From November 2 to 8, the Priština Theatre hosted the first-ever Kosovo International Theatre Festival, gathering stage artists and audiences under the slogan “Singing, Music and Ritual.” The repertoire featured the local productions “Performance” and “Qifti Martin,” as well as performances from theatres in Italy, Austria, Ukraine, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Belgium.
Event organizer, art director Jeton Neziraj says that he is pleased with the debut, and that he expects next year to bring even greater success – as well as more funding from the authorities, who provided EUR 50.000 for this year’s festival.
“This festival is important for us in Kosovo, so we expect greater financial support. Just as Bosnia and Herzegovina became better known thanks to Sarajevo’s MESS Festival, so does our festival inform people of something different and new about Kosovo,” Neziraj says.
Neziraj tells that, in addition to the plays, the event included also an array of workshops featuring local theatre professionals and guest artists from many countries, such as the United States, Austria, and Germany.
And why exactly was this a theatre festival of “Singing, Music, and Ritual”?
“We believe that the theatre was born from music. Secondly, here in Kosovo there is still a tradition of rituals, not to mention music,” Neziraj explains.
The festival’s ethnographic programme featured polyphonic ensembles from Albania, as well as gusle players from Rugovo, a mountain region near the border of Montenegro. According to Neziraj, the festival’s goal was not to present traditional plays, but to introduce audiences and theatre-lovers to the contemporary theatre productions of the world.
The second goal was to link Kosovo theatres to other theatres worldwide. Aware that it takes time and money for a festival to gain recognition world-wide, the organizers say they are satisfied with the event’s initial results. What matters most, they say, is that things have been set in motion, as the only way to go is forward.
“We’ve made contact with numerous influential theatre specialists, and expect better and deeper cooperation with colleagues in the United States. We’ve already arranged student exchanges – several of our students will visit [the U.S.], and [American] students will come here,” says Neziraj.
What the Kosovo International Theatre Festival will have to offer next year depends largely on available funding, but Neziraj says that the management continues to think beyond local and regional, and is aiming for a truly international event.
* Under UNSCR 1244/1999