Montenegro (Montenegrin: Црна Гора, Crna Gora), a country in South-Eastern Europe, is bordered by Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Albania, with a coast on the Adriatic Sea. Its capital is Podgorica. From 1918-1992, it was part of Yugoslavia; in 2006, Montenegro declared independence from the state of Serbia and Montenegro.
Theatre has a long history in Montenegro. An ancient theatre is to be found in the town of Risan, and during the 16th century, church dramas were performed in the national language before St Tryphon’s cathedral in Kotor. On October 12, 1808, Napoleon’s Marshal Marmont donated to the city of Kotor a theatre building, which is now one of the oldest and best-preserved theatre buildings in the Balkans. The first puppet show was performed in this theatre in the afternoon of February 12, 1829. The famous theatre in Cetinje known as “Zeta House” was built in 1892. Puppet shows were also occasionally performed there perhaps beginning in the late 19th century.
As in other South Slavic countries, the Montenegro folk and customary-ritual heritage is very rich and encompasses “folk histrionics”. A variety of “folk theatre” puppets and puppetry are elements of this tradition. During the early 17th century, Nativity dramas called vertep and betlehem (Bethlehem), which incorporated puppetry, were widespread in South Slavic areas. During the Rococo period of the 18th century, Kotor and Boka Kotorska witnessed vertep performances among the Orthodox population and betlehem among the Catholics. During the period of Communist rule, from 1945 to 1991, this religious tradition faded and almost disappeared.
Russian theatre director, Vasily Ivanovich Shchuchkin (Vasilij Ivanovič Šćućkin, Novocherkassk, 1896 – Titograd, now Podgorica, 1969), arrived in Montenegro in 1936. He founded many theatre groups in the area, including the first children’s theatre in Cetinje in 1939. This group’s first performance, Crvenkapa (Little Red Riding Hood), directed by Mirko Sirnić, was held on January 12, 1951. The professional troupe, initially known as the Pioneer Theatre (Pionirsko pozorište) has been working ever since. In 1959, it was integrated with the Children’s Library into the Pioneer Cultural Centre. However, in 1994 the company became independent and assumed a new name, Children’s Theatre (Dječije pozorište). The company encompassed three subsidiary groups or theatres, including one specifically dedicated to puppet performances. This structure was retained in 2002 when the company was again transformed and became the Municipal Theatre (Gradsko pozorište). Many famous directors, such as Branislav Kravljanac, Mima Janković, Biserka Kolevska, Bonyo Lungov, and others, have directed puppet performances there.
The puppeteer Željko Vavić has been a successful leader of the puppet theatre “Škatula” (Pozorištance “Škatula”) in Igalo for more than twenty years. His productions include Princ Marcipan (Prince Marzipan), Slavuj i kineski car (The Nightingale and the Emperor of China), Karijus i Baktus (Carius and Bactus), Hansel and Gretel, Ivica i Marica, čuvari prirode (Guardians of the Nature), Mala Sirena (Little Mermaid), and have been performed more than 5,000 times.
Another production of Crvenkapa (Little Red Riding Hood), this one written by Igor Bojović and directed by Goran Bulajić, premiered in the Music School in Nikšić on May 20, 2013. This performance signaled the founding of a new company, the Nikšić Puppet Theatre “Shchuchkin” (Nikšićko lutkarsko pozorište “Šćućkin”), which was launched at the initiative of the “Ćano Koprivica” Foundation.
Meanwhile, a performance and exhibition of puppets and sets of the play Žižula i Čičak (Jujube and Bur Thistle) or “Vegetable Tale with a Fruity Ending” by Marija Čolpa, took place in Herceg Novi on September 24, 2013. This puppet fairy tale had been translated into Russian, and the performance used puppets which were made by puppetry artists from St Petersburg who now live in Herceg Novi.
The Festival of Children’s Theatre (Festival pozorišta za djecu) originated in Kotor in 1993 with the objective of fostering theatrical art for children and developing aesthetic education of young people. Dramas for children are performed outdoors around the city of Kotor, and the puppet shows for children are performed indoors.
The first International Festival of Puppetry was established in the “Budo Tomović” Cultural Centre (KIC “Budo Tomović”) in Podgorica in 2012. The festival was attended by around 7,000 youngsters and their parents, half of whom came from Podgorica, and the rest from Tuzi, Cetinje, Tivat, Bijelo Polje, Rožaj, Herceg Novi, Kolašin and Petrovac. Admission to all performances was free. The creator and leader of the Festival is the actor and director Davor Dragojević.
Education and Research
In 1972, the subject Stage Expression and Puppetry was introduced into the curriculum of the Department of Preschool Education at the Academy of Pedagogy (now Faculty of Philosophy) in Nikšić. Later, the course was renamed Introduction to Puppetry. Much of the credit for stressing the practical and artistic merits of puppetry among future teachers must go to Prof. Dr Zoran Koprivica, who in a short period made over 700 glove puppets with his students.
The Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Cetinje introduced the study of puppetry in 2009. However, due to the lack of qualified staff this has been discontinued. Nevertheless, valuable research continues at the facility conducted by Dr Siniša Jelušić.
- Antović, Darko. Kotorsko pozorište u XIX vijeku [Kotor Theatre in the Nineteenth Century]. Podgorica: CID, Crnogorsko narodno pozorište, 1998.
- Antović, Darko. Kotor u istoriji pozorišta [Kotor in the History of the Theatre]. Deset festivala pozorišta za djecu, 1993-2002 [Ten Festivals of Theatres for Children, 1993-2002]. Kotor, 2002.
- Antović, Darko. Opšti pogled na institucionalni pozorišni život Crne Gore neposredno poslije II svjetskog rata [The General View of the Institutional Theatre Life of Montenegro Shortly After World War II]. Zbornik radova sa Međunarodnog naučnog skupa “Pozorište u Crnoj Gori u drugoj polovini XX vijeka” [Proceedings of the International Scientific Conference “Theatre in Montenegro in the Second Half of the Twentieth Century”]. Podgorica: CANU, 2007.
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- Lazić, Radoslav. “Puppetry in Montenegro”. http://denis-lutkar.com/dnk-lutkarstva/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=149%3Apuppetry-in-montenegro&catid=100%3Acrna-gora&Itemid=24. Accessed 21 March 2014.
- Lazić, Radoslav. “Puppetry in Montenegro”. http://www.rastko.rs/rastko/delo/14983. Accessed 21 March 2014.