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© Hrvatsko narodno kazalište u Varaždinu

Vesna Kosec-Torjanac, Novo kazalište, 1976. – 1990.

Vesna Kosec-Torjanac


New Theatre

(1976 – 1990)

From the 70s of the 20th century, the strict ideological and aesthetic structure of the repertoire began to be more clearly broken by re-examining and deconstructing the (petite)bourgeoisie concept, premiere performances of dramatic texts or dramatizations of prose, introducing into social catharsis the problem of the individual who is no longer a hero, a representative of generally accepted virtues, but “eternal opponent”, questioning the conditions of human (un)freedom or the meaning of art itself.

In 1971, Petar Veček directed his first play in Varaždin, Kulundžić’s Scorpion and The Death of Stjepan Radić by T. Bakarić, and in 1973 he became the director and realized a number of directions that completely changed the idea of the repertoire. With a strictly personal approach to the interpretation of the text and working with the actor in the process of a new creation – a play, Veček, together with the director Miro Međimorec, in Varaždin creates a contemporary theatre with an almost ontological sign. Thanks to a small but extremely agile ensemble, ready for stage challenges and risks, Veček and Međimorec, applying the methods of Artaud, Brook, Marowitz and Grotowski, create performances that will very quickly be recognized outside the local framework: N. Machiavelli, La Mandragola, B. Brecht, A Respectable Wedding, S. Šnajder, Metastasis, I. Bakmaz, Exercises at the Goethe Institute, M. Krleža, Emerički, S. Novak, A Shell in the Woods, Ivan Bakmaz, Authentic Experiences with Dogs, S. Šnajder, Croatian Faust and others; they participate in almost all national festivals, returning with excellent reviews and awards. The young acting couple, Ivica Plovanić and Jagoda Kralj Novak, together with Tomislav Lipljin, Vesna Stilinović, Marija Geml, Ljudevit Gerovac, Katja Zubčić, Duško Džakula, Čedo Vujić, Biserka Fatur, Mirjana Sinožić and others, realize a world theatre in the province. The young Ljubo Kerekeš join them in the 1980s, so those years were formative for his future successful career. The enthusiasm in the Theatre is also shared by the audience, especially the young one; pupils and students attend the theatre studio, individuals act or play minor roles. The theatre becomes a gathering place for young artists, cultural workers, and intellectuals. Dragutin Novaković Šarli, Goran Merkaš, The Impulse …  

Primarily Croatian drama, young authors: Šnajder, Bakmaz, S. Novak, Mujičić/Senker/Škrabe, the classics: Krleža, Donadini, and world contemporary authors and classics are also represented. Directors are Ranka Mesarić, Radovan Grahovac, Vladimir Milčin, and in 1982, Matko Sršen was hired as art manager and director.

In a relatively short time, in six years, Veček fundamentally changed the Varaždin theatre. The legacy of Veček’s theatre is noticeable almost to this day: until recently, the ensemble included or still includes actors from that period, part of today’s theatre audience still remembers the plays of the 70s and 80s and are very strict critics.

After leaving Varaždin, Veček and Međimorec still occasionally direct, and Matko Sršen takes over the directorial baton: Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, S. Novak, Jonah’s Fish, I. Bergman, Autumn Sonata, Fassbinder, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant and others. Actor Tomislav Lipljin (1983 – 1987), then Ernest Fišer (1987 – 1989), became managers. The firmly established repertory guidelines of Veček’s mandate continue, and, in addition to the previous ones, directors are by: Darko Tralić, Slovenian director Matija Logar, Božidar Violić, Joško Juvančić, Tomislav Durbešić, Dunja Tot-Šubajković and others.

During the management of Marijan Varjačić, since 1990, by selecting texts and directors, the Theatre tries to maintain the concept of theatre art as an existential questioning of the current moment. The greatest momentum of the next period will be the rejuvenation of the ensemble and the arrival of young directors headed by Borna Baletić.


Exciting Theatrical Creation [1]

“I visited the August Cesarec, now Croatian, National Theatre in Varaždin, for the first time in the early sixties when I was acting in the theatre as a student. A late colleague, later an actor in Varaždin, Ivan Lovriček, took a few members of the Student Experimental Theatre, Drago Meštrović, Mladen Crnobrnja, Mladen Budiščak, all the future actors and me, the director, to the Varaždin theatre for a premiere (…). I never dreamed then that years later I would pass the old road between Varaždin and Zagreb many times, alone or in the company of actor Darko Ćurdo, in good and bad weather, by bus and car, going to rehearsals or returning home from work on new theatre projects, convinced that this effort is worth it, that I am participating in a new creative phase of the Varaždin theatre.

As my first play in Varaždin, I staged the play Metastasis, then by still a young playwright Slobodan Šnajder, with whom Veček and I were connected by ideas about modern theatre dramaturgy and aesthetics, already expressed in the launch of the magazine for theatre art Prolog. In addition to working on the play, my colleague Veček encouraged me to run a kind of studio for young people. In addition to already rich theatre experience, from working with students at SEK, when conducting that study I used knowledge from the Academy and already a number of successful professional theatre performances, as well as post-graduate training at the Royal Shakespeare Company, knowledge about improving the voice using the Cicely Berry method and exercises for physical preparation that were used in the RSC” (Međimorec)

Exciting theatrical production took place in the late seventies and early eighties. After fellow director Petar Veček had become the manager of the Augusta Cesarec, he invited me to work together with the actors of the older generation, Ljudevit Gerovec, Tomislav Lipljin, Marija Geml, Ivica Plovanić and the new generation of young actors, among whom was the gifted amateur Jagoda Kralj Novak, let’s try to create a strong, timely, lively theatre based primarily on local writers.

I agreed and we started creating an interesting and new theatre, as evidenced by the writings of theatre critics from that time: Metastasis, “(…) the new enthusiasm of the Varaždin theatre” (M. Grgičević); Exercises at the Goethe Institute”, a fluttering and charming play, actors aware of its depth, exceptional work with actors” (D. Foretić); “in the play Emerički, we get a new confirmation of the true progress of the rejuvenated Varaždin theatre, which is becoming capable of more and more complex tasks.” (D. Foretić); The Return of Philip Latinowicz, (…) With a series of successful plays, the people of Varaždin deserve great hospitality from the Zagreb theatre, but also an understanding of their audience for guest appearances” (D. Vukšić).” (Međimorec)

[1] The text by Miro Međimorec is quotes taken from the Monograph on Jagode Kralj Novak.


A Real European Theatre [2]

“From the beginning, there was something deeply anarchic and arbitrary in Veček’s expressiveness, but in such a way that he still left space for others and another one, if he felt that this otherness did not endanger or cripple him. I say that Petar Veček was a great director in a small theatre, until that theatre became one of the biggest and most interesting theatrical challenges in the post-war federal theatre production.

Varaždin is a city that I have come to know as the true embodiment of a civic environment, of a high cultural level, in some aspects actually more interesting and urban than the nearby metropolis, Zagreb. Thus, the theatre in Varaždin attracted a whole series of young and old directors and other collaborators (Međimorec, Ivica Boban, Sršen, Milčin, Kunčević, Mesarić, but also very important Denis Carey, Ranko Mesarić, as well as Polish and Russian directors) etc., for example, with the collaboration of the great Slovenian playwright and anthropologist philosopher Taras Kermauner, Šeligo, Goljevšekov, Božić, with inspired stage collaborators, such as Marin Gozze or the program designer and author of the poster, the unforgettable, unfortunately early diseased Goran Merkaš, or famous painters Ratko Janjić Jobo and Željko Prstec) and managed to impose itself over the years as more interesting and challenging than most theatre productions in the metropolis at the time. Or it just seemed that way to us, although the wide circle of newly arrived audiences who came to our premieres was another, but very important point in favour of our initial shared theatrical illusion that in a small town, such as Varaždin, it was possible to make a real European theatre.

Of course, everything I have written about Petar Veček’s directorship was best fulfilled by the coherent cast of the August Cesarec Theatre, and it was by no means behind in the brilliance of the successful premieres, which were accompanied by the interest of the audience and professional critics, as well as a number of important awards at the republican and federal festivals.” (Armanini, )

[2] The text was created as a selection from the text published in the Monograph on Jagode Kralj Novak.


Ernest Fišer


After Veček

The period from February 1, 1982 to May 31, 1989 – that is, more than seven years of loyalty – in which I worked as an employee of the (then) August Cesarec National Theatre in Varaždin, was marked by Marijan Varjačić in the monograph Varaždin Theatre Centuries as years of (theatrical) continuity. Such a precise determinant in the life of our theatre in the mentioned period should be supplemented by a determinant – the period of renovation (exterior and interior) of the theatre building, because many years of demanding construction work could threaten – both the quantitative (repertoire) and qualitative (artistic) production of the Varaždin theatre. Fortunately, this did not happen, but according to the judgments of meritorious theatre critics, the Varaždin theatre continued to remain at the very top of Croatian theatre.   

With the departure of Petar Veček (January 15, 1983) to Zagreb’s “Gavella”, in the Varaždin theatre we tried to preserve the best features and attributes of his passionate direction and management. Such a thankless role in our theatre – as acting manager – was first taken on by drama champion Tomislav Lipljin (from 1983 to 1987). However, since Lipljin was at the same time the holder of most of the main roles in very demanding plays, he had to give up the management for health reasons.

In addition to the repertoire, it was also necessary to take care of the completion of multi-year construction works on the renovation of the theatre building. Despite such unfavourable circumstances, as many as ten premieres were staged during my period as manager, in the following order: S. Šnajder, Dumanske tišine (Silences of a Nun) (February 7, 1987); F. M. Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment (February 27, 1987); A. Šoljan, Galileo’s Ascension (May 21, 1987); S. Mrožek, Tango (October 16, 1987); D. Jelačić Bužimski / S. Tulač, Conquest of the Theatre (December 23, 1987); A. Goljevšček, How Green Is My Valley (February 19, 1988); D. Jelačić Bužimski, Light for insects (April 21, 1988); R. W. Fassbinder, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (December 30, 1988); unknown author, Hipohondrijakuš / Hypochondriac (December 20, 1988); H. Hitrec / D. Ruljančić, Experiences of the Good Writer Hašek (23. 4. 1989.).   

From 1987 to 1989, such a repertoire could be successfully performed in the Varaždin theatre thanks to the engagement of excellent directors from the earlier period (Petar Veček, Miro Međimorec, Matko Sršen, and others), but also the engagement of new distinguished directors (Tomislav Durbešić, Božidar Violić, Želimir Mesarić, Joško Juvančić and others). In addition, the experienced Tomislav Lipljin, Ivica Plovanić and Jagoda Kralj Novak led the repertoire as champions in the acting ensemble, Ljubomir Kerekeš announced his magnificent acting talent, and Dragutin Novaković Šarli confirmed himself as a gifted theatre composer. At the beginning of 1989, the young Stojan Matavulj and Nikola Plećaš joined this respectable acting ensemble, entering permanent engagement, while already established actors were specially engaged for certain performances: Zlatko Vitez, Vanja Drach, Neva Rošić, Drago Meštrović, Vinko Lisjak and others.

In that short period, the multi-year construction renovation (interior and exterior) of the theatre building was completed, the Zvonimir Rogoz Chamber Stage was reactivated for some performances, contemporary stage expression was nurtured in stylistic, repertoire and directing procedures, and our theatre once again gathered a regular premiere audience.