Ulysses theatre

Mission & Vision

“I set foot on this island and wandered around the amazing fortress which promised unbelievable theatrical beauty. Each wall a memory, each tree a hope. I endeavour to restore the energy connecting overflowing rivers and ruined shores. I’m starting this theatre so that new energies can get intertwined and young people can fortify the walls of this fortress of art with their creativity and vitality”.

Rade Šerbedžija, 2001

 

We want to create a space of creative collaboration where artists with different experiences and backgrounds, with different skills and talents can get together; a space in which they can explore and broaden their creative horizons, push the limits of their creativity, and convey ideas found in the works of both classical and contemporary authors.

We want to expand the range of our activities to include more international participants and partners and to expand our audience on national, regional and international levels.

We want to provide young people in Croatia and neighbouring countries with the opportunity to study and further their skills, to participate in our productions and other programmed events. We want to establish collaborations with universities by providing internships for students.

We want to create an international arts centre with year-round programme. We want to share our island of words, movements and music, our oasis of work and tranquillity by including different artistic projects and other activities which promote creativity, understanding and collaboration.

We rely on the creative energy of our long-time collaborators as well as new ones and prize the specific pulse of our unique performing sites. On this we base our aesthetics. It is not predetermined, it has no pre-established norms or rigid criteria – it is always driven by the artistic diversity of our members and the continuously inspirational ambiance of the island of Mali Brijun and the Fort Minor.

How it all began... And continued.

“…And all the others, with their skills and yearnings, have woven the fragrance of their souls into the threshold of a new theatre whose roof is the open sky and whose stage is Prospero’s garden where the flowers of evil don’t thrive.”

Borislav Vujčić, 2001

 

Ulysses Theatre was founded by actor-director Rade Šerbedžija and writer Borislav Vujčić. It was inaugurated in 2001 by the renowned British film and stage actress Vanessa Redgrave at a charity concert featuring the Mostar Sinfonietta.

The first production was Shakespeare’s King Lear, directed by Lenka Udovički, with Rade Šerbedžija in the eponymous role. A small production team lead by Tatjana Aćimović embarked upon the challenge of giving shape to a dreamlike idea of a theatre on an uninhabited island, unaware of the fact that this production would achieve cult status and continue to be performed year after year, turning what started as an experiment into an annual summer festival with an increasing number of productions and cultural events.

King Lear is still performed, using a number of locations within the Austro-Hungarian coastal fortress of Fort Minor on the island of Mali Brijun as natural stage scenery. For over a decade it has captivated audiences from around the world and gathered artists from Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Great Britain, the USA and Georgia.

Over the years Ulysses Theatre has developed a distinctive theatrical language, combining literary masterpieces (such as Euripides’ Medea starring Mira Furlan or Weiss’ Marat/Sade with Zlatko Vitez) with the unique open air venue, and bringing together both local artists and those from around the world.

Since 2002 Duško Ljuština has been a producer of Ulysses Theatre. With his help the Theatre has expanded its repertoire and become a regional phenomenon.

The Mostar Sinfonietta has frequently collaborated with us and on several productions we have worked with the vocal ensemble Putokazi from Rijeka.

In 2003 our guest was an American writer and feminist Eve Ensler with the production The Good Body. The same year Deni Šesnić, a lighting designer, joined the Ulysses creative team.

In 2004, four acclaimed actors, Pero Kvrgić, Zijah Sokolović, Ivica Vidović and Rade Šerbedžija, performed together in a production of Play Beckett directed by Rade Šerbedžija. At the same time the world-renowned actresses Amanda Plummer, Caroline Jones, and Lynn and Vanessa Redgrave participated in the project Core Sample – Goli otok 1949-1956. In two different interpretations of Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”, the artists explored the experiences of political opponents of the Yugoslav regime, incarcerated on Goli otok from 1949 until 1956.

The artists and the crew working on the project visited the island and walked the four-kilometre long path from one side of the island to the other – from the prison for men to the one for women. Two former prisoners Beatrix Fixmann and Vera Winter joined them on their walk.

After Shakespeare’s Hamlet in 2005, with Goran Navojec and Lucija Šerbedžija playing Hamlet and Ophelia, Ulysses Theatre marked the 150th anniversary of the birth of Nikola Tesla in 2006 by co-producing (with Pandur Theaters) Darko Lukić’s Tesla Electric Company, directed by Tomaž Pandur.

2005 will be remembered as the year we lost a dear friend and co-founder of the Theatre, Borislav Vujčić. Even though he is no longer with us, his enthusiasm will forever be woven into the fabric of our Theatre.

The 2007 season was dedicated to Miroslav Krleža. Forum Krleža Today brought together prominent Croatian scholars and Krleža enthusiasts whose papers were later published, thus making a valuable contribution to Krleža’s studies. Eduard Galić’s documentary film about Krleža’s life Predvečerje puno skepse (An Evening of Scepticism) was screened, while Darko Rundek and Rade Šerbedžija co-directed The Ballads of Petrica Kerempuh. Rade Šerbedžija restaged Moj obračun s njima (My Reckoning With Them), a monodrama, last staged in 1990, which had developed cult status and has been performed by Rade Šerbedžija over 2000 times.

The main production of the season was the award winning Pijana noć 1918 (The Drunken Night 1918). Krleža’s famous short story about the unification of the South Slavs was adapted for the stage by a TV screen writer Ivo Štivičić, in collaboration with Tena Štivičić. While Ivo Štivičić had frequently adapted Krleža’s work for television, this was his first attempt at writing for the stage, and proved to be highly successful. Set design was created by long-term Ulysses Theatre collaborator, Zlatko Kauzlarič Atač. The production won awards at the 41st BITEF and at the Small Scenes Theatre Festival.

In the 2008 season, alongsiderestaged productions, Ulysses Theatre staged two new ones: Albert Camus’ Caligula, directed byTomaž Pandur, and Romeo and Juliet ’68, directed by Lenka Udovički. The latter marked the 40th anniversary of the events that took place in 1968, once again gathering an experienced creative team consisting of dramaturgeTena Štivičić, composer Nigel Osborne, costume designer Bjanka Adžić Ursulov and sound designerDavor Rocco. This production

also included members of Poor Dog Group, a theatre company from the USA, and was performed in both Croatian and English.

In the 2009 season Ulysses Theatre invited acclaimed director Paolo Magelli to stage Molière’s Don Juan, with Rakan Rushaidat in the lead role.

Ulysses Theatre’s 10th anniversary season was opened by ODYSSEY, a gala concert in the ancient Pula Arena, with various musicians and friends of the Theatre who over the years had either performed in Fort Minor or participated in our projects as musical guests.

The main production of the season was Shakespeare’s Tempest, directed by Lenka Udovički and starring Rade Šerbedžija as Prospero. Award-winning choreographer Staša Zurovac joined the creative team.

In the 2011 season Ulysses Theatre staged Cabaret Brecht – The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, directed by Lenka Udovički, with Ozren Grabarić in the lead role. A collaboration with the LA-based Petrojvic Blasting Company, who performed live at the festival, was also established.

In the year 2012, a year extremely rich in arts and cultural events, Ulysses Theatre presented two productions: Goran Stefanovski’s Odysseus directed by Aleksandar Popovski, and Lenka Udovički’s new directorial achievement The Deceased, written by Branislav Nušić. One of the lead roles in the latter production was played by famous actress Jelisaveta Seka Sablić, joined by Zijah Sokolović, an actor already known to Ulysses’ audience. The season was further enhanced by concerts, exhibitions, a Deutsches Theater performance and music therapy Summer Camp workshops. Thus the audience had the opportunity to enjoy music performed by Rade Šerbedžija, Vlatko Stefanovski, Miroslav Tadić, the Teofilović brothers, Rundek Cargo trio and Urban & 4; to admire the art works of Zlatko Kauzlarić Atač and Stjepan Gračan; and to appreciate the performances of both Samuel Finzi and the participants of the music therapy workshops.

Over the years, many musicians and a number of Croatian and foreign theatre shows have been guests on the Ulysses stage: Vlatko Stefanovski and Miroslav Tadić, Darko Rundek and Isabel, Đorđe Balašević, Josipa Lisac, the Chamber Theatre from Sarajevo, Atelje 212 from Belgrade, and the acting company Histrioni from Zagreb, to name but a few.