An open call to apply for the Novi Sad Theatre Festival 2025

Youth Theater, Novi Sad invites all professional theaters to submit their applications for the Novi Sad Theatre Festival, fourth international theater festival for children and youth, which will be held in Novi Sad in in the second week of May 2025.

All types of theater creation for children and youth are represented at the Festival. The Youth Theater, Novi Sad, the organizer of the festival, provides accommodation and food for the participants as well as travel expenses in the total amount up to 2.000 EUR.

The Novi Sad Theatre Festival is a competitive festival, and the awards will be decided by an international expert jury.

The deadline for applications is Novembar 20, 2024, and the selection will be announced by the selector no later than January 15, 2025.

Please send the completed application form and video links of the performances to the following e-mail address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Grand prix for "Little Frida"

Decisions of the jury of Novi Sad Theatre Festival , the third international festival of professional theater for children and youth:
Expert jury: associate professor and costume designer Zdenka Lacina Pitlik (president of the jury), actress Marija Radovanov and director Sonja Petrović, after watching ten performances, from May 8 to 15 at the Novi Sad Theater Festival, the third International Festival of Professional Theaters for Children and Youth, makes the following decisions:
Award for the best overall performance
 City Theater "Žar ptica", Zagreb, Croatia
The play "Little Frida" stands out in every aspect of its production, and demonstrates excellence in the integration of all theatrical elements, creating an authentic and emotional theatrical experience. This prestigious recognition includes scenography, costumes, lighting design, music, dramaturgy, acting, direction and all other elements that together shape the text of the play and create a deep emotional and aesthetic connection with the audience. Complete, harmonious, exceptionally artistic, unobtrusively emotional and excellent in all its segments, the play "Mala Frida" responds to the topics of self-acceptance and the development of individuality. Warm, witty, playful... A performance that does not patronize the target group and carefully chooses its means is an example of quality and thorough artistic work for children.
The award for the best director
Pavel Staurac
for the play HIC SUNT DRACONES
Theatre Continuo Malovice, Czech Republic
The direction of the play stands out for its authenticity, precision and courage. The director uses a wide variety of means and materials through which he creates a coherent and unique poetics that talks about the female body as an unexplored area. By exploring materials such as mud, plaster, light and costumes, the director actually treats the female body in contemporary society. Although it is dominantly expressed through movement, it is also rich in the field of sound and visuals. This kind of direction invites dialogue, freeing itself from traditional constraints and encouraging viewers to open up to the breadth of possibilities in interpreting female strength, insecurity and all the nuances in between. Using symbols and associative dramaturgy, and encouraging introspection and individual interpretations, Mr Staurac succeeds in creating an emotional, suggestive, at times humorous, bizarre and terrifying performance in a variety of genres that encourages reflection on the world we live in.
Award acting bravura
Amanda Prekaj
for the role of Frida in MALA FRIDA
City Theatre "Zar ptica" Zagreb Unanimously
Amanda Prekaj stands out for her emotional strength and extraordinary interpretation. Through subtle play, she manages to show the spectrum of complex emotions and motivations of the character. Authentic, skillful, emotional and temperamental, the actress, with the support of her colleagues, stands out as the real gem of the show, discreetly being sympathetic and emotional with the audience. Having in mind the image of the well-known Frida Kahlo in her growing up period, Amanda does not fall into the traps of superficial likability and strict documentary nature of the character, but builds her own, authentic, free, playful little Frida.
Award for Mastery of Animation
to ensmable of performance HIC SUNT DRACONES
Theater "Continuo", Malovice, Czech Republic
(By majority vote)
The actresses of the play with great precision and always in accordance with the idea of the director, skilfully use all materials, puppetry elements, and scenography elements in the play, including the animation of their own body parts, through which at the same time they send a message of female strength and insecurity. This play, due to the synergy between the direction and the inspiring team spirit of the performers, stands out as a play that transcends the boundaries of conventional theater both because of the suggestive play and because of the originality of the play's language, which is wonderfully executed. This ensemble reinforces the experimental spirit of puppetry, supporting innovative concepts and new ideas. With the detail of movements and technical skill, they succeed in pushing the boundaries of puppetry, challenging the audience to think, feel and experience performance art in new ways.
Special award for versatile acting expression
Lyubomir Zhelev
for the performance HOTEL
State Puppet Theatre Stara Zagora, Bulgaria
(By majority of votes)
This unique award celebrates outstanding acting delivered through animation with a particular emphasis on conveying emotion, innovation in new theater and the magic of the artistic experience. Mr Zhelev gives a special stamp to the performance, skillfully handling all acting means, stage movement, skillful animation, humor and emotion. Creating a unique synergy between puppets, props, movement and sound; his specific, acting environment encourages the expansion of the idea of what acting expression can be.
Special award for puppet design and technology
Marietta Golomehova
In the play "I, Sisyphus", Puppet Laboratory Sofia, Bulgaria


The award for the best puppet design and manufacturing technology for experimental puppetry stands out as a recognition of innovation, creativity and experimental spirit in the creation of puppets. This award not only recognizes the aesthetic appeal of puppet designs, but also emphasizes originality, eccentricity and technical performance. The design is focused on unconventional materials, unusual shapes, as well as interactive and transforming elements. Puppets have the ability to express ideas and feelings in unexpected ways, and provide the actor with opportunities to develop the fantasy of the play.
Special award for idea and concept
Jelena Kovačić and Anica Tomić author of the play MALA FRIDA
City Theater "Žar ptica", Zagreb, Croatia
Using an unpretentious story and sensitive means to manage to tell an emotional, strong, important and warning story about the little, but in fact the great Frida Kahlo, choosing only one situation from her childhood, speaks of the sensibility and deeply moral intention of this duo to adapt the story to the age for which it is intended. Covering topics such as peer violence, attitudes towards others and others, breaking stereotypes about gender roles, the importance of family support in growing up an authentic and fragile being, this play restores the hope we lost long ago and assures us, at least for a moment, that with by the way, be all right.
Novi Sad, May 15 2024.

Frida, Dragons and Sisyphus in the Hotel by Olga Vujović

OlgaEvery festival represents competition and socializing, comparison and affinity, and that is what we had at the Third International Festival of Professional Theatres for Children and Youth "Novi Sad Theater Festival", held from May 8 - 15, 2024, at the Youth Theatre in Novi Sad. The selector and director of the Festival was an actor and acting director of the Novi Sad Youth Theatre, Aleksandar Ćurčić, and the main selection, consisting of ten plays, was created (as usual) by a combination of the offered plays, the possibility of their performance at a given time and the personal taste of the selector (as Ćurčić writes, "the festival is a bond between different cultures and countries, different ideas, emotions and perspectives").

In the first two evenings, we saw "diary" performances: the dance-drama "The Diary of Anne Frank" directed by Renata Vidič and produced by the Koper Theatre (Slovenia) and "The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole" by Sue Townsend directed by Tanja Mandić Rigonat and produced by the "Boško Buha" Theatre Belgrade (Serbia). Although set in different settings and environments, the plays talk about the troubles of teenagers: Anne lives with seven other people hidden in an uncomfortable small apartment and is in constant fear of being deported to a concentration camp due to the racial law on Jews, while Adrian lives with his parents, who argue while he is plagued by teenage problems such as unrequited love, pimples on his face and bullying. Although Anne's life is on the edge of existence, she falls in love, reads and studies like girls "out there", so Adrian's troubles, luckily much closer to today's children, have a stronger effect than Anne's. The play "Little Frida" by playwright Jelena Kovačić and director Anica Tomić, produced by the City Theatre "Žar ptica" Zagreb (Croatia), tells about the childhood of the famous Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and her struggle to be accepted as an equal by her peers, despite her lameness. "Complete, harmonious, exceptionally artistic, unobtrusively emotional and excellent in all its segments" the play "Little Frida" was unanimously awarded Grand prix as the best play as a whole, and the quote is part of the explanation of the jury consisting of Zdenka Lacina Pitlik (costume designer), Marija Radovanov (actress) and Sonja Petrović (director). Amanda Prenkaj was awarded the Best Actress award for her role of Little Frida because she managed to show "the spectrum of complex emotions and motivations of the character" and thus created "her own, authentic, free, playful little Frida", while the authors of "Little Frida" Jelena Kovačić and Anica Tomić received the Special Award for the idea and concept. The play "Velvet Revolution" by playwright Matej Sudarić and director Vanja Jovanović, produced by the Osijek Cultural Center (Croatia), dealt with growing up and coping in the "outside world", but even though it dealt with crucial problems in the lives of adolescents (17+), the comments of young critics showed ambiguities in the substantive approach. Based on Camus's essay "The Myth of Sisyphus", which deals with the absurdity of human life, the author and director Veselka Kuncheva created the monodrama "I, Sisyphus" produced by the Sofia Puppet Laboratory (Bulgaria) in which acting and puppets are combined (Special Award for Design and puppet technology for Marietta Golomehova) to tell the story of Sisyphus' futile efforts. Named after the medieval designation for an unknown, dangerous territory, the play "Hic sunt dracones" directed by Pavel Štaurač and produced by the theatre "Continuo" from Malovice (Czech Republic) explores the female body but also the position of man in the world, for which the ensemble received the Award for Animation Mastery, and Štaurač the Award for Best Director. It is an unusual play in which everyone is inclined to experiment at the level of material and movement; although not always everything is clear, it is certainly impressive and memorable. David Zuazola's multimedia project "City of Light" by the Kragujevac Children's and Youth Theatre (Serbia), made the audience nostalgic by the story of vedute and the history of Kragujevac, while the surreal story filled with magic tricks, acrobatics, strange characters and puppets in the play "Hotel“ by Lyubomir Zhelev (Special Award for versatile acting expression) in the production of the State Puppet Theatre of Stara Zagora (Bulgaria) did not relay any particular message, but it pretty much stunned everyone. The play that scared the children with its thunder, darkness and strange story was "Little Red Riding Hood" by Luana Gramegna, Teatro "Zaches" from Florence (Italy), and the play that should not have been in the competition or performed in the theatre building (since it would have been ideal as a street theatre) was "The Clown and His Children" by Zheni Pashova and Petar Pashov, produced by the "Atelier 313" Theatre from Sofia (Bulgaria).

There were excellent talks with the young audience, the presentation of two puppetry books by the author Livija Kroflin, the promotion of the Master's degree in puppetry at the Academy of Arts Novi Sad and the supporting programme offered a great performance of "Crime and Punishment" by F.M. Dostoevsky directed by Emilija Mrdaković and produced by the Youth Theatre Novi Sad (Serbia), but that is "a different story".

I am looking forward to the fourth Novi Sad Theater Festival.


This time sugar didn’t come at the end

Olga VujovićThe favorite phrase "Zucker kommt zuletzt" (German: Sugar comes at the end) means that the best comes at the end, but that's not how I would describe the play "Little Red Riding Hood" by author and director Luana Gramegna, produced by Zaches Teatro from Florence (Italy), the last performance of the competition program of the Third International Festival of Professional Theatres for Children and Youth "Novi Sad Theatre Festival" (May 8-15, 2024).

The audience goes to see fairy tales expecting familiar content, so in the story of Little Red Riding Hood (who got her nickname because she persistently wore a red hat), we have certain default scenes: while bringing food to her sick grandmother, the girl meets a wolf who persuades her to pick flowers for her grandmother, because he wants to get to grandmother before the girl in order to eat her. The wolf, disguised as a grandmother, tricks Little Red Riding Hood and eats her too. The favorite version (Brothers Grimm) has the rescue hunter who pulls the grandmother and granddaughter alive from the wolf's belly, and fills the wolf with stones, while in the other version (Perrault), the story ends with Little Red Riding Hood being swallowed by the wolf. The play "Little Red Riding Hood" by the "Zaches" theater introduces quite a bit of confusion into the understanding of this story, because after the mother and Little Red Riding Hood (Enrica Zampetti, Amalia Ruocco) prepare food for the grandmother with choreographed movements (they knead the dough for an infinite time), Little Red Riding Hood heads through the forest to the grandmother's house (apparently at night?!). In the forest, she is caught by a thunderstorm, which lasts for a very, very long time and causes consternation (and tears) among most of the children in the audience (the music by Stefano Ciardi didn't sound very friendly either). A terrifying storm is accompanied by an ominous rustling of trees (shown by shadows), among which appears the outline of a wolf (Gianluca Gabriele) following Little Red Riding Hood. Their unexpected meeting (also difficult to understand) leads to certain closeness between the two (which is all the more problematic, since the wolf soon rushes to the grandmother's house where, using shadows, it swallows the grandmother). And that's where the story ends... Because, apparently, we didn't watch a fairy tale, but a dream of a little girl whose mother told her a fairy tale about Little Red Riding Hood as a bedtime story, I guess?!

Of course, it is the copyright to intervene in the given content, but I am not entirely sure that it makes sense to choose known content and then twist it beyond recognition, disrupt the atmosphere and fundamentally disrupt the relationships between the characters. I am also unclear about certain directing procedures, because while it is logical to use a mask for the character of the wolf (although the overall impression is not at all "wolfish"), I do not see why the faces of the mother and Little Red Riding Hood are hidden under the mask (the girl seems almost frantic), because that way expression of feelings is blocked (overall design by Francesco Givone).

Occasional poetic scene or a visually appealing picture were not enough to keep the attention of the little ones (7+), nor us adults (x+).

 Olga Vujović

The author is a theater critic from Croatia. She writes for and on the portals,, She is a member of the Croatian Society of Theatre Critics and Theatrologists.

Forum Impressions: Young people seek solace for reality in the theater

The forum "What are young people looking for in the theater", which was held at the Youth Theatre, as part of the Novi Sad Theatre Festival, revealed a number of interesting details, even completely surprising for the theatre profession, about what young people would watch in the theatre, what they do watch, what their habits are regarding theatre, what it means to them and how they understand theater...

The Forum was led precisely and expertly by the playwright Divna Stojanov, and the participants – highschoolers, their teachers, actors, directors, theatre directors, journalists, professors from the Faculty of Philosophy, enjoyed and shared fantastic, extremely useful observations about our theatre.

The strongest impression from the audience is that for young people, theatre is a consolation, solace for the reality in which we live today. They go to the theatre for catharsis, which, they find in a good play. For them, it is the one that has a good story that is important to them at the moment of their life. They are delighted when all segments of the play are good, from the set design and costumes to the direction and acting.

They claimed that they are always hungry for the theater, but that they would not watch just anything. They are very versed in reading the repertoire and finding what concerns them. It is not hardship for them to watch some plays, which they like and consider exceptional, several times, and those they did not like at the first viewing, and others did - they almost always give a second chance to make up their own mind.

They go to all three theatres in Novi Sad, that is, they watch plays that are created at four theatre addresses in Novi Sad (the fourth is the "Promena (Change)" Theatre), and sometimes they take their parents to group outings to the theater as well. They prefer to watch plays in company, because then after them they can discuss what they saw, and the discussions about the plays extend into the Serbian lessons back at school.

Some of the students from the language high school said that they experience the quality of a performance - good or bad - psychosomatically. After some, they cannot come to their senses for days, because of what they had seen deeply shook them. Additionally, the plays that were not to their liking or offended them with their poor quality, they are able to argue about for hours.

For those young people, the best plays in Novi Sad include "Three Winters" at the "Promena" Theatre, "Heavenly Squad", "Lounge", "Who Killed Janis Joplin" and "Not Giving Up" at the Serbian National Theatre, then "Neoplanta" at the Novi Sad Theatre/ Ujvideki Szinhaz, and "39 Steps", "The Twelfth Night", "Hair" and "Crime and Punishment" at the Youth Theatre.

A high school graduate from the language high school, said that she watched as many as ten plays last March alone. They mainly go to the theatre with their teacher, who always chooses carefully. It seems that they like tragedies more than comedies, or so far they haven't come across any very good comedy, except for "39 Steps".

They were categorical in their dislike of commercial performances, that is, as they said, "packaged performances". They don't have a favorite director, but they tend to write to directors on Facebook if their performances have ruined their evening.

They believe that theatre teaches critical thinking and that it can help solve some - seemingly - hopeless life situations, or experiences full of dilemmas, that it can console and remind that some other people have gone through similar dilemmas and problems and that they survived them. They believe that it is important for the theater to talk about something important, which concerns them, which concerns all of us as a society, and not deal with some trivial topics. It is especially important, they pointed out, to deal with topics that are not talked about in this society.

From all that has been said, it seems that children are unfailingly able to feel and recognize quality, not only on the basis of some emotional experience, but on the basis of the factual situation on the stage, which includes all the elements of a work of art. Also, they know how to appreciate the efforts of artists.

To the questioning of the present theater creators, what they would like to see in the theatre, which topics are important to them, Professor Urban, who is largely responsible for the love that her students have for the theater, answered first. She is of the opinion that the theater does not have to and should not be adapted to young people, but that it is enough just to make good performances - to offer them the right things, which include all regular topics. These are themes of growing up, love, the disintegration of the former country and the burden left on the young generations after that historical trauma – trans-generational trauma, themes of individual and collective identity, heritage, but also themes that unite different generations, between which - through theatre, according to the students, healthy communication bridges of understanding can be built. They asserted that there are no taboo topics in the theatre.

Speaking about what is forgivable or unforgivable in a play, they said that they can forgive if some detail in the play is not right, for example costumes or scenography, as well as that they are very sorry when most of the actors are good, and some are clearly not. They wonder if those who don't try, or aren't good, are aware of it, and why someone doesn't tell them if they aren't.

The Youth Theatre, the organizer of this meeting of students and theatre creators, listened carefully to what the exceptional students from the language high school not only ask for, but also what they had to say about the theatre. The Youth Theatre will provide them with free tickets for several performances from the repertoire.

Snežana Miletić

A girl playing soccer

Olga VujovićBecause of her unusual, almost aggressive self-portraits, Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) is permanently inscribed in the painting of the 20th century, while she is preserved in the collective memory thanks to her energy and combativeness, her bus accident (1925) and her passionate relationship with the famous painter Diego Rivera (1886-1957), whom she married for the first time in 1929. Her strong will and uncompromising approach to problems were shown already in her early childhood when, as a six-year-old girl, she suffered from polio and, despite her disability, persistently tried to be like other children. The author's project of playwright Jelena Kovačić and director Anica Tomić "Little Frida" produced by the City Theatre "Žar ptica" Zagreb (Croatia) was inspired by Frida Kahlo's childhood in the family's Blue House (La Casa Azul) in the district of Coyoacan, Mexico City. The play was on stage on May 14, at the Third International Festival of Professional Theatres for Children and Youth "Novi Sad Theatre Festival" (May 8-15, 2024).

Faking Frida's blue-painted birth house, set designer Igor Vasiljev wrapped the stage with blue fabric and thus enabled, by pressing the head from the outside into the fabric, the "appearance" of Frida's fictional friend Brise. Frida (Amanda Prenkaj) has a shorter and thinner right leg and does not like to go out because the children make fun of her ("Frida wooden leg") and prefers to hang out with her parents (Gorana Marin, Domagoj Ivanković), the cat (Petar Atanasoski) and the monkey (Marko Hergešić). To strengthen her leg, she plays sports and even plays soccer to her mother's horror (the children in the audience heartily defended Frida's right to play soccer, claiming that it was nothing unusual; I hope that when they grow up, they will be just as understanding). But one day a boy Pablo (Bogdan Ilić) appears, finally a human friend. With a lot of music (Nenad Kovačić), song and dance, Frida's days pass, her friendship with Pablo grows as well as the monkey's jealousy, so the latter destroys their relationship with lies (Pablo feels sorry for Frida and that's why he hangs out with her). And while we wait for the conflict between Frida and Pablo, the monkey's confession of lies and the final happy ending, there are no events and this "idle pace" lowers the tension of the play (the twist, although completely logical, occurs almost unexpectedly). It's a pity that the key event doesn't come a little faster (or there should be less scenes that delay the climax), because the actors are really excellent, the story is more than touching (many people cried at the end) and the idea of friendship, honesty and acceptance of diversity is increasingly important in today's superficial world. Doris Kristić's costumes follow Frida based on her later self-portraits, the parents and Pablo are dressed as expected, and I would have preferred the animal costumes to be a little more "hairy". The father, played with inspiration by Domagoj Ivanković, is both funny (he is a photographer and magician) and endlessly understanding for his gentle Frida, played by fantastic Amanda Prenkaj. The duality of the monkey character (jealousy and attachment) is very humorously portrayed by Marko Hergešić, with his excellent partner being the "feline" Petar Atanasoski (it seems that both of them attended some zoo school).

The play "Little Frida" is filled with touching family relationships and deeply thought-out messages that are heartily interpreted by excellent actors, and if the central problem could be reached a little faster, I would not have any objections. Otherwise, I have to grumble, mumble a bit.

Olga Vujović

The author is a theater critic from Croatia. She writes for and on the portals,, She is a member of the Croatian Society of Theatre Critics and Theatrologists.

Amanda Prenkaj: Not too much philosophy, but open to imagination and new worlds

"Mala Frida", from the Zagreb City Theatre "Zar ptica" taught us today that it is not true that a black cat brings bad luck and that girls do not like to play football. And she dispelled a series of misconceptions. She also taught us that friends are the ones who love us just because they love us, not because they feel sorry for us, and that it is not nice to twist the truth.

In the splendor of colors and musical tones, we walked through the life story of the wonderful Frida Kahlo. The children were delighted with the play and talked with the actors for a long time after the performance. The children liked all the actors, especially those who played the monkey and the cat, but the tiny and petite actress Amanda Prenkaj, who played Frida with inspiration, enchanted everyone the most.

After the performance, Ms Prenkaj spoke about prejudices and how children can be taught kindness and virtue in the theater, how an actor in a children's theater - in today’s world - keeps that special grain of responsibility, which is necessary for performing in front of children, but also what kind of stories we have to tell the kids in the theater so that they grow up to be good people.

How do children learn to destroy prejudices in children's theater from an early age?

It was a pleasure to show that with this performance "Little Frida", on the example of a person who really lived and felt strong prejudices on her own skin. Jelena and Anica wrote a piece about what we all experienced in our lives. We have all experienced some prejudice against us or had prejudice against others, so this is a timeless topic and I am very happy that we had the opportunity to stage it in our theater. I have a feeling that this play reaches children’s little, beautiful hearts and that it is something they will remember for a lifetime.

And how do children learn kindness in the theater?

They learn when they watch good plays, when they watch something that is sincere, well thought out. Children's problems should be approached very seriously, and all the problems they have are very serious. In this performance we did not approach them with insincerity. It was very important for Jelena and Anica to show what lies do to people, what happens when we are jealous, superficial. It is very important to show such stories to children in a very clear, simple, understandable way. Such clear stories can awaken empathy in them, and when the theater is empathetic, it naturally attracts that goodness.

Where does the theater draw empathy when our societies, both Serbian and Croatian, are almost absolutely lacking empathy?

I think that it is not only a trend in Serbia and Croatia, but that it is a trend produced by technology and capitalism everywhere.

Aren't they just an excuse?

Well, they certainly become an excuse. But the fact is that children today, while watching the news on their mobile phones, they value them all the same. The current runner-up at the Eurovision Song Contest, Baby Lasagna, has the same value as one Frida Kahlo. Everything, therefore, has the same value. Someone who dumped a bucket of ice on his head has the same value as a scientist who talks about an important health topic. As a child, I wasn’t aware of so many different pieces of information, or our parents protected us, and today you don't know what your child is watching on a mobile phone. We are constantly bombarded and the children then protects themselves from those emotions, because they are helpless and grow apathetic. When these emotions become overwhelming, there is not much to do.

Can we do anything about it?

We can teach children to act locally. In a small environment, in their own alley, in a micro environment, because they cannot influence globally. But here where they are, helping a neighbor to buy milk if he can't, some small things like that that encourage empathy.

In that micro world of children's theater, how is the ardor of the artist's responsibility towards what they do for children preserved? How is work ethics preserved?

By keeping the child in you. You must be aware of the child in you and not neglect it, that the voice of something innocent and primal creative remains in you. When you keep the child in you, then you cannot be irresponsible. You see things with a child's eyes, you have to be careful and responsible, you have to be careful how you approach things.

What kind of stories should be told to children in the theater?

Definitely stories that remind us of empathy and those that stimulate our imagination. I haven’t said anything new, because someone already said it, but every play, whether for children or adults, shouldn't tell us what to think. I think that is the most important thing, that we leave it to the children. Specifically, with "Little Frida", every child will find something for themselves, which corresponds to them and will be able to learn some value. In my opinion, that is the most important thing. We must not teach. We have to watch out for that. We know what topics we have to deal with - friendship, empathy, etc., as long as we don't tell them what to think. It is the death of theater. It's not the place for that. Theater must open imagination and worlds.

Snežana Miletić

Young critics: "Little Frida"

The play "Little Frida" is about the childhood of the painter Frida Kahlo from Mexico. She had one leg thinner than the other and because of that others made fun of her. That didn't stop her from making friends with Pablo until the end. The message of this story is that there is no shame in being different from others and that we must not make fun of anyone. Also, we should always be a child and keep our imagination alive. I liked the moment when the actors jumped after taking a photo. It was funny and unexpected. I would recommend the show to viewers aged 7 to 77. Even someone aged 78 would enjoy it, since this age range should not be taken so seriously.

Stefan Zoric

There is a city, and a hotel in the city

Olga VujovićMultimedia artist David Zuazola (director, scenographer, playwright, musician, actor, puppeteer...) created the international project "City of Light", which successively results in plays about cities in which events are inspired by well-known vedute and interesting, characteristic stories of the inhabitants of the chosen city.

After plays about Warsaw (Poland), Tolosa (Spain) and Seoul (South Korea), it was Kragujevac's (Serbia) turn (the selection criteria or order are not specified) and the play "City of Light" was created in the Kragujevac Children's and Youth Theatre by David Zuazola (director, concept, scenography). It was performed (May 12) at the Third International Festival of Professional Theaters for Children and Young People "Novi Sad Theater Festival" (May 8-15, 2024). The show, which was announced as "a special puppet show that goes beyond the traditional ways on which a puppet theater is based", offered viewers familiar Kragujevac vistas, situations, buildings and locations with a wide-ranging scenography, set on three levels. A team of seven participated in the "creation of conceptual solutions and production of scenography", including the performers themselves Milica Redžić Vulević, Ljubica Radomirović and Aleksandar Petković. I don't see what is "special" about the puppet expression of this play, because there is almost no animation: synchronous lighting of street lamps, remote control of vehicles, a fight in a dance club between bottles (drunkards) or a description of a music festival using the stacking of drink cans (representing the audience, consumption of drinks and uncollected garbage?) are part of the nostalgic events that, in this case, we hear about (but somehow we don't feel them to the end). In the examples shown, there were several successful, picturesque scenes, such as the pollution of the Lepenica river, caused by the spilling of paint at the "Zastava" car factory (the fall of the car series heralded the collapse of production), which caused a fish kill (first, fish jumped out of the river, and then fish skeletons; the children in the audience didn't understand what that was about!). Then, there was a striking presentation of shooting (through confessions and gunshots) and the erection of a monument ("Aborted flight") in Šumarice (for those who do not know about that tragic event, the reference remained somewhat vague). I would say that the idea and intention were extremely good and that the performers made an unusual effort, but I'm afraid that the performance might have been too similar

The third Bulgarian play at this festival came from the State Puppet Theatre of Stara Zagora, and it is about the unusual, quite surrealistic play "Hotel", author and director Lyubomir Zhelev (May 13). Zhelev, together with the performers Ana-Valeria Gostanjan and Bilyana Rainova, tells the story of "love at first sight", using various technical procedures (illusionism, juggling, acrobatics, magic tricks, slapstick), with interesting music (Todor Vasilev) and, although as a whole, the play is visually appealing (even decorative, design by Natalia Gocheva), a lot of it is questionable, even vague (why frogs?), or out of context (a head from a washbowl, a hint of a peacock in the opening scene, the introduction of puppets). There are, of course, very entertaining solutions, such as riding a deer (a combination of a chair and a deer's head), or a skillful animation of a cat (fur on the arm), but the constant passing of oversized fish and other images (supposedly inspired by Dali's paintings) causes torment, not only in a male character, but in the viewer as well. I was very surprised by the use of total darkness between scenes (popularly called “on-off direction”) which became quite irritating over time…. Additionally, I have to say that I doubt the sustainability of the 10+ indication, because the children did not understand the play at all and in the later conversation they were only interested in the details of certain tricks.

So, there is a town and there is definitely a hotel in it, but I don't know if I would recommend going there!

Olga Vujović

The author is a theater critic from Croatia. She writes for and on the portals,, She is a member of the Croatian Society of Theatre Critics and Theatrologists.

Young critics: "Hotel"

"I like the play "Hotel" of the State Puppet Theater of Stara Zagora from Bulgaria, because you can see that the actors (Ana-Valeria Gostanjan, Bilyana Rainova, Lyubomir Zhelev) and the director Lyubomir Zhelev put a lot of effort into creating magic on the stage. They thought of every detail and rehearsed it well. I did not fully understand the plot of the play. However, I liked the magician's trick when the smoke comes out of the hand and frog’s mouth. When it comes to puppets, I liked the deer the most because it was created out of lamps and chairs, which I didn't expect. I think the actress was extremely skilled, especially when she climbed the chandelier. I would recommend this show to children over the age of seven, although it is often dark and creates a scary atmosphere."

Stefan Zoric

Lyubomir Zhelev: First love never dies

Love at first sight and everything that happens in the first moments of that sight were the reason for the creation of the play "Hotel", which came to the Novi Sad Theatre Festival from Bulgaria, more precisely from the State Puppet Theatre in Stara Zagora.

Bulgarian puppeteers demonstrated various abilities, from acrobatics, puppetry, dance, ballet, singing to magic, and it was the magic tricks that were the most interesting during the discussion after the show. The children wanted to know how they were created. Of course, they had many questions and with one they asked for advice for their first or some future acting steps. The Bulgarian artists said that they should constantly learn and try without fear of making mistakes.

We learned from the director of the Staro Zagorje Theatre, Darin Petkov, that this is the first time that children have seen this play, because it is performed for an adult audience in Bulgaria. Mr Petkov pointed out that he was touched by the sincere reaction of the youngest audience and sincerely appreciated the sparkle in their eyes.

Lyubomir Zhelev, author of the text and director of the play, said that he was inspired for the play by surrealist painters - primarily Dali and Remedios Varo. He admitted that out of the entire cast of the play, which also includes Ana Valerija Gostanjan and Bilyana Raynova, he is the one who fell in love at first sight the most times and that he contributed the most to the creation of the material for this play.

What kind of stories do you like to tell children in Bulgaria and adults who managed to keep the child in them?

I like to tell stories about magic, love and faith in a better, more magical world, stories in which the world can stop for a second, but even then everything is ok. You just need to have the will.

What does it look like to tell such stories in the time we live in, which is not so kind to us?

It is difficult, but for me this is a personal story. It is the story of my first love, which was not successful, but I got through it and found another.

How do you find people to work with in the theatre? Are they always the same people, or do you find new ones every time?

I have a few people I like to work with, we studied together at the National Academy, but I'm always looking for new people as well. First I like to look them straight in the eye and it is important for me to have a normal, real conversation with them. Then I watch them on stage and judge whether they are for the show.

The play Hotel can be a metaphor for our hidden secrets, which we have locked up and buried inside...

Exactly. The hotel has many rooms, and in each one there are different secrets - our emotions and energy are stored, which is then occasionally poured out and only when you decide to unlock it. Only with honestly you can win over the audience.

Is it possible for an actor to hide something from the outside world?

No. If you hide it, people will feel it. So - don't hide it.

What did you feel tonight in contact with the audience, for the first time your audience were such young people?

There was a different energy, their eyes were clean and clear, and they asked wonderful questions, direct. Adults ask too many questions, maybe they should feel first, process and only then ask.

Have people completely lost that ability to feel?

They have...

Is there any hope for us in that sense?

There is. At least, I have it. Charlie Chaplin said that you have to feel more and not think too much. Think less, feel more.

Snežana Miletić

One, truly, "Perfect Day"

What does it mean to be a good friend and a good man, is it made from pancakes, the homemade ones with jam, the so-called "village pancakes" or the city pancakes with Nutella cream, the so-called "city pancakes"? What does it mean to "say something to someone's face", is it allowed to run away from school, from classes - even to the library and the theatre, why are invented words like "the greatestest people" important and who is allowed to invent them, how to easily find Svrljig which is on the way to China, to the left of the traffic lights, but also how to treat "multi-ailments" and whether grades A can be bought - is this possible if you go to yoga with a snail and a centipede?

Well, all this was discussed today at the Novi Sad Theater Festival, as part of the promotion of the exceptional children's book "Perfect Day", written by the even more exceptional poet Duško Domanović. The discussion was loud and courageous and the children were attentive listeners and true collaborators in questioning true values.

The day was truly perfect!

Well done for the poet, and even “well doner” for the children!

Theatrical view: Let there be light

The performance "City of Light" by David Zuazola at the Theater for Children and Youth in Kragujevac is a continuation of an international project in which the city, its spirit, history and urban legends are presented through light and lamps. Thus, the story of Kragujevac began with the introduction of electricity and lighting into homes and continued with the lights of discotheques, markets, parks, taxis and ambulances, traffic lights, Arsenal Fest spotlights, lighting at the "Zastava" factory, lights in the sky during the bombing, lights of the souls of those who were shot during the Second World War and the souls of those who lived in the city, were born there, left it and returned to it.

Actor Aleksandar Petković portrays the city of Kragujevac on stage, while we hear his poetic memories from behind the stage. Although he is confined to the small space of the room for the entire performance, one gets the impression that he is walking through the city and bringing to the stage all the scenes he tells about. Actresses Milica Redžić Vulević and Ljubica Radomirović bring the Kragujevac neighborhoods and city events to life extremely skillfully. The scene about Šumarice is particularly emotional, and I commend the clearly articulated anti-fascist message that the play expresses with that. While the actress is "building" a monument to shot students and professors, the audience hears the last messages of innocent civilians who were shot by German occupation forces in October 1941.

Emotionally and atmospherically, the play is irresistibly reminiscent of the film "That’s it for today" directed by Marko Đorđević, also set in Kragujevac. Apart from the location, the film and the play do not seem to have much in common, neither in the aesthetic sense, nor in the language and narrative, but in both works the need for community and the authenticity of one city is unobtrusively highlighted, which is universal and easily understandable.

During the conversation after the performance, the actors revealed part of the process of working on the play. They made all the models of the buildings and areas of Kragujevac together with the designer Alina Linkova. That's how some of the actors, as they jokingly say, discovered a talent for drilling, sawing, and carpentry. The collective spirit, from making the show, taking care of every light source and every part of the scenography, was completely transferred to the performance.

Ljubica Radomirović: People are the light of the city

Not only Paris is the city of light. It can be other cities as well, because the light of the city is not lighting. The lights are the people who make it and who, with their spirit, attitude towards the city - build the spirit of the place where they live. The actors from Kragujevac who performed the play "City of Light" at the Novi Sad Theatre Festival told us about one such place in Serbia - their city Kragujevac.

Chilean director and actor David Zuazola directed this unusual play, which revealed to us how Kragujevac breathes, how it used to breathe, but also what kind of theatre its actors are capable of creating. The play told us about the many symbols of the city, from potholes and heavy traffic - which is not exclusively specific of Kragujevac, to the phenomenon of the disappearance of the spirit of the city - which we witness in many Serbian cities and the ecological message in the form of the destroyed Lepenica river, to a strong anti-fascist message, embodied in the story of Šumarice.

One of the actresses in the play, Ljubica Radomirović, spoke about Kragujevac as a city of light...

In the play, you spoke very well about the anti-fascist past of Kragujevac and our country in general, the anti-fascist tradition that today we are ashamed of and push under the carpet. Some true values on which generations grew up are being erased and some other "values" are being written. How much does Kragujevac respect its anti-fascist tradition?

I was born in Užice, and the struggle against fascism is in the blood of the Užice people. I was on an excursion in Kragujevac, I was then in Šumarice, but it's different when you live in that city and understand what happened there. The anti-fascist tradition is very much alive and it is a moment of history that must not be forgotten. Because the newer generations are trying to downplay it, we have to tell the children of each new generation about Šumarica and that suffering, especially since today, unfortunately, we are witnessing a genocide that is happening against a nation, and no one is reacting. I think it is very important that we covered this topic in the theatre for children. People forget and need to be reminded. We experience all kinds of things on a daily basis, the news changes so quickly that we don't even remember some of the recent horrors.

The theater is there to warn and remind us of everything around us...

And it has been doing that for 2000 years.

It is a great responsibility to teach and remind children and young people about environmental and various other social topics... Do you ever get tired?

But that is our task, the theatre should not – whether it is for adults, or children - deal with trivial topics and for people to get mere entertainment. Unfortunately, many people go to the theatre to get mere entertainment and think that’s theatre’s only purpose. But the theatre is a well-mannered educational institution and it's absolutely fine to deal with all these topics. Maybe it discourages someone, but until something changes, until people learn that they should throw garbage in the bin, we need to work on it, be persistent.

Here at the festival, we keep talking about how in Serbia a certain age group of young people in one part of their lives has nothing to watch in the theater. Why aren't we interested in creating the taste of those young people?

  We always ask what they are actually interested in, what interests them more, because we wouldn't make plays about Tiktok and Instagram. And then we are always on a seesaw. We opened the Youth Stage about a year ago and, if nothing else, we put on plays based on the mandatory reading material. So, over time we will find out what they would like to watch. Also, they are a little confused, not exactly sure what they would like to see in the theatre.

 What kind of audience are children and young people in Kragujevac? Do you manage to get their attention?

  We have a really well-groomed audience, parents bring their children, and we also have real fans who watch plays up to 15 times. The culture of going to the theatre in Kragujevac is very much present, even though there is a segment of the population that doesn't even know that there is a theatre, whereas those who know - they adore it.

Snežana Miletić