For more than seventy years, Zagreb Youth Theatre (Zagrebačko kazalište mladih, ZKM), one of the most lively and prominent theatres in Croatia and the region, has been staging daring and artistically relevant performances addressing the most important contemporary issues and tirelessly calling for a dialogue about our times and society. With its broad programme, encompassing shows for children and adult audiences alike, ZKM and its ensemble of top actors have produced a repertoire that does not tire to push the boundaries of performance and progressive ideas, yet always remains as inclusive as possible.
By employing a variety of genres, methods, and styles, ZKM aims to teach and broaden the experience of its audiences as they develop, always lending an ear to new tendencies and complementary aesthetic strivings shared by similar theatres across Europe. Numerous co-productions and guest performances clearly illustrate that artistic pursuits of select authors resonate with relevance at regional and European stages and festivals.
One central task ZKM has set out to accomplish is to show national and international audiences what Croatian theatre has to offer – from the most recent drama production to incentivising and promoting the youngest generations of Croatian playwrights. Other avenues of interest include contemporary interpretations of the world drama classics in a broader artistic and social context as well as staging research projects of established Croatian and European authors.
With its support programmes ZKM focuses on the development of new Croatian drama by showcasing play scripts that received the highest national Marin Držić award as table reads (Držić at ZKM) and by mentoring the development of new playwrights (Future Is Here). These programmes provide an opportunity to look for new performance avenues, such as the ones that reached out to audience in the times of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, including real-time internet performances, the use of various communication portals, and full feature drama/film formats. This is how ZKM reaches out to new audiences of different profiles and expands the boundaries of performing arts.
Another key element of ZKM’s pursuit is teaching. For more than 70 years, it has been committed to nurturing and developing creativity and theatre production in children and youth and to expanding their cultural and social habits and skills as one of the major added values of its Drama Studio. There new generations of theatre artists learn the trade of puppet, dance, and drama show production. The Studio is the seed from which new professionals grow. And not only them. It educates new theatre enthusiasts among the audience.
All these claims of aesthetic and thematic inclusivity of the repertoire are clear to see if we look at the titles produced for audiences of all generations. From The Summer Book, Sherlock Holmes, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz for our youngest to Mi i oni (Us and Them) and Godless Youth for adolescents and our greatest hits for adults, including Hinkemann and Črna mati zemla (Black Mother Earth). The repertoire does not fall short of plays by contemporary Croatian playwrights such as Ja sam ona koja nisam (I’m that I’m not), Dobro je dok umiremo po redu (It’s Fine as Long as We Die in Due Order), Hejteri (Haters), and Ono što nedostaje (That Which is Missing) or of new exciting interpretations of drama classics such as Titus Andronicus, An Enemy of the People, and Cement or provocative projects such as Pansion Eden and Eichmann u Jeruzaluemu (Eichmantriptych synonymsn in Jerusalem) or fresh takes on regional issues such as Huddersfield. Last but not least, one unique project has gathered nineteen contemporary Croatian playwrights around a three-piece show Monovid 19 that takes place at three different parts of the theatre facility at the same time to symbolise a struggle for continuity of performance arts in the heat of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.
As we live in the times of sudden social changes, of quick-paced and substantial influence of the virtual world on how we see our reality, one of the major tasks of ZKM is to focus on creating relevant and inspiring shows that insist on discussing about who we are and what we are doing today, about how we treat our past, and how we see changes of our society in the immediate future. These ideas guide the unceasing interaction between ZKM and its current or future audience.