Back to the crime scene, of course
On the 15th January I went to First Stage see the premiere of the new theatre production called “Generations” under the hands of Theatre School Prva Gimnazija Maribor. Every single time I get so excited to return to that stage, whether it be watching or performing there. I did spent some of the most memorable and beautiful moments of my life there, so it’s clear that I look at everything Theatre-School-related with fondness and care.
“Generations”, directed by Tin Grabnar (remember the name, you’re going to hear it a lot in the future), is a show about the lack of communication between generations. The young actors talk about their feelings, for what they are thankful and what annoys them in today’s society. They take the audience away with their quite honest and sincere talk about the teenage life: first cigarettes, experiencing sex and drugs for the first time, the conflicts with parents, friends, teachers at school, discontent with their bus drivers, current political scene and so on. They approach different topics fearlessly, show their true selves to the public eye and even make us cry (seriously, people cried during one emotional scene, I was also almost at that point). To see a bunch of 17, 18-year olds getting almost 100 people on the verge of tears or to cry… that’s quite something, I tell you.
Of course, putting a show like this on the stage takes a lot of (especially mental) preparation, exploring of your inner self and these guys nailed it – I bet that they have taken more from this one show in terms of personal growth than in quite few years of schooling. But we can’t go past the school.
In one of the scenes the actors in their text use quite vulgar words and provoke different teachers at the school. The reaction of the teaching staff (although only 5 of like 40 or 50 teachers actually saw the show) was so big that the principal had to take unusual (and extreme) measures and cancel the upcoming reprise shows on First Stage.
This thing got so big even the local newspaper Večer, one of the biggest newspapers in the country, did a coverage on the subject – if you understand Slovene, click here for the piece.
If we’re technical about it: at the beginning of the show there’s a projection on the curtain, stating “none of the text represents the real opinion of the actors”. It’s also clearly stated in the brochure, given at the beginning of the show, that the text is a combination of written scenario and crowdsourced material from students from different schools in Maribor. The shock value is obvious: people were holding their breaths, you could hear “oohs” and “aahs”, see the people shaking their heads in dismay or disbelief that this is happening. The actors clearly stated: “We’re not goody-goody two-shoes, we do a lot of stuff in our lives, we’re young and we experiment – with our way of talk, drugs, forms of artistic articulation, with everything.”
“Another brick in the wall” or Theatre School is still a part of school
Let me get the whole long story short as possible: “Prva gimnazija Maribor” or First Gymnasium Maribor – one of the finest schools in Maribor and Slovenia, with a tradition of getting top shit education for your kids dating back to 1850 (whoa!). In the 90’s (1996 or 1997, if I’m correct) a group of enthusiasts got together, repainted and remodeled the former art classroom and did an improvised stage there. That stage grew and grew in the following years and the Theatre School was born. A lot of great talent went through the ranks of this extracurricular activity, many of them becoming well-known faces of the Slovene art scene or even household names. Actors, directors, light designers, costume designers, the list is really too long.
“Prva” has this amazing vibe – it attracts all these different people from different backgrounds and unites them into a great big mess, where friction is happening on a daily basis. I can recall my time as a student there: my classmates were one of the weirdest people you could find under the sun. From daydreamers and good girls to serious math geniuses and next big shots in modern art, you name it – we had it. All these different cultures, viewpoints, experiences… like a perfect petri dish for cultural activity.
And there’s the catch: the Theatre School, the First Stage, this was one of the last places where our imagination could run wild, where we could think we can take on the world head-on, where we could explore and grow, into better students, into better human beings.
My five years there were full of discovery – from learning different acting techniques, history of theatre and art, my own abilities and about world in general. Striking a conversation with unknown people was not a dreaded task anymore but rather an opportunity to know someone new, their own story. Everything around me became a source of inspiration: mimicking the moves from people walking by infused my stage characters with life, listening to stories from random people on the bus or in the bar gave me ideas for at least a million different scenarios… Theatre made who I am today, without doubt.
Withholding the right of free expression, especially in arts, is doing more damage than good to these young people. I have the utmost respect for the principal, the whole school and their staff but this is ridiculous – get your minds right, look past the superficial and be proud of the great people you’re educating in your facilities. In your own words: you are raising the next generation of intellectuals, on whose shoulders this nation will build its future. Please, don’t do stupid things like this, thank you.