22 May 2020

FIFTY YEARS SINCE THE DEATH OF BOJAN STUPICA

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Today marks 50 th anniversary of the death of Bojan Stupica, founder and general manager of Yugoslav Drama Theatre. Since we are unable to mark this occasion at YDT due to the current circumstances, we have decided to use our JDPtv  youtube youtube channel to stream a two part documentary entitled MEĐU NAMA (Among Us): BOJAN STUPICA by Feliks Pašić. The footage will be broadcast with kind permission from RTS.The documentary will be streaming on JDPtv youtube channel until 29 th May. On the same day the first part of the documentary will be broadcast on RTS Trezor channel (rtsplaneta.rs) at 10.30pm. The second part of the documentary will be broadcast the following day, 30 th May at the same time.

BOJAN STUPICA

(Ljubljana, 1 st August, 1910 – Belgrade, 22 nd May, 1970)

BOJAN STUPICA was one of the shiniest representatives of our culture, a man with an extraordinary gift which he selflessly gave to the theatre. He trained as an architect but is remembered as a set designer, theatre director, founder, creator and theatre manager, actor.

During his second year at University he met Sava Severova, actress and future spouse, and it was then he decided to dedicate his whole existence to the theatre. Between 1929 – 1931, Stupica travelled through Italy, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, visiting theatres, attending rehearsals thus gaining vast experience in modern tendencies in theatre. Before the Second World War, he and his wife joined the National Theatre at Maribor on two occasions, and later the National Theatre in Skopje and the Novi Sad – Osijek theatre. In 1935 they joined the ensemble of the Slovene National Theatre where they remained for three years. During that time Stupica travelled to Prague where he became acquainted with the Czech tradition in theatre. His greatest achievement during his pre-war career was becoming a member of the ensemble of the National Theatre in Belgrade. Bojan Stupica soon became one of the most prominent and avant-garde young directors in all of Yugoslavia. He supported left wing policies and took part in the activities of the Communist Party. He was arrested in 1942 and sent to Gonars concentration camp. There he was tortured and fell gravely ill and his spine became particularly affected. He was released after the fascist regime in Italy capitulated in 1943.

After the liberation, he was asked to serve as general manager of the Slovene National Theatre Drama in Ljubljana. During a study visit to the USSR in 1946, he became particularly interested in the work and organisation of MAT and decided that Yugoslavia also required a theatre similar to Stanislavsky’s Moscow Art Theatre. He turned this idea into a proposal submitted to the Art and Culture Committee: Proposal on Central Theatre of FPRY (11th November, 1946). That is how the idea of Yugoslav Drama Theatre was conceived.

The new theatre first opened its doors on 3 rd April, 1948 with a production of  The King of Betajnova by Ivan Cankar, directed by Bojan Stupica. Premières of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya and Brawling in Chioggia by Goldoni were soon to follow. It was at YDT that he met his second wife and life companion Mira (Todorović) Stupica. The production of Dundo Maroje by Marin Držićev, directed by Bojan Stupica and with Mira Stupica in the role of Petrunjela, took Belgrade and the rest of Yugoslavia by storm and opened the doors of West European theatres to Yugoslav theatre productions. The first guest performance took place in Paris in 1954 at the First International Theatre Festival. This production then went on a European tour (Vienna, Budapest, Warsaw, Wrocław, Poznań, Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, Venice).
In spite of huge artistic successes, due to differences of opinion with the cultural elite of the time, Bojan and Mira Stupica decided to leave YDT and Belgrade. They were immediately hired by the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb in 1955.

Two years after their arrival, the Croatian National Theatre had been transformed into a modern theatre environment. CNT productions toured the rest of the country and their ensemble gained enormous prominence. During that period, Stupica directed two feature films – The Upstarts (1953) where he played the leading role, and U mreži (1956).
Early in theatre season 1957/58 Bojan and Mira returned to YDT but only for two seasons, after which they went back to the National Theatre. Year 1959 was particularly important for Bojan. In addition to directing a number of productions, he became the artistic director of Atelje 212 theatre which he completely reorganised and then designed a project for the new building (inaugurated on 20 th December, 1964).

After receiving an invitation from some of the more prominent artists of Yugoslav Drama Theatre, he became general manager of this theatre for the third time on 29 th March, 1968. Once again he reorganised a theatre and brought new blood to the ensemble by hiring two generations of students from the Academy. These actors became known in the media as ‘Bojan’s Babies’. After the political ban on the production of When Pumpkins Blossomed, his health rapidly deteriorated. He died at the age of 60 after a brief illness. He had directed 116 productions in Yugoslavia and 14 abroad. He also did set designs for his productions and those of other directors and sometimes designed costumes. He was responsible for the project of the building of Atelje 212 theatre and the New Theatre which, after his death, was renamed Bojan Stupica theatre. He was also involved in the adaptation of the building of Yugoslav Drama Theatre. He taught acting and theatre direction in Ljubljana, Belgrade and Zagreb. The award for theatre direction presented by the Drama Artists’ Association of Serbia since 1971 bears his name.