24 March 2021

VLASTA VELISAVLJEVIĆ DIES

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One of the oldest living and beloved stars of Yugoslav and Serbian theatre, film and television, actor Vlastimir Vlasta Velisavljević, a lifetime member of the Yugoslav Drama Theatre ensemble, died in Belgrade at the age of 95.

He was born in Belgrade on 28 th July 1926. He had his first acting experience at the age of twelve (1937) at the Roda Theatre managed by Gita Predić, daughter of Branislav Nušić, which used to stand on the spot where the Yugoslav Drama Theatre is today (aka the Stage by Manjež), in a production of Travel Around the World.

In 1943, Velisavljević was arrested and deported to the Dortmunt Herde concentration camp in Germany. In 1944 he managed to escape and cross the Independent State of Croatia to reach Belgrade where he remained until liberation. After the war, he tried to escape to the USA but was arrested and briefly imprisoned at Ada Ciganlija.

He became a student of acting in 1948 among the first generation of actors (under the mentorship of Mata Milošević) together with Olivera Đorđević (Marković), Vlastimir Đuza Stojiljković, Olgica Stanisavljević, Maja Belović, Predrag Pepi Laković, Bosiljka Boci, Danica Aćimac, Miodrag Debo Popović and Mihajlo Viktorović. During his studies, in 1950, he was already performing on the stage of the Yugoslav Drama Theatre.

At the time of the Cominform in 1950 he was arrested and imprisoned at Banjica from where he was taken to Goli Otok where he spent the next three years. In spite of being cleared of all charges, no theatre in Belgrade was prepared to hire him so in 1954 he moved to Mostar where he joined the ensemble of a theatre managed by author Skenderm Kulenović. Later on he moved to Tuzla where he performed during three seasons and in 1961 he finally returned to Belgrade to rejoin his friends from his student days at the Modern Theatre (nowadays the Belgrade Drama Theatre). In 1969 he was invited by Bojan Stupica to join the Yugoslav Drama Theatre ensemble. His first appearance at YDT was in a production of When Pumpkins Blossomed. Between 1971 – 2014 he appeared in the longest running production in our theatre history A Flea in Her Ear by Feydeau, directed by Ljubiša Ristić, performed more than 1,600 times. He was a favourite among his colleagues and worked with all the most important theatre directors. The last new production Velisavljević appeared in was that of Hamlet by William Shakespeare, directed by Aleksandar Popovski and his last ever performance was on 12 th February 2020 when he appeared in The Imaginary Invalid by Molière, directed by Jagoš Marković. He remained with the YDT until he retired in 1993.

He also appeared in productions at other theatres such as: Zvezdara Theatre, National Theatre in Belgrade, Boško Buha Theatre, National Theatre in Sombor, Madlenianum Opera and Theatre, Slavija Theatre.

He first appeared on film in 1959 in Nights and Days from where he went on to appear in over fifty films (A Trip Around the World, Girl from the Mountains, Buy Me an Eliot, Little Night Music, Labyrinth, A Midwinter Night’s Dream, Ivko’s Feast, How I Was Stolen by the Germans, When Day Breaks, Mamarosh, The Frog, Taxi Blues…). The last film Velisavljević appeared in was Next to You which is still in the post-production phase.

He also appeared in over 150 roles in television films, drama and series (Na slovo na slovo, Više od Igre, Better Life, Our Little Office, Lift, Montevideo: Taste of a Dream, Military Academy, Zvezdara, Linden Street, Suspicious Persons, Open Doors, Santa Maria della Salute, The Swindlers…).

Recipient of the Nikola Milić award at the Days of Comedy theatre festival in Jagodina for his cameo performance in the production of Suspicious Person, the Branislav Nušić Life Achievement Award at Nušić’s Days theatre festival in Smederevo in 2014, a special Ardalion award at the Without Translation festival of Yugoslav theatre in Užice for his portrayal of Ghost in Hamlet in 2016, YDT Annual Award, the Golden Turkey Life Achievement Award at the Days of Comedy theatre festival in Jagodina in 2017.

He won several awards at the Film Festival in Niš – in 2002 for is performance in Little Night Music, 2018 for his role in The Frog. In 2019 he received the Milorad Mandić Manda award for best performance in a comedy film and also for his contribution to film for his role in Taxi Blues.

Vlasta Velisavljević received the Sretenje Order for merits in cultural activities given on the occasion of the Statehood Day of the Republic of Serbia (2017).