Zadnje novosti...
Uvjeti korištenja i pravila privatnosti
© Hrvatsko narodno kazalište u Varaždinu

Vesna Kosec-Torjanac-Redatelji


Before the 20th century, it is difficult to talk about the director and director’s poetics. The structure of the European theatre began to change at the end of the 19th century, which was contributed by the emergence of a “superior” to the actors, i.e. the director. Until then, pieces with pathetic declamation and deep dedication, the so-called live pictures, were mostly performed. At the top of the acting hierarchy were actors/actresses with beautiful faces and voices. According to Senker, these Stars, the audience’s favourites, most often the tenants of the theatre, determined the repertoire, distributed the roles, decided on the way the text was staged and adapted it to their taste, capabilities and “profession”. (Senker, 1983: 13–14). Directing as a separate discipline of aesthetic interpretation of the text on the stage in the 20th century was developed in our country under the influence of Meiningen, A. Antoine and K. Stanislavski, and Branko Gavella, one of the founders of the Academy of Dramatic Art in Zagreb in 1950. He raised acting and directing education to a higher level, “changed the status of the actor and director, distinguishing the actor from the actor-artist and the director from the director-artist, and restored the reputation of the theatre as an artistic phenomenon, as opposed to a mere drive for the production of plays or extra-theatrical political agitation.“[1] (Kvrgić: 2000.)

In seven seasons under the leadership of Andre Mitrović (1915 – 1922), actors who made a name for themselves as directors staged an abundant dramatic and musical repertoire in Varaždin, along with plays for children: Kurt Bachmann, August Beck, Slavko Bogojević, Mato Bonačić, August Cilić, Alfred Grünhut, Nikola Hajdušković, Antun Križ, Zvonimir Rogoz, Heinz Siege-Urvalek, and Branko Tepavac. A twenty-eight-year-old actor and director, Tepavac will become a director in the 1924-1925 season. He directed ten out of a total of thirteen titles in the repertoire of his “intimate theatre” for “a special intellectual circle of the audience that wants the repertoire to sometimes jump into the line of the most modern experiments in dramatic literature”, as he stated in his program.[2] In his approach to work, which requires the connection of the ensemble and the aesthetic quality of the performances, he becomes a reference point for artistic achievements in the history of Varaždin theatre. He pointed out that “our greatest strength lies in the interpretation of the domestic repertoire”. So in addition to



[2] O Tepavcu i njegovom intimnom teatru piše M. Varjačić u časopisu Kazalište br. 2., 14. 5. 1994.


Kulundžić’s Midnight, he directs Ogrizović, Vučina, Nušić, P. Petrović. Croatian premieres were also performed: I. Cankar, The Bailiff Yerney and His Rights, whose novella was dramatized by Tepavac’s playwright Milan Skrbinšek, then Krechinsky’s Wedding by A. Sukhovo-Kobylin, Scampolo by D. Nicodemi, It by K. Schȍnherr.

After the Second World War, until the 70s of the 20th century, the managing directors of the Theatre were: Dujam Biluš (1947-1948), Milan Drašković (1947-1949), Jozo Martinčević (1949-1950), Mirko Perković (1945-1947), Vid Fijan (1969-1972), aal of whom also directed the largest number of plays, and in addition to them, Viktor Bek, Elena Manjkovska, Bogumila Nučić-Car, Marko Fotez, Osip Šest, Slavko Andres, Janko Marinković, Dražen Grünwald, Mladen Feman and others. The actor Dane Georgijevski mostly wrote and directed plays for children.

Among Gavella’s students, actors and directors, Vladimir Gerić also came to Varaždin in 1957. He realized a significant number of scenographies and directions, which significantly influenced the qualitative turn of the Varaždin theatre repertoire.

In 1971, Petar Veček directed Kulundžić’s Scorpion and Bakarić’s Death of Sjepan Radić. In 1976 he became the managing director and directed Machiavelli’s Mandragola, Brecht’s A Respectable Wedding, together with Miro Međimorac, who staged Šnajder’s Metastasis and Bakmaz’s Exercises at the Goethe Institute, establishing a modern theatre in Varaždin. The duo Veček – Međimorec not only achieved top directorial achievements in the 70s of the 20th century, but also (re)formed the ensemble through continuous practical stage education, setting high performance goals, raising enthusiasm and gathering young people in their drama studio, the members of which would later become excellent actors.

With the arrival of Matko Srüen as house director and artistic manager in 1983, the repertoire focus on local authors continues; Veček and Međimorec continue to direct, along with Vladimir Milčin and others. It can be stated that in the 80s and 90s of the 20th century, the quality of the repertoire continued, with continuous research into performance possibilities, primarily domestic contemporary drama, the revitalization of the Kajkavian theatre and dramatizations of the prose of world and domestic classics. In the 90s of the 20th century, directors: Borna Baletić, artistic manager, Ozren Prohić, Robert Raponja, Dubravko Torjanac, house director and manager of the Children’s and Puppet Scene, Bobo Jelčić, along with the older generation: Veček, Međimorec, Gerić, Kunčević and others, and from 1996 to 2016, Georgij Paro realized his last stage as a director in Varaždin. In 2007, director Ksenija Krčar was employed and continued to direct a series of plays.

In the repertoire of the 21st century theatre in Varaždin, there is repertory diversity, as well as diversity of directors’ poetics, which is one of the characteristics of post-dramatic theatre. In addition to “classic” pieces, there are performances that question the relationship to the classic, cause-and-effect narrative, look for “new” styles and performance techniques, redistribute already established functions in the author’s team and ensemble, and create hybrid genres with themes that are the preoccupations of contemporary society. So, plays are no longer based on a textual template, but on an idea. A broader authorial engagement is expected from the ensemble, not only the actor’s creation of the character, but also the contribution in shaping the play’s narrative. Back in 1997, Bobo Jelčić and Nataša Rajković created The Stories from Varaždin based on the actor’s observation of the environment and free artistic reinterpretation of the chosen object as a character to be embodied. Without ever having written down the text of the play, Observations were performed in the “non-performed” parts of the Theatre, with the audience being turned into voyeurs of intimate scenes. In a similar way, Olja Lozica made The Feast in 2014, which was performed on stage, and the text, created after the actors’ improvisations, was nevertheless written down and dramaturgically structured. The initiative of the young actors from Varaždin, Nikša and Filip Eldan, who started the Gllugl Art Organization, in cooperation with the Varaždin Theatre, resulted in the author’s project Squaring the Circle in 2016 and Faces in Isolation, made with film technique, transmitted online in real time, as an echo of pandemic isolation and impossibility to perform “live”. Together with dramatist Vesna Kosec-Torjanac, they approach Krleža’s Legend, framing it in a contemporary author’s context in 2023. Roman Nikolić directs the author’s project Watch the Void in 2020, and Tamara Kučinović deals with the problem of refugees in the author’s project Whisper of the Soul at the end of 2023.


Marijan Varjačić


Three Worlds

With their accomplishments, their attitude towards the theatre, their understanding of the theatre as art, three theatre artists – directors significantly influenced the development and profiling of the theatre in Varaždin: Vladimir Gerić, Georgij Paro and Petar Veček. Quantitatively speaking, their contribution is enormous (among other things, 66 directions). Each, however, brought a world as a subjective whole with an emphasis on personality, which goes beyond the director’s poetics.


Vladimir Gerić: “No” to Theatre without a Secret

Vladimir Gerić (1928), director, scenographer and translator. He studied Yugoslav literature1, Russian and French in Zagreb. His first artistic engagement was in Varaždin, 1957 – 1962. In the years 1962 – 1964, he was a director at Radio Zagreb, 1965 – 1968, a dramatist, and 1973 – 1978, a director at the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb. Then he works as an independent artist. In Varaždin, he directed 28 plays, created 31 stage setups and translated several dramas for the Theatre. In the earlier period, his directing works stand out: A. P. Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, A. Camus’ The Misunderstanding, Molière’s plays George Dandin, The School for Wives and Tartuffe, then W. Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. In recent times, he is remembered for directing, significant for the reaffirmation of the Kajkavian repertoire in Varaždin and Croatia, the medieval French farce Bogi Ivač / Poor Ivač (performed over 300 times), Puno larme a za ništ / Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet by W. Shakespeare. Beyond Varaždin, it is considered that his highest achievements as director were the plays at the ITD Theatre: premieres of the plays by A. Šoljan, The Hill, Galileo’s Ascension and Deocletian’s Palace by Kaspar P. Handke (150 performances in the country and abroad), Woyzeck by G. Büchner. He translated numerous dramatic, poetic and prose works by French, Russian, English and German writers.


“Direction and Theatre Emerge from the Actor’s Speech”

Gerić’s mother tongue is Kajkavian: “My Kajkavian parents came to Zagreb from northern Podravina three years before I was born and bought a house in Horvati.” (Tunjić, A., 2010) Kajkavski is maternal to his main collaborators in the second period of activity in Varaždin; Tomislav Lipljin, actor and Kajkavian lexicographer, actor Ljubomir Kerekeš and theatre composer Dragutin Novaković Šarli.

At the Tribina Kajkavskoga soravišča / Forum of the Kajkavian Institute (December 18, 2003), the Kajkavian as a translation language was discussed, and the guest of the Forum was Vladimir Gerić. The conversation with him was led by Professor Joža Skok, PhD, (Skok, J., 2004). Gerić considers the year 1958 (arriving in Varaždin) and especially his Kajkavian reworking of the comedy Matiček se ženi / Matiček Marries by Tomaž Linhart to be his true beginnings as a Kajkavian translator. On this occasion, he would say that coming to the Varaždin theatre was the beginning of his double life: the calendar one, which went forward and the other one, which went back, to the Kajkavian homeland, the language of childhood, the Kajkavian soul. Gerić points out that Kajkavian spoken sentences are short, flowing, that they “have a faster gait”, and they are pronounced by “quick-thinking people, as Kajkavians are”. The rhythm of the play merges with the rhythm of the speech; it gives Kajkavian performances a new theatrical quality. According to Gerić’s experience, Kajkavian, “as something much more specific”, allows great linguistic liberties in translation.

Already in the fifties of the 20th century, Gerić’s theatrical creed was recognizable: “Direction and theatre come from the actor’s speech.” (Tunjić, A., 2010) He was always against the so-called director’s theatre, against the method of adapting the dramatic work to the interests of the director and the dominance of the concept or theory, and also the visual-material side of the play over the individual artistic creation of the actor.

In the theatre, Gerić says that,

“… nothing is more valuable than an actor, he is the medium of the theatre. If the actor fails, then everything has failed, if the actor mispronounces Shakespeare’s verse, then it turns out that Shakespeare is not great literature. The audience goes to see the actor, see his eye, his face, hear his voice. The actor conveys the layering of the text.” (ibid)

He says about concepts:

“It is a theatre that wants to re-educate, to tell me that I have to watch something. Our theatre designers have a concept rather than a text in hand, so they randomly look for texts in which they could insert their concepts of all kinds (…) Croatian and world classics, which cannot be defended, suffer the most. And the audience, whose conception is shoved on their noses so that they do not have to think or feel anything. That’s how we got a theatre without secrets. Theatre of idiots for idiots.” (ibid)


Georgij Paro: Theatre as the Face of the Invisible

Georgij Paro (1934-2018), director and writer. Graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy (philosophy and English) and the Academy of Dramatic Art in Zagreb. He directed in many theatres in Croatia and abroad, especially at the Dubrovnik Summer Festival (outstanding plays Christopher Columbus and Aretheus by M. Krleža). He was the director of Drama and the managing director of the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb and a long-time full professor at the Academy of Dramatic Art. He worked occasionally in the USA from 1966 to 2011, where he taught acting and European drama at universities and directed a total of 37 plays. A play directed by him was included in the anthology of the best world plays (1974, New York, Christopher Columbus), which included a play by, for example, J. Grotowski. He published five books on theatre, acting, dramatic literature and autobiographical records. In Varaždin, he directed the plays: Jedermann iliti Vsakovič by H. von Hofmannsthal, Sveti Aleksi by T. Brezovački, Nora by M. Gavran, Three Cavaliers of Fräulein Melania and The Ballads of Petrica Kerempuh by M. Krleža and The Master of His Own Body by S. Kolar.


“The Author’s Worldview is Important”

Georgij Paro advocated directorial, i.e. theatrical, poetics that puts acting, i.e. the actor, in the foreground, without relegating the dramatic text to the background. This is, so to speak, the encouragement he received from his teacher Branko Gavella. In the article America and Its Landscape, writing about the division of directors into literary and acting ones, he says that Gavella was an ideal synthesis of those two directorial directions (Paro, G. 1995, 136-137). In his mature phase (e.g. direction of Jedermann iliti Vsakovič in 1996), as well as in his last major play (The Ballads of Petrica Kerempuh, 2017), Paro achieved a happy combination of dramaturgical and histrionic approach.

Talking about the actor, Paro also talks about the direction (like Gavella and Brook). One of the such key places is the article about Fabijan Šovagović Always like himself. (ibid, 109-111) Cooperation with Šovagović was important to him for “changing his attitude towards directing” (ibid, 110), liberation from the attacks and delusions of director’s theatre.

Among the key words of Paro’s poetics is worldview. According to Paro, there is no great actor without a worldview, without “attitude”. Such actors are, among others, Fabijan Šovagović, Pero Kvrgić and Radko Polič. And when he talks about the dramatic text, he says that the form is the least important, “the worldview of the author is important.” (Paro, G., 2010, 9). The worldview is the “artistic core of the drama” (Stanislavski’s expression). Paro also equates the director’s concept with a worldview (Paro, G., 1995, 129). The director “questions himself and his worldview in the society and time in which he lives.” (Paro, G., 2010, 10)

For Georgij Paro, theatre is dialogue, reciprocity, co-creation. Hence the frequent mention and emphasis on the mindset of the theatre; dialogue is always where meaning happens. Near the end of his last book, The Tidying Up, Paro recalls Brook’s thought that theatre is “the face of the invisible”; it invisibly escapes our senses, and in theatre it reaches us through the concrete, primarily through the actor. It will invisibly take control of the actor and reach us through him (Varjačić, M. 2011., 103. – 116.).


Petar Veček: Theatre as a Creative Oasis

Petar Veček (1942-2010), director and scenographer. He graduated from the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Zagreb, where he was an assistant at the Department of Acting from 1972 to 1976. He was the director in Varaždin from 1976 to 1983, then at the Gavella Drama Theatre from 1983 to 1986. In Varaždin, he directed 31 plays and created a large number of stage designs. More significant directing in Varaždin: The Scorpion by J. Kulundžić, The Death of Stjepan Radić by T. Bakarić, The Mandrake by N. Machiavelli, A Respectable Wedding by B. Brecht, The Seagull by A. P. Chekhov, The Fox and the Rooster by S. Mrożek, George Dandin by Molière, The Comedians by Satinski-Weasel-Rusi, Authentic Experiences with the Dogs by I. Bakmaz, Croatian Faustus by I. Bakmaz, Kasimir and Karolina by Ö. von Horváth, Stepinac – a Voice in the Desert by I. Bakmaz, At the White Swan by S. Šnajder, The Slaughterhouse by S. Mrożek, A Midsummer Night’s Dream by W. Shakespeare, The Threepenny Opera by B. Brecht, In Agony by M. Krleža. The productions of the plays Anno Domini at the Zagreb Youth Theatre, Messrs. Glembay and In Agony at the Gavella Drama Theatre and Welcome to the Blue Hell at the Kerempuh theatre had a great response.


Discovering Human Passions

Petar Veček, in Zagreb, Varaždin, in many towns in Croatia and beyond, did not only direct this or that title, but also directed and created theatre. This is the root of the vitality and spiritual restlessness that he brought into every environment where he would work.

 From the 1960s, through the Student Experimental Theatre in Zagreb and the International Festival of Student Theatres in Zagreb, 1962 – 1963, movements in European theatre have also been felt on Croatian stages (Grotowski, Artaud, Brook). At that time, especially the so-called physical theatre became increasingly actual. Veček will never agree to overemphasizing physicality and especially to the fact that in the theatre little can be said with words (Artaud). His goal is not to break the subordination of the theatre to the text (Isti), but to create a theatrical world precisely through the director’s and actor’s interpretation of the text. Veček’s preoccupation is focused on what the play reveals, namely human passions. Directing Brecht or Shakespeare, Krleža or Chekhov, his obsession is the discovery of human passions, and the choice of plays is an existential decision. Veček’s plays have always been relevant, primarily because they reveal the eternal human; it can be said that the civic theatre has always remained close to him. 

Working in Varaždin, Veček breaks the traditional colonial-imitative relationship of smaller theatre environments towards the so-called theatre centre. His ambition was not to revive a theatre outside Zagreb, but to make it independent. Veček’s theatre in Varaždin was like an oasis. Such oases are perhaps the only future of true theatre. An oasis is a metaphor for life, but it is uncomfortably reminiscent of an expanding desert.


Ksenija Krčar


Women as Theatre Directors

The path to female directors on the stage of the Croatian National Theatre in Varaždin was opened by the famous Marija Jurić Zagorka. Towards the very end of the First World War, in Varaždin, she directed the historical drama Delivuk, an adaptation of her novel The Republicans. It was at a time when premieres were released once a week, and plays were performed only two or three times. Marija Jurić Zagorka stayed in Varaždin for a month. (Hladić: 1944.)

Thanks to the memoirs by Vatroslav Hladić, entitled The Life of an Actor, we know that the premiere, and especially both the author and director, were accompanied by a thunderous ovation. Later, Zagorka gave a “fiery patriotic speech” to a delegation of citizens as a thank for such a good reception of the play. The most interesting thing is that she watched the premiere from backstage, too nervous to sit in the audience. Vatroslav Hladić, who played the title role, writes which scene was particularly important to her and that it was effectively directed.

After the Second World War premieres are becoming rarer. It means that there is more time for experiments, and the directorial work, too. Among several directors, there are two female directors, Elena Manjkovska and Bogumila (Mila) Nučić-Car. They came to the Croatian National Theatre in Varaždin (then the August Cesarec National Theatre) as actresses from Zagreb, in the process of transferring artists who resented the new government, mostly through theatre engagements during the war. (Banović: 2018.)

Each of them directed two plays, and Matijaš Grabancijaš Dijak / Matijaš Grabancijaš the Student by Tituš Brezovački, directed by Bogumila Nučić-Car, stands out in particular in terms of the number of performances. Until then (1947), performances were performed mostly from four to eight times, and Matijaš Grabancijaš Dijak was performed 17 times.

After the forties of the 20th century, there were no female directors in the Croatian National Theatre in Varaždin for almost 25 years. After that, women start directing again, and most of their directing are plays for children.

From the seventies until the beginning of the nineties, three women directed in Varaždin – Dunja Tot-Šubajković, Zvjezdana Ladika and Ranka Mesarić. Zvjezdana Ladika directed 6 plays for children, including some well-known titles of Croatian literature: Mačak Džingiskan and Miki Trasi, Neva Nevičica, Fisherman Palunko and His Wife. During that period, Dunja Tot-Šubajković directed four plays, two of which, in the repertoire in the 80s, were also for children. The choice of the first two plays is interesting – in 1971 she directed the monodrama The Human Voice by Jean Cocteau, and in 1977 the monodrama The Stronger by Strindberg. The characters in both dramas are women, and the man in their lives, whom they talk about or address, is an adulterer, that is, he has another wife.

Ranka Mesarić devoted herself to the theatre of the absurd in her two plays at the Croatian National Theatre in Varaždin – in 1977, she directed Beckett’s drama Waiting for Godot, and in 1990 Kharms’ Elizaveta Bam. The very next year, in 1991, the writer and translator Zvjezdana Timet directed in the theatre, and after five years without female directors, a period began in which at least one woman directed almost every year. Thus, the nineties and the beginning of the new millennium, as far as women as directors are concerned, were marked by Ivica Boban (Antigone, Religion and Homeland), Hana Veček (The Last Link by Lada Kaštelan, The Lion in Winter, You are an Angel by Miljenko Jergović), and the actress in our ensemble Barbara Rocco, who, in addition to Ayckbourn’s comedy How the Other Half Loves, staged two plays by her colleague from the ensemble Zvonko Zečević, The Confessions of a Centre Forward and The Boards.

Since the mid-2000s, some new names have been coming in the director’s world. In addition to Ivica Boban, Snježana Banović and Dunja Tot-Šubajković, Tea Gjergizi Agejev, Olja Lozica, Tamara Kučinović, Julia Klier, Lea Anastazija Fleger, Natalija Manojlović, Sara Stanić, Marina Pejnović, Helena Petković, Aida Bukvić, Snežana Trišić also appear as directors. Choreographer Valentina Turcu is responsible for her first direction, and Barbara Rocco continues acting and directing. The director Ksenija Krčar in Varaždin has been working at the Croatian National Theatre in Varaždin since 2006, who, as an employee of the theatre, has directed the largest number of plays as a woman.

This series of artists, starting with Marija Jurić Zagorka, have made themselves important in the history of the theatre in Varaždin, as well as theatre in Croatia. The number of female directors who worked in the theatre, especially in the last thirty years, shows that the space of freedom, symbolically “conquered” by Zagorka, has become an integral part of the character and identity of the Varaždin theatre.