Future and Dialogue are The Key Words


Milena Bogavac [i]


For young audiences with young audiences                                   


Whenever I think of theatre for children and youth, the word which most often crops up turns out to be: future.

Theatre for children and youth always looks towards the future. It has to be innovative as it talks to new, different, young people, the progressive ones, the ones who hold the future in their hands. Today, we are aware of the fact that the future brings accelerated technological development, entirely changing the appearance and the functioning of the society. It does not concern new technological achievements only, but also the way it shapes our thoughts and perception which, again, cannot but influence the modern dramaturgy. The kids of nowadays cannot be animated by linear narrative. They are endowed by successive perception and much better equipped to understand fragmentary narrative patterns which are usually referred to as post-dramatic.

Thinking of their generation makes me believe that the ethical black-and-white pattern of old fairytales does not teach them the virtues they can find useful in life. Knowing that this thesis might sound radical, I will try to be more precise: I don’t think that children should not be taught that Good will overpower Evil, but I do not believe that Good is embodied in the sentence “and then they got married and lived happily ever after”.

Therefore, I do not simply make theatre for young audiences but more often with youngaudiences, conceiving methodological and pedagogical (workshop- and research-based) structures, which I use in order to employ dramaturgical and theatre knowledge and skills and to encourage the young to make the performances they would like to watch. We make the performances together, in a process based on a fair exchange of knowledge. I teach them theatre, they teach me their way of thinking, their sense of humour, their sense of Good, Beautiful and contemporary. In the end, I am never completely sure who the dominant author is: I or my young associates. What I am sure of, though, is that this question in itself does not bear much relevance as long as we fill up an auditorium and as long as we manage to shake someone up, make someone smile, comfort or teach someone. Therefore, we use theatre as means of communication with our surrounding.

Only when it communicates does theatre fulfil its purpose, which makes me believe that the second important word in the story of theatre is: dialogue.

In dramatic theatre, dialogue used to keep the action going. That remains so but is slightly modified in the way that the dialogue is not held between the characters on stage but between the performers and the audiences. The fourth wall used to maintain acting within the realm of the realism. Nowadays, when the illusion of the fourth wall has been replaced with screens, theatre remains the last refuge of direct and unmediated communication. Confronted with the new media, theatre has lost the battle against illusion. At the same time, it has won the war for truth. I believe that the truth is a modern version of Good. Moreover, I believe that there isn’t a single truth a young person cannon grasp if we try to tell it in a proper way.

However, there are many proper ways to tell big Truth to little people.

I choose an optimistic way to discuss the Truth with my young associates, teaching them that life is as beautiful as it is painful.

If it hurts, it must be the Truth. If it is the Truth, it must be Good. And if it is Good, there is no reason to fear for our lives. In our lives, like in fairy tales, Good always wins in the end. And if it doesn’t? ... That means it’s not the end yet!

At the panels and conferences where we discuss theatre for children and young people I have a problem to hear the term “young audiences” mentioned over a hundred times. What do they want? How to approach them? ... I don’t think that theatre professionals – however well-meaning they might be – can give answers to those questions. Theatre for children and young people should be made in cooperation with them, so my answer to what they want is clear: I don’t know but let’s ask them!

That is exactly what I did while I was writing this text. The participants in the workshop that I led at children’s theatre “Boško Buha” were boys and girls aged 6-12. Together, we created and staged a short text. Here you can read it and, hopefully, find it educational and entertaining.



Co-authors: Andreja, Iva, Sara, Sara K., Strahinja, Nikola, Stefan and Minja

-          In theatre, I like good performances!

-          I like being in theatre with my friends!

-          I like the moment when the performance begins!

-          I like happy end!

-          I like to flood the audience with tears over a drama.

-          I like acting in theatre.

-          I like when it’s not crowded.

-          In theatre, I like applause.

-          I don’t like when the kid behind me keeps kicking my seat.

-          I don’t like it when someone tall is sitting in front of me.

-          I like the people in the audience.

-          I prefer actors!

-          My favourite actor is Daniel Radcliffe.

-          But you haven’t seen him in theatre!

-          But he is still an actor.

-          I don’t like it when actors are wearing too much makeup!

-          I don’t like complicated scenes!

-          I like popcorns in theatre but they won’t let me eat them.

-          I don’t like it when people in theatre act like at a stadium, I don’t like hooligans and I never will!

-          In theatre for children I don’t like performances for babies!

-          Which performances for babies have you seen?

-          I have seen one, in the kindergarten, a really stupid performance. It must’ve been for babies for I can’t see who else would agree to watch it.

-          I don’t like crying babies in theatre!

-          In theatre, I like the big stage, the orchestra and the boxes!

-          In theatre, I like music!

-          My favourite object is microphone. Can I say it into the microphone?

-          Theatre for children has to have some drama.

-          Grownups shouldn’t go to theatre for children if they find it boring!

-          I like puppet theatre.

-          I like it when you all keep quiet... so small children could hear us. Shhhhhhh!

-          I hate it when I hear shhhhhh! in theatre.

-          I like it when a performance is both for boys and for girls.

-          In theatre for children I like it when there is a couple and love.

-          I like scary performances!

-          In theatre can nothing be as scary as it is on film!

-          Not true. I have seen a really scary performance.

-          Which one?

-          I got so scared that I forgot its name!

-          In theatre I like props. I don’t like objectionless performances.

-          Well it depends. Some are good.

-          Objectionless performances are irritating. It’s dull and boring.

-          I don’t like it when actors forget their lines.

-          I find improvisations irritating.

-          Performances for children should be simple.

-           They should be simple but not short. I can’t see the point of short performances. I wonder why I even bothered coming.

-          If I were an actress, I’d come onstage and greet the audience like this!

-          If I were the manager of theatre, I’d hire better actors!

-          If I were an actress, I’d invite all the children to participate!

-          If I were an actor, I’d like to see children act!

-          I like everything in theatre!

-          I like everything that there is in theatre!



Translation from Serbian to English: Vesna Radovanović

Article is published at  ASSITEJ Magazine: Facing the Audiences Issues (2014)


[i] MILENA BOGAVAC (1982) is a playwright, dramaturge, theatre-maker, screen writer, slam poet and cultural worker, from Belgrade, Serbia. She graduated dramaturgy on Faculty of the Dramatic Arts in Belgrade, and wrote over fifteen original plays which have been produced, translated, published, included in anthologies of contemporary drama, awarded and presented at relevant international festivals. She is leading independent theatre group Drama Mental Studio, and collaborating with numerous institutions and organizations such are Bitef theatre, Center E8, Walking Theory, Per.Art and others.