Z K M T H E A T R E
The Zagreb Youth Theater is a modern, prestigious theater hand in hand with recent European trends in performing arts, recognized and respected outside the Croatian borders as well. Multidirectional programming guidelines, an experienced and agile ensemble, the College as the core of future professionals and theater-conscious audience, openness to projects of the non-institutional scene, and a preference for exploring and various interlacings of genre make it a special and important junction on the Croatian theater map. By networking with a number of international organizations, supporting hostings, and participating in co-productions, the ZKM Theater has established its position in the European theater space as well. In a wider cultural context, it enables the conditions for the development of various artistic practices, encourages creativity and cultural and spiritual enrichment, recognizes positive social values, and impacts their growth.
At the program level this is legitimized by insistence on staging dramatic texts of classics re-evaluated by new theatre paradigms and texts of contemporary world playwrights, along with the works of local contemporaries who speak up about concrete issues of social reality, and then also the realization of authors’ projects that depart from dramatic templates and dance and other concepts of performing arts. Classics occupy the attention of upcoming generations with their universal and therefore always current topics, while drama writing of the contemporaries of diverse interests and focuses is selected according to its relevance to local, but also a wider social context. The ZKM Theater is actively engaged in questioning social and political actualities, the breakthrough of a new conservativism, extremist phenomena, and citizen disempowerment. Manuscripts of Croatian playwrights on one hand criticize the Croatian everyday life, political and media violence against citizens, and on the other hand they try to abolish this reality, trying out dramatic forms/forms of drama and shaping utterly bizarre worlds. Adding to this, the contemporary European drama staged on the scene of the ZKM Theater radically affects the social reality, bringing closer individual perception and conceptions it reflects. A cooperation with authors who explore new stage vocabularies, such as Rene Medvešek and Bobo Jelčić, are the ZKM Theater’s trademark, and young authors will be encouraged to find atypical performance models in the future as well. By nurturing idiosyncratic authorial approaches, at the same time the potentials of individual actors’ poetics are also explored. Dance projects, as well as those of different disciplinary determinations made in collaboration with authors and groups that do not have a constant institutional and production support make another, no less important program component.
Even though the public attention is more focused on performances for adults, the ZKM Theater also insists on the work and importance of the College, as well as on staging performances for children. Since the ZKM Theater, or Zagreb Youth Theater, even in its name has a determinant implying it is primarily addressed to the youth, the contents aimed at the population aged 13 to 19 are a challenge and commitment in the following stage of the development of the Theater. With the encouragement of different director aesthetics and authorial realizations of the members of the ensemble and other performing artists who see the ZKM Theater as a place of cooperation, also with strengthening the established artistic exchange through a network of hosting and co-productions with European and regional theaters and finding models of cooperation, the youth theatre and theater for the youth is a potentially very significant place of innovation. This applies equally to the repertoire expansion, creating new performative forms, cooperation with young artists, academies and other educational institutions, and models of audience development. The Zagreb Youth Theater is on a constant quest for texts that with their content and form address the youth, considering their contemporary needs, and also for yet not well-established authors and stimulating projects that will connect the ZKM Theater ensemble and academies. One of the key guidelines of the ZKM Theater is improving the practice of cooperation with academies of dramatic arts, both with regard to providing opportunities for academics to realize in the ZKM Theater their first professional works and experience the true atmosphere of a theater “plant”, and with regard to training pedagogues.
The responsibility for a group of viewers who can no longer be regarded as children, but not yet as adults either, is humongous, having in mind that it is precisely this age group that is in the defining stage of growing up and that they can then still be sensitized to art. They can differ from one another according to their educational or social situation, but they are connected by culturally conditioned generational choices. Enticing interest in the theater among the youth is encompassed in the program This is My Theater, aimed at introducing high school students to working in the theater, so that they are allowed to watch rehearsals or monitor the process of creating a performance, and engage into conversations with authors and performers. As part of this, visits of artists to schools, organizing thematic workshops and presentations of the ZKM Theater’s performances, both drama and other performance forms have been designed.
Another segment of innovations for the theater for the youth pertains to the programs of the College that are partially designed for members of national minority groups, socially disadvantaged people, and disabled people. The most successful participants of the program of the College are given the opportunity to participate in professional performances, while the most successful productions are included in the ZKM Theater repertoire. In order to enable an adequate following of the rise of new artistic disciplines, the programs of the College will soon include training in basic circus skills, such as clownery, equilibristics, or acrobatics. The Sunday matinee project, launched in 2006, will also get a new attire. The Zagreb Youth Theater is being envisaged as a place in which the whole family is involved in seeing a performance and in the workshop program that would build on what has already been seen, either through conversation or making props, creating dance sequences, practicing smaller drama units, and the like.
The new program concept understands the ZKM Theater as a pluripotent intersection of various artistic disciplines and it is in principle available to all those who will contribute to the vision of a progressive, contemporary theater. Transdisciplinarity that the ZKM Theater strives for also implies a discursive expansion of program guidelines to conversations, discussions, presentations, round tables that reflect on the performative practices and theory, production models, cultural policies and culture in general, as well as involving critics, theatrologists, cultural managers, and other professionals in the work of the Theater. The ZKM Theater is also opening towards inclusive practices, the involvement of persons with disabilities in its programs, it foresees more regular performances translated into sign language and acoustic adaptation of performances for the blind. Since the ZKM Theater wishes to be a theater accessible to all, we are trying to entice the audience from the periphery of Zagreb, to bring the theater closer to the local community by selecting topics that it would like to see on stage, or the way they would like to work in the Theater as participants. The proposal of repertoire titles and the program is not definite, it is customizable to the social moment. The ZKM Theater is feeling the pulse of all the participants of the artistic exchange, both artists and the audience, by offering a vision of a continual creative process.