desire to be the centre of attention nor in the headlines. She’s not after the above, not after omnipresence, not after constant presence. Olga Kacjan shines and moves away. And will do so indefinitely.

And precisely because of that, because of this special, one of a kind acting and human manifestation and posture, the Slovenian cultural and professional theatre public acknowledge her extraordinariness and bestow upon her – upon the Madame – the greatest recognition, the Borštnik Ring.


Jury for the Borštnik Ring Award:
- dramatic actress Silva Čušin,
- theatre directors and pedagogues Jernej Lorenci and Dušan Mlakar,
- poet, dramatist, essayist, and translator Ivo Svetina, president of the jury
- and artistic director of the Maribor Theatre Festival Alja Predan.

 

 

For more information contact:
Daša Šprinčnik, public relations
+386 (0)31 342 178


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