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Maribor Theatre Festival — Archive 2010 - 2016

Vlado Novak

Monday, 27 October 2014

Receiver of Borštnik Ring Award 2014

Vlado Novak Vlado Novak Vlado Novak Vlado Novak

"I am nothing special and that is perhaps an advantage,” claimed Vlado Novak years ago in an interview for the Slovenian daily newspaper Delo when asked about his appearance. Meanwhile, that "nothing-special-face” became one of today’s most recognisable and extraordinary actors of Slovenian theatre, film and television. Vlado Novak is everything. He is laughter and tears, refinement and robustness, earnest tartness and grotesque, reality and symbol, eruptive creativity, fierce energy and freedom … he is at once an imaginary dramatic character and a good acquaintance from the neighbourhood.

Vlado Novak, the leading actor of the Drama of the Slovene National Theatre (SNT) Maribor, was born in 1952 in Maribor, where he completed his studies at the post-secondary School of Economics and Business in 1974. That same year he enrolled in the Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television (AGRFT) in Ljubljana. "I simply couldn’t be an economist. If you want to stay healthy, you have to do in life that which you were made for. And if, in the course of the years, you realise that something else suits you better, any reasonable person would re-qualify”, says Novak who found out what he was born for already while working at the Maribor Amateur Theatre Slavo Klavor. Although he tackled his first role in a professional theatre as early as 1972 in the Drama of the SNT Maribor (Cosimo de Medici in Brecht’s Galileo), not everything was so straightforward and simple. He stated in an interview that he didn’t know what he wanted when he was eighteen. He tried out life and life tried out him. Economics, acting, military service, six-months employment in a car factory, engagement in the Primorsko Drama Theatre in Nova Gorica in the 1976/77 season, the following year a successful audition in Maribor leading to his first season as a full-time member of the Drama of the Slovene National Theatre Maribor in the 1977/78 season … The road was paved. Theatre had won. He finished his studies of Stage Acting and the Artistic Word at the AGRFT in 1981.. He became a member of the ensemble of the Celje People’s Theatre but returned to Maribor within a year to perform the duty of artistic director and to continue his engagement in that theatre as an actor.

During his extraordinary theatre career in the Maribor Drama and other theatres in Slovenia, Vlado Novak has created over 120 roles. From the very onset of his career, we got to know him as a creator of great leading dramatic roles. Speaking of his theatrical and film creations in an interview for Delo in 2009, he said: "Each emotion is helpful if it is a real one. Otherwise my characters always sleep in the room next door, not in mine. Sometimes, when the day is nice, I take them with me.” If we would venture to list all the important and top-class roles of Vlado Novak, we would come up with enough material to fill a telephone book. That is why we shall focus on those roles that were recognised and awarded as exceptional by many expert juries. In 1985, he received the Prešeren Foundation Award, the Borštnik Award for Acting and the Audience Borštnik Award for the role of Simon Veber in Drago Jančar’s play The Great Brilliant Waltz. The expert jury of the Maribor Theatre Festival wrote in the explanation: "Vlado Novak evoked the hero of our days in the vortex of a repressive system with a dignified stance and intensive inner energy, expressed through restrained, constantly mustered and increasingly tense acting.” Thirty years later, in the 2012/13 season, Novak again performed in The Great Brilliant Waltz. This time, he excelled in the role of Volodja. "As the nurse Volodja, his powerful acting presence precisely dosed the terror and the taking over of power in the Institute”, wrote Vesna Teržan in the review of the production in the weekly Mladina.

Novak’s artistic path is literally spangled with Borštnik Awards. In 1989 he received the Borštnik Award for Acting for the role of Jannings in Igor Koršič’s Blue Angel; in 1993, he received the Borštnik Award for Supporting Actor for the role of Simeonov-Pishchik in Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard; in 1996, he received the Borštnik Award for Acting and the Audience Award for the role of Robert in Pinter’s Betrayal. In 2004, he was awarded for the role of Willy Loman in Miller’s Death of a Salesman for which the critic Matej Bogataj wrote in the daily newspaper Dnevnik: "He portrays the role of Willy with the exact proportion of being convincing and slightly caricatured; he is a crouched, neatly ordered little fellow with greased hair, who speaks to himself, trying all along to produce some kind of pleasantness, which is yet on the verge of servility, as everything underneath is simmering and only occasionally exploding in an attack of momentary and dangerous anger, which is again quickly subdued and hidden under the enforced professional smile.” He also received the Glazer Credential, the Marulić Award in Split, the Silver Coat of Arms of the City of Maribor and the 2013 Glazer Award.

Vlado Novak is an actor who equally masters the entirety and the detail. He has an amazing ability to identify with a character and transforms himself into it, knowing at the same time – when required by the role and the director’s concept – how to maintain a healthy distance and refined humour. He knows equally well how to be intellectually elevated and acrid as well as humanly warm and vulnerable. The span of his roles shows the record of a talent of avid proportions. As a distinctly character-oriented actor, he is naturally the favourite of the movie camera. He has made over 60 roles on film and television. About his unforgettable role of the car mechanic Gajaš in the film Rooster’s Breakfast, the film critic Damjan Vinter wrote: "Vlado Novak is direct, candid and at once lucid. Kind and stubborn. Always looking for new realisations and, perhaps because of that, at times impatient but never malevolent. As if he was intertwining within him the traits of his countless roles. Whether he is the tragic figure of The Great Brilliant Waltz, a cunning salesman, a self-absorbed noble bourgeois or Gajaš, a simple-minded car mechanic with a big heart, Vlado Novak, the recipient of many theatrical and film awards, remains true to himself, through a vivid set of mood nuances, a rich palette of thoughts and a critical view of the world. And, night after night, in front of the camera or on stage, he gives himself to the audience.”

Novak is an acting animal – this is how, with a mixture of admiration and envy, his colleague actors dubbed him after one of his acting feats. And true, this metaphorical definition captures the essence of his multi-facetted actor’s qualities. Onstage he is filled with animal energy: focused and aimed at the goal, no matter what happens along the road. In his acting, he merges instinct, slyness, the power of an Alpha male, the individual who leads and directs. Yet the leading actor Vlado Novak is capable at once of being part of the pack, of the company, who constantly harmonises himself and his peculiarity with the others. 

"To be honest, there were times when I was displeased when I looked in the mirror. I had all the right to feel that way, as even attractive men and beauty queens are displeased with themselves. Now I wouldn’t want to be different. Not even in detail,” he said about himself. That wouldn’t be the wish of theatre, film and TV audiences as well as connoisseurs and lovers of Slovenian culture, who love him for what he is – a steadily shining star in the zenith of artistic perfection. And may he not change in the coming theatre seasons. Not even in detail. Vlado Novak, the recipient of the 2014 Borštnik Ring.

Mojca Jan Zoran, M.A.
President of the Jury of the Borštnik Ring Award for Lifetime Theatre Achievement

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