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    Five Plays : The Black Hole, Shades of Babel, Sarajevo, Odysseus, Figurae Veneris Historiae

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    ISBN: 9781911546627
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    AuthorStefanovski, Goran
    Pub Date01/07/2019
    Publisher: CONRAD PRESS
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    Five plays

    Goran Stefanovski was born on 27th April 1952 in Bitola, a town then in Yugoslavia, near the border with Greece on the Balkan Peninsula in Eastern Europe. His father, Mirko, was a theatre director and his mother, Nada, a leading actress. Much of Goran’s childhood was spent in theatres. His younger brother is Vlatko Stefanovski, a well-known virtuoso guitarist.

    Having fallen in love with all things English during his teenage years through the influence of the Beatles and Rolling Stones, Goran went on to study English Language and Literature at the University of Skopje. However, he couldn’t get the theatre out of his system and spent his third year of studies at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts (FDU) in Belgrade. He graduated as the best student of his generation in Skopje and took a job in the Drama Department of Skopje TV, although he was soon to return to the University to teach English Literature, with a particular focus on Shakespeare.

    In October 1974 he met Pat Marsh, an English linguist who came to teach English at Skopje University. They married in March 1976. When they met, he was writing a play based on Macedonian folklore for Slobodan Unkovski, one of the directors of a theatre group he had become involved with as a student; Unkovski was to become a lifetime collaborator and friend. Yané Zadrogaz achieved great success and went on to be presented at the prestigious Belgrade International Theatre Festival (BITEF), then in Paris and finally at the Caracas Theatre Festival in Venezuela.

    A radio play about Shakespeare, two TV plays with a contemporary setting and a six-part TV series set in the 1940s followed Goran Stefanovski’s early success in the second half of the 70s. In 1979 he wrote his best-known play, Wild Flesh, which has had fifteen productions to date all over Europe, including London, and is on the secondary school curriculum in his homeland. The play is based on the experiences of his father and uncles during World War II. It brought him the October Prize of the Republic of Macedonia for exceptional artistic achievement, the highest award of the Republic, as well as the 1980 Award for Best Yugoslav Play of the Year at the Yugoslav National Theatre Festival.

    Two years later, Flying on the Spot had its first production, a play which dealt with the fraught Macedonian Question of the late nineteenth century and the identity of the nation; it was to endear Stefanovski to his compatriots worldwide.

    Almost every year for the next thirty-three years was to see a new and successful play by Goran Stefanovski, many of them award-winners. In the 1980s he continually pushed the boundaries of Yugoslav theatre, both in an artistic and political sense. The False Bottom (1983) was particularly bold in its challenge to state censors. In 1988 The Black Hole received its first productions; with its unique structure and stunning theatricality, it is generally considered to be his greatest contribution to European theatre.

    1985 marked a departure for the dramatist into a TV serial for children, The Crazy Alphabet each episode teaching one of the 31 letters of the Macedonian alphabet through a combination of animation and sketches. Stefanovski’s son, Igor, had been born in 1980 and his daughter, Jana, was to be born in 1986. That year he founded the playwriting department at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Skopje, where he was a full professor until 1998.

    In 1987 Stefanovski wrote the first version of a screenplay for film director, Stolé Popov, dealing with the aftermath of the catastrophic 1903 Ilinden Uprising against Ottoman rule. This film, To the Hilt, was not to be made until 2014, after it had been through two revisions, but it was the first of six screenplays Stefanovski was to write and began his involvement with film.

    In 1990 he took his family to Providence, Rhode Island, USA, where he spent six months as Outstanding Artist Fulbright Scholar at Brown University and began a lifelong friendship with Prof. John Emigh.

    In 1991 Yugoslavia began to fall apart and descended into civil war. The constantly deteriorating situation led his wife Pat to decide to make a new life for the family in Canterbury, England, from September 1992. For the next six years, Stefanovski was to commute between Macedonia and the UK, continuing his teaching in Skopje.

    In 1992, Dragan Klaic, one of Goran’s former teachers at the Belgrade Faculty of Dramatic Arts and a close friend, put him in touch with Chris Torch of the Jordcirkus theatre group in Stockholm, who commissioned a play, in cooperation with the Antwerp European Capital of Culture, about Sarajevo, the Bosnian city then undergoing a brutal siege. Sarajevo, an oratorio for the theatre went on an extensive tour across Europe in the summer of 1993, including the London International Theatre Festival [3] and the Hamburg International Summer Festival. Sarajevo was published in London, New York and Illinois. This successful venture was followed by performance scripts for the festivals of European Capitals of Culture in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Avignon and Bologna, all in collaboration with Chris Torch.

    Through this connection, Stefanovski had become known in Sweden and between 1998 and 2000 he was a visiting professor at the Dramatic Institute in Stockholm. The Institute published his A Little Book of Traps (a scriptwriting tool) in 2002. It has been translated and published in five languages, including Chinese. By this time, Stefanovski had become used to writing in English and only later translating his work into his mother tongue.

    In September 2000 he settled in Canterbury and taught classes in screenwriting and playwriting at the University of Kent before taking up his post at Canterbury Christ Church University in 2002, teaching screenwriting there until his death in 2018. He was an extraordinarily popular teacher and a well-loved colleague.

    Stefanovski continued writing successful plays which were translated and produced all over the world throughout the rest of his life. In 2004 work Everyman played at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith and on tour with Theatre Melange, enhancing his reputation for uncompromising treatment of the themes of identity, cultural history and politics. Perhaps the most notable of his later plays were his two adaptations of Ancient Greek texts, Bacchanalia after Euripides’ The Bacchae and Odysseus after Homer’s Odyssey. Both had clear and moving references to the Yugoslav wars and their aftermath. Much of his later work was directed in theatres all over Europe by Aleksandar Popovski, a former student of Stefanovski's at the Skopje Academy, who has become much sought after.

    A highly regarded essayist, public intellectual and lecturer, Stefanovski contributed papers to a large number of conferences and held workshops all over Europe. His last public lecture was as keynote speaker at the International Federation for Theatre Research World Congress in Belgrade in July 2018. His last public appearance was to receive an honorary doctorate from the Bulgarian National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts in Sofia.

    Goran Stefanovski died of an inoperable brain tumour in 2018 at the age of 66. His death brought scores of tributes to his brilliance as a writer and teacher, as well as outpourings of admiration and love for him as a human being of great wisdom, modesty and kindness.