Joining the host folk theatre troupe to present their theatrical talents were the amateur theatre troupe of the Croatian National Council of Montenegro, a travelling theatre troupe from the German city of Stuttgart, a Croatian amateur theatre group out of Travnik in neighbouring Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Piccolo theatre troupe from Stari Grad on the island of Hvar, and the Danjgube amateur theatre troupe of the nearby village of Ladislav.
Traditions are most often expressions of something we esteem that possesses enduring value. In this regard, in the domain of amateur theatre, the Days of Croatian Folk Theatre in the village of Hercegovac have again and again reaffirmed their importance. For the past twenty-six years this small settlement straddling two of Croatia’s historic regions, Moslavina and Slavonia, has been the gathering place every last weekend in February for people from our diaspora communities and from ethnic Croatian enclaves in the broader European neighbourhood.
This year the event was staged on 28 and 29 February. Joining the host folk theatre troupe of the reading room in Hercegovac to present their theatrical talents were the amateur theatre troupe of the Croatian National Council of Montenegro, a travelling theatre troupe from the German city of Stuttgart, a Croatian amateur theatre group out of Travnik in neighbouring Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Piccolo theatre troupe from Stari Grad on the island of Hvar, and the Danjgube amateur theatre troupe of the nearby village of Ladislav.
The event was organised by the Hercegovac reading room and the Croatian Heritage Foundation and sponsored by the culture ministry, Bjelovar-Bilogora County and the Hercegovac municipal government.
The show opened on 28 February with a welcome from Hercegovac reading room head Zrinka Cjetojević, CHF director Mijo Marić, Hercegovac municipal mayor Boro Bašljan, and Žana Vukoja, the deputy head of the Bjelovar-Bilogora County administrative department for education, culture and sports.
The first evening saw the host troupe perform Miroljub Nedović’s Mlaćenici i plaćenici (“Thrashers and Mercenaries”), the troupe from Montenegro performed Dijana Milošević’s Nasljeđujemo to načelo što daše nam djedovi (“We Inherit this Principle that our Grandparents Give Us”), and the troupe from Travnik performed an adaptation of Dostoevsky’s short story Krokodil (“The Crocodile”). 29 February saw the troupe from Stuttgart playing Gordana Bećirović’s Udavače (“The Bachelorettes”), the Danjgube troupe put on Đurđica Lužanić Kudjeljak’s Em je doš’o, em bi oš’o (“So He Came and Now He’d Go”), and the players from Hvar performed Theodore Roger’s Francuski kafić (“The French Café”).
The stage performances showcasing the work of these amateur groups in Hercegovac were enriched with an educational workshop led by Ante Bilić, a stage director from Travnik.
This theatre event breaks down barriers between those who create culture and those who consume it. Culture, amateur theatre in particular, is fruitful and innovative even when it is not monopolised by people for whom it is a part of their professional career. The right to culture is not just the right to passive observation, but also the right to participate in shaping it. In the case of the event hosted by Hercegovac this is not only relevant as an expression of the exercise of this “right”, but also as a venue at which relationships with Croatians abroad are forged. Even in this small settlement culture has proven to be a powerful medium of bonding, often more impactful that policy making and the business sector.
By: Marin Knezović