7 Plays From Central and Eastern Europe
Edited and Introduced by Sian Evans and Cheryl Robson
Biljana Srbljanovic (Yugoslavia) | Sladjana Vujovic (Montenegro) | Vera Filo (Hungary) | Elena Popova (Belorussia) | Gabriela Preissova (Czech) | Alina Nelega (Romania) | Krystyna Kofta (Poland)
This collection of award-winning plays features works from the cutting edge of Central and Eastern European theatre.
With a foreword by Gerald Lidstone, Eastern Promise brings together seven women writers who have all experienced living at a time when their countries were part of a larger political entity. For Gabriela Preissova, it was the Austro-Hungarian Empire, for the others, the soviet bloc. Some of the moral and political dilemmas their characters face range from the killing of a child, to the betrayal of a comrade, to reinventing oneself as a way of living in exile.
Includes the plays: Jenufa (Her Step-daughter), The Umbilical Cord, Tulip Doctor, The Tender Mercies, Nascendo, The Chosen Ones and Belgrade Trilogy.
Jenufa (Her Stepdaughter) by Gabriela Preissova (Czech): Portrays a secret birth and infanticide, the play aroused controversy when first written in 1890. It was the basis for Janacek’s opera Jenufa and is translated into English now for the first time.
The Umbilical Cord by Krystyna Kofta (Poland): An intense family relationship, where ritual has replaced real life, interrogates “… A generation suffering moral defeat”.
Tulip Doctor by Vera Filo (Hungary): Set against the background of war, life becomes a cartoon, where anything can happen and will.
The Tender Mercies by Sladjana Vujovic (Montenegro): Edinburgh Fringe First winner.
“…dazzling play upon the savagery of war.” The Scotsman
Nascendo by Alina Nelega (Romania): Set in a Maternity ward on the eve of the revolution patients and staff reflect the divided nature of Romanian society.
The Chosen Ones by Elena Popova (Belorussia): Winner of the European play competition, described as “poignant portrayal of post-communist society”.
Belgrade Trilogy by Biljana Srbljanovic (Yugoslavia): Set in Sydney, Los Angeles and Prague on New Year’s Eve, the everyday life of young exiles from the Balkans, winner of the Slobodan Selenic Prize.
About the authors
Gabriela Preissová born in 1862, in Kutná Hora near Prague. From childhood almost to the end of the century she lived in the Slovácko region of Moravia, where she was fascinated by the local traditions and dialect. Her first published writings were Tales from Slovácko, one of which, the Beginning of a Romance was used by Leoš Janáèek as the basis for his first opera. Both her plays were also set in Slovácko, The Farmer’s Woman (National Theatre, Prague 1889) and Her Stepdaughter (National Theatre, Prague 1890). Both were also turned into operas; The Farmer’s Woman as Eva, by J.B. Foerster and Her Step-daughter as Jenufa by Leoš Janáèek. Preissová, who died in 1946, never again achieved the success of her earlier works.
Krystyna Kofta lives in Warsaw. Husband professor of psychology, son biologist. Graduated with M.A. in Polish in 1970. Novels: The Visor (1978) – (Faustian themes), Sawdust (1980) – (The Stalinist era seen through the eyes of children), The Small Predator House (1988) – (a woman gaining her freedom from the power of her mother and then her husband), No-one’s Body (1988) – (a gothic romance), In Praise of Witches (1994) – (on female power), The Secret Diary of Melanie R. (1997) – (balancing between the real and virtual worlds), The Thief of Memory (1998) – (today and the memory of childhood).
Other work: The Man who didn’t die (1990) – (a collection of short stories), How to get, keep and drop a man (1992) – (a parody of a self-help manual), Harpies, piranhas, angels (1997) – (a dialogue with journalist Malgorzata Domagalik on the subject of the lack of solidarity among women).
Film scripts: I like Bats (horror), Femina (based on The Small Predator’s House).
Other Plays: Professor Mephisto’s Salon – (Faust and Mephisto are women).
On-going work for the women’s magazine Your Style.
Whether I try myself here and there, or other people try me now and then, it is to this day – I swear, that is 25 years, (Vera you’re getting old – a secret). Do I see things or hear them, or just feel them under my skin or above? It’s not at all clear, as my life isn’t crystallising either…
I have to work on that – I am not alone in this, am I?
‘The worried one
I’m quoting myself there but ‘it’s all the same’ whatever you fancy, such is your sensitivity.
Anyway, after directing Genet, Durenmatt, Picasso and Cocteau adaptations, I didn’t become modest and took up residency inside myself. After I served up Tulip Doctor on the table at the Playwrights and Theatre Practitioners, I wrote Keresok (Searchers) which was published in the magazine Szinhaz (Theatre) and puzzled over at the Inter-Play in Berlin. The play Allj-ulve (Stand-sitting) was published in the periodical Theleme. Egyenesen (Straight) won the playwriting competiton of the Miskolc Theatre. Currently I am preparing for the Orkeny Istvan Playwrighting Scholarship by fighting a word and image battle – the working title is Ariel (Smoke-stripe)… my God, why don’t you sigh this way a little?
I also draw comic-strips. I write poetry too. These are somehow more accepted by the people here. I don’t know why.
Sladjana Vujovic is a Yugoslav-born writer, theatre director, producer and actress.
An honours graduate, her academic background includes studies of English, drama, mathematics and archaeology. She moved to Britain in 1984.
She has worked in a number of theatres in the UK, and toured in Yugoslavia, Slovenia, Germany and Switzerland.
Alina Nelega born in 1960, in Targu-Mures, Transylvania. Graduated the Cluj/Kolosvar University in 1984. She has had short stories, plays, essays and reviews published in various literary and theatre journals. She is currently running a theatre quarterly founded by The University of Journalism of Bucharest and an alternative group of critics, based in Bucharest and Cluj.
At present she is the Artistic Director of the International New Writing Festival Dramafest and runs The Romanian New Writing Project. She is an associate lecturer at the Theatre University in Targu-Mures and runs the International Department of the National Theatre in the same city.
Elena Popova was born on the 12th October 1947 in Legnitsa in Silesia, in the part of Germany that was ceded to Poland after the war. Her father was a war correspondent. She was three when he was transferred to Minsk. She has lived there all her life, except for her time at university. After high school she got involved with theatre, amateur drama and dancing. She started to write short stories early on but the theatre influenced her very strongly and she began to write plays; she did a playwriting course at the Gorky Institute of Literature and graduated in 1973. She went through various changes of job and career, but continued to write; writing has always been at the centre of her life.
In 1975 her play Victory Square came first in Belorussia and third in the Soviet Union in a competition for plays about contemporary youth. However, censorship meant that performance of the play was banned; it was only published ten years later in Teatr, the theatre magazine. Her theatrical debut was in 1978, with a production of the play Early Trains by the National Academy Theatre of Vitebsk. A Quiet Place was performed in St. Petersburg in the same year. She was admitted to the Writers’ Union. But life in the theatre was not simple. Few of her plays were performed, some were performed once, others closed or met with official disapproval. There were some successes, however, including Announcement in the Evening Paperat the Minsk Russian Theatre and Korytsin’s Life at the Yanki Kupali Belorussian Academy Theatre. With the advent of perestroika, her life as a playwright opened up.
Biljana Srbljanovic born in 1970, graduated from the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Belgrade (1996), where she now works as a Teaching Assistant in the Dramaturgy Department. Her first play Belgrade Trilogy was produced in 1997 in Belgrade’s Yugoslav Drama Theater, and for that play she received the Slobodan Selenic Award (for Young Playwrights). Her second play Family Stories was produced in Belgrade’s Atelje 212 Theatre, and in the Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg (both in 1998). She received the biggest national award for this play: Festival Sterijino Pozorje in Novi Sad. She lives and works in Belgrade.