As a permanent competition festival of national drama and theatre, Sterijino pozorje was established in 1956, within the celebration of the 150th anniversary of birth and the 100th anniversary of death of the great Serbian comedist Jovan Sterija Popovic.
The most prominent people of our society, culture and arts of that time took part in defining and establishing the programme and status of Sterijino pozorje. The members of the first Board of Sterijino pozorje (appointed by the Novi Sad City Council on 29th March 1956) were Josip Vidmar (chairman), Ivo Andric, Milan Bogdanovic, Branko Gavela, Velibor Gligoric, Dimitar Kjostarov, Mladen Leskovac, Veljko Petrovic, Tomislav Tanhofer, Radomir Radujkov, and Milos Hadzic, among others. It was then that the programme aims and objectives were clearly articulated: to promote the art of theatre and stimulate the development of dramatic literature through the permanent festival of national drama.
It is by no means a coincidence that it was none other than Novi Sad to come up with an idea – following its great tradition of the place that played a crucial role in establishing the basis of our theatre, immediately becoming the link between Belgrade and Zagreb – to set up the foundations of a theatrical festival of Yugoslav dimensions and put it under the auspices of great Sterija’s name. This is how tradition and novelty are connected through decades: Novi Sad continues its pioneering mission of cultural bonding of our nations, and by Sterija’s name it associates his great work with the luminescence and bloom of our new art of theatre and dramatic literature… There is no need to wait for time to bring proof of how far-reaching cultural enterprise Sterijino pozorje has undertaken. The profound sense and significance of Sterijino pozorje are clear and indisputable even today (Dusan MATIC, 1957)
Love Called Pozorje
… Without Pozorje we would have been poorer for a human understanding and a shared love. We have been convinced not only that it is possible, but also necessary for us. Because it was founded on wise and sound grounds from the very start – to be the gathering point of national art, where everyone is invited to show the reach of their own capabilities… (Mesa SELIMOVIC, 1971)
Emerged as a need, as a possibility of solving a moment of crisis of the domestic literary-stage creativity, Pozorje has grown into a permanent, continuous impetus of the contemporary domestic dramatic creative productivity and the top-class quality of performance. Always striving to treat the phenomenon of theatre art integrally, Pozorje has shaped its programmes into a clear and rounded up unity of systematic professional areas in the field of theatre and dramaturgy. In its fifty years of existence, it has instituted and developed activities which bear great importance for the national theatre culture and has become a significant and reliable instrument for identification and verification of stage and dramatic values and, to a great extent, a backbone of scientific and theoretical reflection on theatre and drama.
Pozorje is an illustrative example of the realisation of an inexhaustible inspiration by domestic dramatic texts. 2007 saw the institution of a permanent Competition for an original contemporary domestic dramatic text, which does not end up with the presentation of awards. Pozorje takes over the responsibility over the stage life of the awarded text: it hands it over, free of charge, to the interested playhouse; publishes the awarded and short-listed texts in the “Scena” magazine in Serbian and English.
What naturally follows is co-productional support to the staging of not only the text awarded at the Competition, but also the dramas Pozorje finds deserving. The beginning was marked by Milena Markovic’s text Simeon the Foundling and its Serbian National Theatre production.
The workshop of contemporary text in the region – New Drama at Pozorje – speaks eloquently of the attitude Pozorje takes towards domestic dramatic text. The co-organisers are SNT, Integrali, Ljubljana (Slovenia), Nova-drama.org., Belgrade. Young dramaturges and directors from almost all the neighbouring countries work on the texts written by their colleagues, assisted by the SNT actors and actresses and students of the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad. The workshop was first initiated in 2007 and as two texts from the workshop are staged in institutional theatres, it can be said that this programme justifies its function of promoting young authors.
It is held annually, at the end of May in Novi Sad. The repertoire is based on the selection which is conducted by the art director/selector. The Festival program envelops two selections:
National Drama and Theatre / Competition Selection
– A five-member jury decides on Sterija awards within the National Selection: play, contemporary dramatic text, directing, set design, costume design, stage music, acting performance (four awards), Special Award
– The Round Table of Critique Sterija Award belongs to the theatre whose play is voted the best according to the critics
– Sterija Award for Best Theatre Review “Miodrag Kujundžić” (Pozorje, Editorial Board of “Dnevnik”, Novi Sad, National Section of IACT)
– Sterija Award of the Scena magazine for theatre science “Jovan Hristić”
– Sterija Award for Special Merit in Promotion of Theatre Art and Culture (decision of the management of Sterijino pozorje)
Many institutions and organisations award different forms of artistic accomplishments at the festival
The Round Table was established in 1966. In the recent years it has included the discussions on plays in both selections.
Pozorje of the Young: A non-competition meeting of students (acting, directing, dramaturgy) of Academies and Faculties for stage art from our country and the region.
The programme was initiated in 1973 when in our country there were four university level theatre schools and not a single chance for their meeting. Besides plays, the programme included a wide range of topics: the workshop by pantomimist Jacque Lecoq, experimental classes (The Classes of Stage Speech, Word-Movement-Acting, Pedagogy of Acting / students from the Pomona College, USA), joint project work (Shakespeare), the International Colloquy “Chekhov in the Cherry Orchard of Contemporary Theatre” followed by a publication, topic Space – Dramatic Persona, celebration of the Pozorje’s jubilee “Roots of Our Theatre – Sterija”, Alternative Theatre in Yugoslavia – Experiences of Independent Theatre Companies (moderators and publication editors Ognjenka Milicevic and Dragan Klaic).
After coming of age, Pozorje of the Young has fallen silent. It did not disappear because Sterijino pozorje did not give up the idea of its renewal. In 1999 the preparations began, and the revived Pozorje of the Young displayed its values in 2000.
Forums, exhibitions: During its half-a-century-long existence Pozorje has been the host of YU festival of radio and TV drama three times (competition selection). The Theatre Literature Fair (1957) has grown into an international triennial Exhibition of Theatre Books and Periodicals.
Topics of forums, conferences and exhibitions: What is National Theatre?, Theatre and Audiences, Contemporary YU Theatre Comedy, Forgotten Values of our Dramatic Heritage, Avant-garde Drama at the Atelier 212 Theatre, Amateurism, Satire in Contemporary Society, Set and Costume in Serbian Theatres after WW II (grown into an international triennial Exhibition of Theatre Set and Costume Design), The Problem of Social Fear in the Contemporary Domestic Drama, What Experimental Theatre Is Today, Contemporary French Theatre, Potency and Impotence of Our Art Criticism, The Contemporary Stage Interpretation of Nusic, Theatre and Philately, Theatrical Publicists (editorial board of “Scena” and editors of European theatrical magazines), Contemporary Drama – Reaches and Failures, Institutional Crisis of Theatre, Discussion on Aleksandar Popovic, On Yu Hungarian Drama, Conference of Technical Management of All Theatres…
The exhibitions place significant names of dramatic literature, theatre art and culture, and certain periods from the history of theatre and drama into the limelight in an impressive way and inform the public about certain theatrical phenomena, problems and achievements. Because of its nature and importance, a special place belongs to the Triennial Exhibition of Theatre Poster and Graphic Design, a unique event of this kind. Every three years it displays the graphic achievements within the art of theatre poster, programme and other graphic material which makes the visual identity of a theatre play, a theatre or a festival. Sterijino pozorje also awards a prize for the best accomplishments within this category. The special value of this exhibition lies in the competition segment of unrealised posters – the opportunity for students to display their artworks made at school.
Inter-festival cooperation: Sterijino pozorje established cooperation with other festivals as early as 1963, although the requirement of plays being based on a domestic text remained (MES 1963). The cooperation with the Bitef festival was initiated by the Organisational Committee of that festival (the Pozorje winning play competed at Bitef in 1968).
Today, Pozorje is putting an effort at reviving the cooperation with the festivals in the countries of the region.
Other segments: Pozorje has traditionally been a place where different national theatre associations were formed and other professional bodies operated (Association of Yugoslav Professional Theatres, 1959; annual assembly of YU Association of Playwrights, from 1963; the Congress of YU Committee of Theatre Critics and Theatre Scientists, 1971; Congress of YU Playwrights, 1972…)