Longing for Utopia

The International Nišville Jazz Theater Festival integrates the long-standing need for a theater festival. It began in 2017 in the city of Niš, Southeast of Serbia - the city of Constantine the Great. Apart from being international, outdoor and a festival of contemporary theater expression, the festival was born from initiative and the need to expand the Nišville Jazz Festival (started in 1995) that is among the top ten festivals in Europe (according to the Guardian). The festival includes sections for film, books and comics and in the end has become a Festival of Festivals.

The need for a theater festival followed naturally. In this part of Serbia there are no other theater festivals, especially none based on the contemporary trends of the twentieth and twentyfirst centuries. Establishing an international festival of contemporary theatrical expression in Niš continues the decentralising direction of Serbia. And as the Nišville Jazz Festival promotes freedom, equality and tolerance, the Theater Festival is a natural partner with the same values.

Maja Mitic 2022What makes this festival great and internationally recognised is the exceptionally high quality of the performances. By inviting the most important artists from all over the World, the festival has broken Serbia's borders and made Niš the center of a high quality cultural gathering, not only in Europe but the world. The previous two years (2020 and 2021) for theatre, concert and dance have been marked by people entrapped by the pandemic, in unusual life and work regimes: performance artists around the world were missing their regular work schedules, try-outs, dances, performances, festivals, art exchanges and, most importantly, their audience. World theatres were closed; some still are and some opened again in 2022. Occasionally some plays were performed for a small audience, usually in institutions, usually premieres, but generally small performances with even smaller audiences. Artists tried creating online and video shows, which came out as unproductive for both the artists and the audience. Nobody felt good, because the usual charm of live performance was missing. An adequate substitution wasn’t found (and never will be)! Serbia's independent artists and troupes both locally and internationally had an even greater obstacle, and fought for their existence. They were not supported by the government with subsidies and had to try to survive by participating in international projects, but there was no travel - and if there was any, it was a nightmare. A great amount of time was invested in research for country specific test requirements, checking the ever-changing Covid regimes - not to mention the cost of PCR tests, which became a regular item in independent artists’, promoter and festival budget planning. And this year the prices of air tickets have gone up..up..up! Independent artists and troupes, not having their own venues, had to rent them and so performing in half-empty halls became financially unbearable. Theatre is a complex mechanism, with a huge number of people working on and behind the scenes; a play grows each time it is replayed, increasing the cost, which becomes, along with the huge organisation, very expensive - leading to many plays being lost forever to the pandemic, not having the means to survive. But what else can we do other than to make the performance and to perform and to believe in other people's need for our art? Theater will survive! So we continue with all this obstacles, because we long for UTOPIA.

With all my heart and love, I would like to start with an invitation for this festival to all of you, my dear colleges and friends - to send me, inform me, contact me about your work that I can first, know what are you doing, thinking, needing, loving …

Maja Mitić
Actress and Director
Artistic Director and Selector of International Nisville Jazz THEATER Festival

3.8.2022,Niš, Serbia