10 Questions for Aleksandar Lukac

Former Artistic Director of the National Theater, Belgrade, Aleksandar Lukac has directed close to a hundred professional productions internationally including Yugoslavia, Holland, Canada and Serbia.  Lukac has also been an Artistic Director of Theatre Zoran Radmilovich and the independent political theatre, Plexus Boris Pilnjak, which was a catalyst of political controversy in Belgrade in the years prior to the civil war. He has been awarded Best Director at The Festival of Serbian Theatres a record six times. Notable Canadian productions include ARC’s North American premiere of Family Stories-Belgrade, Hong Kong Idea Festival bound Unicorn Horns, Company of Sirens’ Black Magic and a series of productions at Talk Is Free Theatre including Bulgakov’s Moliere (Kiev Festival) and

Moliere TIFT LUKAC

Milosh Rodic (left), David Dodsley and Dusan Dukic in Talk is Free Theatre Inc.’s dramatization of Molière, adapted and directed by Aleksandar Lukac. Photo by Susan Benoit

Ivan vs. Ivan which has recently returned toured Europe including Moscow, London and several cities in Serbia. Lukac is in a process of completing his PhD in political theater, while he holds two Master degrees in Drama and Directing from U of T and York University respectively. He currently teaches at York University.  He has recently also revisited Serbia where the productions of Newcomers, Victor Or the Children In Power, Master and Margarita and the most recent, Brecht’s Drums In the Night, keep garnering media attention, festival invitations, and awards for production, acting and design. At Glendon College he has taught Brecht’s Epic Theater for a number of years.

Next week, Lukac will be opening a new adaptation of Weiss’ Marat/Sade, called Move.(me)ant. The Marat/Sade Occupied, as part of the political theatre course at Glendon College incorporating not only the current politics of Occupy Wall Street, but social media whereby the audience’s comments and Twitter dialogue with the actors will be displayed throughout performances (for urls see below). 

Aleksandar Lukac

Aleksandar Lukac

1) Which of your parents do you resemble (what’s your nationality / ethnic background)?

I think I resemble both of them to a certain degree. The best way to describe my background is Bosnian Serb. Born in Sarajevo to a Serbian/Russian combo. Don’t ask.

2) What is the BEST thing / worst thing about being a director?

The best thing about being a director is to feel that you hold a certain control over the overall creative process. That is also the worst thing, as you have the most responsibility for the result. Of course, for me the first outweighs the second, every time.

In terms of the differences of being a director here and in Europe I think I never really became a director here. I was always a European director “on loan” here. Very long loan. Directors in Europe have or take far more liberty with the text and related materials then is customary here and that really used to put me in weird situations. I don’t think I can successfully change to fit a more conservative approach to theatre, so I stopped trying. I am glad that I have the opportunities that I have to “flex” my European directing muscle when I can (in independent productions, student shows, as well as in Talk Is Free Theatre) but I have really refocused on working back in Europe/Serbia.  The theatre there is still extremely vital and I find that I don’t have to muzzle my process in as many ways. It has also brought me several exciting shows in the past few years – including Drums in the Night, and Master and Margarita – both scripts that would be impossible to direct here for many reasons including the economic ones. Large casts, huge sets – relatively obscure or non-commercial  plays. Long live state sponsored theatre! While it lasts!!! We should really try that model here – it actually works – providing you agree that art, and theatre specifically, is of any importance for the society.

3) who do you like to watch or read?

I love watching Polanski, Kubrick and Fassbinder. And Will Farrell. I know. Don’t judge – I am being brutally honest.

As for playwrights it is so hard to keep up because there are many coming from different countries, finding very specific voices – changing and reshaping everything theatre. It is great to have access to these materials and even entertain possibilities of  production.

4) what ability or skill do you wish you had, that you don’t have?

To play music and sing. Write an opera.

5) when you’re just relaxing (and not working) what is your favourite thing to do?

Really? ‘Tis love one must give. And take. But working in theatre is that too.

Five more concerning Move.(me)ant. The Marat/Sade Occupied.

1) How does adapting & directing Peter Weiss’s Marat/Sade challenge you?

I answer this question in more detail later. A student of mine has written the adaptation. The crucial moment was when we made the decision to live-stream the production and invite live comments via Twitter, Facebook and Ustream. This decision gave the basis for the adaptation because we incorporate a lot of actual news items and documentary footage into the show. The strategy is carpet bombing of sound and information bites. We are trying to leave as much stuff unfiltered because we don’t even trust our own filters.

2)    what do you love about Marat/Sade and this type of theatre?

Well this is a prime example of a highly sophisticated intellectual theatre that also has great entertainment potential. It juxtaposes several concepts of revolution in a brilliant interplay of historical and theatrical contexts. I would almost say that it is too complicated for a contemporary audience’s expectation because it requires some previous knowledge for full enjoyment. However, it also works on multiple levels so you are sure that there will be something for everyone.

The concept of involving the audience across the world via live/stream hinges on the enormous interest and impact the Occupy movement has created. I am hoping that the Twitter, Facebook and Ustream lines will be very busy with comments on the movement itself as well as our take on it. It is really  a variation on the many themes that Weiss has already explored in the original text, juxtaposed with the very different and original revolutionary sensibility of Occupy. So, the production of Marat/Sade Occupied really is not concerned with a specific message.  It wants to provoke an international mash/up of so many different  influences, opinions, representations and misrepresentations (both malicious and not), all triggered by the terrible economic and political situation the world is in.

I think we are facing crunch time in terms of the freedoms of expression and maybe even more importantly, the dispersion of expression, so one should enjoy the fact that we can reach all of the world from a college stage and ask some very important questions. And, possibly, get some answers.

I have two tech wizard students, Andrew Gould behind the live-stream and videos, and Allie Gardiner handling the Twitter, Facebook and Ustream messages, making sure that if there are answers we get to hear them, read them, and share them with the world.

3)    Do you have a favourite song or moment in the play?

This is actually a very musical play. We are using some of the original score and a number of contemporary songs with lyrics changed to fit the play. Lea Pehar has orchestrated all the original and new tunes with the help of singers Julia Heximer, Katarina Kovacevic, Catherine Garisto and Christina Helvadjian.  At this point my favourite has to be “Because I Got High” – with the lyrics changed to “I was going to Occupy, but I got high, I got high, I got high…”

4) how do you relate to Marat/Sade Occupied  as a modern man?

Well, I found that the key to the “modern man” bit is to listen to the younger generations. In fact the original play was adapted (I might say very well) by Dan Pelletier who is a student in the course. The problem with political plays is that if you had been doing them a long time (as I have, albeit in different countries) you risk remaining in a frame that you have built yourself. The times are really changing  and the “enemy” has long learned how to incorporate or simply spin all the traditional tools of political theatre. (I call this the “inoculation” of the opposition. The theatre does what it can to stir up the thought process – sometimes even shocks the other side but the absorption of that shock allows the opponent to be stronger the next time) So you have to be always ahead of the game and this show is an attempt to do exactly that. The issues of the original Marat-Sade may not be the issues of our Canadian audience – although they may be much more adequate in some other parts of the world. But the issues of Occupy hit much closer to home (even though there is a firm school of thought out there which argues that this is a very American event with not much to do with us here). Of course I disagree and during the rehearsal process I think I made the discovery that my students share some or a number of concerns raised by the movement. If we manage to engage our audiences both in the theatre and online in a live discussion about all of these issues – I guess I can consider myself a “modern man”. Please note that the actors in the play will see all the comments as they are streamed into the show and will be able to answer them – hopefully providing for a very live, interactive dynamic. So here are our links – I hope your readership can join us at:
Ustream: http://199.66.238.56/user/occupytg
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/OccupyTheatreGlendon
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/OccupyTG
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/OccupyTG

5) Is there anyone out there whose approach to Marat/Sade you particularly admire, or who has influenced you?

I love Peter Brook’s version. It is so beautifully theatrical and such a serious analysis of all of the aspects of the play. You rarely today see a play that carries such weight in it.

Move.(me)ant. The Marat/Sade Occupied adapted by Daniel Pelletier from
The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade, by Peter Weiss
Directed by Aleksandar Lukac
February 28 – March 3.
2275 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
Canada M4N 3M6
Telephone: 416-487-6722
Theatre Box Office: 416-487-6822
www.glendon.yorku.ca/theatre

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