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51st Week of Slovenian Drama

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

The jury for the Slavko Grum and the Young Playwright Awards for 2021 report 2021

The jury members for the Slavko Grum and the Young Playwright Awards for 2021 have carefully read all forty-seven texts entered to both competitions – thirty-six for the Slavko Grum Award and eleven for the Young Playwright Award. 

This year’s competition was the first one following the changed rules stating categorically that only unpublished and unproduced texts are eligible to compete. As it often happens, some important dilemmas emerged with these changes, dilemmas that the jury is neither qualified nor called to solve – and certainly not while deliberating the texts. But the jury can state that it would be useful – perhaps essential – to consider once more the provisions for all the playwriting and dramaturgy competitions that take place within the Week of Slovenian Drama while keeping in sight their fundamental purpose as well as the way to best achieve it. 

An additional obstacle placed in front of the jury was the epidemic, more precisely, the movement restrictions it brought, which made the quality and direct and personally engaged exchange of opinions more difficult. We made sure that these adverse circumstances did not show up in our work. 

After reading the entries, it became apparent that the epidemic inhibited the creative potential of Slovenian playwrights more than it encouraged them. However, some might have naïvely expected the opposite, considering the new topic on offer and the (supposedly) more time for solitary and concentrated creativity. Perhaps next year will be different because the most challenging part of the epidemic reaches beyond the present competition’s timeframe. In general, it holds that the clear and present actuality is not the most inspirational one. 

We do not mean that the texts we read ignore the hottest world topic at the moment. Quite the opposite, the situation is mentioned often. At times, it provides the frame or at least the background; some texts tackle it full-on. It is encouraging and refreshing to see that some – but arguably too few – are written in the key of humour or satire (indeed, we have a festival dedicated to comedic writing, but one-seventh still seems a poor showing of such texts). On the whole, we could say that this theme needs more time to reach creative maturity. 

What we have just said about the epidemic as a theme is, in fact, mostly true for everything: it is not possible to claim that the new Slovenian drama is not responsive to the impulses of the world, in which it emerges; but it has many problems in searching for an appropriate perspective, both narrative and performative, to create these impulses. This observation also holds for the "rustproof", perennial themes (men and women, young and old, family relationships and their underground, margins of the society …). The relations in them prefer to remain in the general framework and only with difficulty get to the individualisation of characters, if they even feel this need. At times, the illusionary conviction lingers in the background that the plays essentially write themselves from some sort of feeling. Perhaps not even mastery of verbal expression is essential, let alone the narrative-dramaturgical techniques.

Surprisingly perhaps, one of the most simulative drama ambiences for Slovenian playwrights – both "mature" and "young" – seems to be the fantastical-utopian (dystopian, in fact) or even sci-fi: either it somehow sneaks into the texts that are essentially located in the here and now, or the writers’ efforts are oriented directly towards what they perceive or feel to be the best medium for expressing their own interests and anxieties. To a point, this reflects the events in world production, particularly film production (actually, Slovenian drama often seems to be written "from the film for the film" – more often a flaw than the virtue). Still, it is also possible to read an indirect epidemic reflex. But in any case, just as it happens in the world production, this is writing that is fundamentally escapist – and not in a negative sense of the word (whoever feels trapped, will instinctively want to go somewhere else, out) –, writing that searches and clears the path from constricting reality. The topic of the fight for (social) justice, so strongly present in the writing of our time, including the fantastic, including the fairy tale, seems to be diminishing; the topic coming into the foreground is one of the possible or impossible escapes from the metaphorical ubiquitous lockdown. 

This attempt at detecting the trends is, of course, written as a note in the margin. The jury did not search for them in any of the three competitions it was called to judge, but rather for what shows the most human content and artistic articulation in its field.

Jury members:

Srečko Fišer (president)

Amelia Kraigher

Matej Bogataj


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