Theater, as a kind of performing arts, has a long history. Everybody knows that it became popular in Ancient Greece and then spread around the world. However, does everybody know when the Slovenian theater appeared?
In fact, Slovenians have a long tradition of performing arts. It dates back to the 18th century. Now, it is highly supported by the government. The most significant theaters, troops, and festivals are The Ljubljana Slovene National Theatre Drama, Ana Monró Theatre, Ana Desetnica International Street Theatre Festival, and many others.
In the country, there exist both professional theater troops as well as the amateur ones. All of them run in the repertory system. This means that each theater creates a repertory for a season, usually, it is from 4 to 12 plays (depends on the size) and performs them until the end of the season. The most successful plays can be kept on the schedule for years.
Now, there are four national theaters in the country. They are Slovene National Theatre and Slovene National Opera in Ljubljana, Maribor National Drama Theatre, and Slovene National Theatre in Nova Gorica. Moreover, it is not the final number, aside from those ones, there are many more nationally-funded repertory theatres. Among those, there are Mestno Gledalisce Ljubljansko (City Theatre Ljubljana), Mini Teater, Mladinsko Gledalisce Ljubljana, Anton Podbevsek Teater Novo Mesto, Presernovo gledalisce Kranj, Gledalisce Glej, Slovensko Ljudsko Gledalisce Celje, Mestno gledalisce Ptuj, and Gledalisce Koper.
In addition, there are two puppetry national repertory theatres, such as Lutkovno gledalisce Ljubljana and Lutkovno gledalisce Maribor.
History of the Slovenian Theater
As we mentioned before in this article, all the performances of the Slovenian theaters date back to the 18th century. The beginning point can be considered as the town of Skofja Loka when it was played the first time in the Slovenian language. This was a penitential Passion procession based on biblical motives. By archives, it was performed from 1715 until 1727.
On the other hand, the first written play in Slovene was Zupanova Micka by Anton Tomaz Linhart, a playwright and historian from Carniola, today’s part of the Slovene Republic. The play was premiered on 28 December 1789. This play is historically important because it influenced the mass identity of Slovenians. At that time, Slovenia wasn’t a sovereign state and the Slovene language was not recognized as a language. Most of business and politics were conducted only in German.
Thus, people saw that their native language could be used in spheres other than interhuman communication. That’s why the creation of the Slovenian theater is highly linked to gaining the national identity.
The next big step in the history of the Slovenian theater began in 1879 when it was created a first official Dramatic Society in Ljubljana. Its duty was to professionalize and institutionalize both playwriting and the theater itself in Slovenia. It leads to the opening of the first theatre venue even before the 19th century. Between 1879 and 1941, also several drama schools were opened as well.
On the other hand, those years were really hard for Slovenians as well as for world history. Moreover, between 1920 and 1941, the government suppressed the Slovenian theater that led to the closing of almost all the institutions regarding drama play.
The year of revival of the theater can be suggested as 1941 when Slovenia joined Yugoslavia. It is impressive, but only after one year, already seven professional repertory theatres were founded by the national government as well as the local municipalities!
After that, the late 50’s, 60’s and 70’s were times of the new, independent, and even experimental theater in Slovenia.
Most Significant Theaters, Troops, and Festivals
The Ljubljana Slovene National Theatre Drama
Despite the fact that it is the most conservative theater in Slovenia, let me start with it because everything started from classics. Its repertoire includes classical European dramatic texts.
The building is located in an interesting place, neighboring the Slovene Museum of Natural History and the University of Ljubljana. It also has an interesting story, because, in the State of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs, it was the National Theatre and the Provincial Theatre. In the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the name was changed to the Royal Theatre. During World War II, the Slovene National Theatre on Liberated Territory and after it, the Drama of the Slovene National Theatre.
Therefore, its names represented a big part of the history of Slovenia.
Opera and Ballet Theaters
Two of the biggest and most significant ones are The Ljubljana Slovene National Theatre Opera and Ballet and The Maribor Slovene National Theatre. They cooperate closely. Each of them includes approximately 50 dancers.
Their current repertoire includes Massenet, Rossini, Mozart, whereas the most important composer for Slovenians is Marij Kogoj with his famous opera Black Masks.
Street Theater – Ana Monró Theatre
The unique feature of this kind of performance is, logically, that all the shows are held out of the buildings. The best Slovenian example of it is Ana Monró Theatre (Gledališče Ane Monró). It was founded in 1982, and this is the oldest independent theater group in Slovenia. Moreover, they became internationally famous, and their decent style became well-known as caustic humor or the Monró humour.
In 2007, they started educational activities. The members of the theater founded ŠUGLA, a school of contemporary performance and street theatre, where they provide training and courses on improvisation, theater, and other kinds of performances.
In 2011, they co-founded the first international conference in the field of street art called SAWA – Street Arts Winter Academy. In 2015, they initiated the creation of the European Federation of Education and Training in Street Arts.
Furthermore, the biggest achievement of the theater is creating the Ana Desetnica International Street Theatre Festival in 1998, the biggest festival of the street theater in Slovenia. Also, they created two smaller ones, the winter festival Ana Frost since 2000, and the autumn one Ana Blaze since 2009.
Aside from their own achievements, they played an important role in the establishment of the KUD France Prešeren Arts and Culture Association and Roza’s Theatre in Ljubljana.
Ana Desetnica International Street Theatre Festival
It is held annually in late June or early July in over 10 cities of Slovenia! Mainly, the festival offers all the kinds of street art by professionals as well as gives the stage for talented newbies in the field.
The festival gathers 40,000 visitors every year. On the stage, the number of performers varies from 250 to 400 artists, 60 percent of which are international guests. The festival highly encourages experimentation among disciplines as well as the improvisation performances.
The Ana Desetnica International Street Theatre Festival cooperates with a number of theater projects, including Circostrada, Eunetstar, and Meridians, which means approximately 30 countries!
This is the kind of theater where people compete in their performance skills. The oldest theater championship of Slovenia is Impro League. It started in 1993. Since then, thousands of performers competed in different disciplines reaching the finals at the Ljubljana Slovene National Theatre Drama venue and getting prizes as well as enjoyment from the process itself.
The most notable theater group visiting the event was IGLU Theatre. They reached the final four times in different teams. They work only as an improvisational theater, therefore, they never have any scenario. Moreover, they performed in Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Austria, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic.
This is also a kind of really interesting performance. A physical theater emphasizes only on storytelling through the movement. The best example of a Slovenian theater of such kind is Betontank, established in 1990. Therefore, the moves of the actors can be infantile and ridiculous as well as brutal and violent, which means realistic impressions on viewers.
This kind of art is the best to watch at the Biennial Festival of the Contemporary Puppetry Art LUTKE, organized by Ljubljana Puppet Theatre since 1995. It includes the whole process of creating the puppet theater, from development with the choice of materials to the performances themselves. It is international as well, thus the stage was given already to performers from Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, France, Germany, Cyprus, Norway, Poland, Hungary, Peru, Australia, the UK, Russia, Slovenia.
The festival activities include exhibitions, street actions, round table talks, workshops, off-festival activities, and the most important performances. The main stage is the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre.
Let’s Play It!
As we discovered, Slovenian identity is highly related to the Slovenian theater. The acceptance of the Slovenian language started from the theater plays. In the times of partial independence, the theater was developing tremendously.
Now, it is impressive of the diversity of any kind and form. A Slovenian viewer loves theater because there are so many genres on the Slovenian stage that everybody can find something interesting personally. Moreover, the presence of huge European theater festivals increases people’s interest in this and creates a positive attitude toward street performers and art in general.
Hence, we strongly advise you to visit at least one Slovenian festival, theater, or performance in order to feel the enjoyment of Slovenian art.