Stage directions (Didascalia), since they are an ”accompanying” element and that they form a secondary layer of a dramatic text, in theory are mostly defined as a complementary part of the primary dialogical text, i.e. only as ”alongside”, ”secondary”, ”parallel” and ”auxiliary” text. Although neglected, stage directions are an important factor in the analysis of a play, with the dominant fact being the dual nature of each play’s existence, expressed in the notion of drama as a literary text and as its stage reality, two aspects irreducible to each other, although the literary text is at the same time one of the elements of the stage play. We can rightly ask ourselves whether stage directions are only a literary text or are also part of the stage reality, i.e. to what extent are they part of that stage reality.
The author, a professor who has dealt with dramatic text in both aspects of its existence, presents his observations on the stage directions acquired during his work with students. In the book, the author examines the stage direction texts of 13 comedies by J. Sterija Popović and of 20 contemporary playwrights and their 40 plays. ”Atelier in the Serbo-Croatian language” of the Sorbonne University, which the author also led in the period 1995-2016, performed a number of Sterija’s plays, as well as a number of contemporary authors he writes about. The studies were performed on the following authors and their plays: Jovan Sterija Popović (with the comedies published from the significant year 1830 onwards): Pomirenja /Conciliations/, Laža i paralaža /The Liar and the Arch Liar/, Tvrdica /The Miser/, Pokondirena tikva /The Stuck-Up Woman/, Zla žena /The Vicked Wife/, Ženidba i udadba /The Marriage of Men and Women/, Simpatija i antipatija /Sympathy and Antipathy/, Prevara za Prevaru /Deceit for Deceit/, Volšebni magarac /The Magic Donkey/, Đandrljiv muž /The Grumpy Husband/, Beograd nekad i sad / Belgrade then and now/, Sudbina jednog razuma /The Destiny of a Mind/ and Rodoljupci /The Patriots/, and within the corpus of Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian-Herzegovinian and Montenegrin contemporary writers in the languages of the same linguistic system: Biljana Srbljanović: Beogradska trilogija /The Belgrade Trilogy/ (1997), Porodične priče /Family Stories/ (1998), Pad /The Fall/ (2000), Supermarket (2001), Amerika, drugi deo / America, Part Two/ (2003), Skakavci /Locusts/ (2005), Barbelo, o psima i deci /Barbelo, of Dogs and Children/ (2007) and Nije smrt biciklo (da ti ga ukradu) /Death Is Not a Bicycle (to be stolen from you)/ (2011), Ivana Sajko: Naranča u oblacima /Orange in the Clouds/ (1997), Rekonstrukcije (1997), 4 suha stopala /4 Dry Feet/ (1999), Rebro kao zeleni zidovi /Rib Like Green Walls/ (2000), Arhetip: Medeja /Archetype; Medea/ (2000), Žena-bomba /Woman-Bomb/ (2003) and Evropa /Europe/ (2004); Ljubomir Đurković: Tobelija (2000) and Otpad /Refuse/ (2002); Zlatko Topčić: Glavom kroz zid /Head-On/ (2004) and Sretna Nova 1994!!! /Happy New 1994!!!/ (2001); Milena Marković: Šine /Tracks/ (2003), Šuma blista /The Woods Glisten/ (2008) and Zmajeubice /The Dragonslayers/ (2014); Dušan Kovačević: Lari Tompson, tragedija jedne mladosti /Larry Thompson, or the Tragedy of a Young Man/ (1996) and Doktor Šuster /Doctor Schuster/ (2001); Maja Pelević: Beograd – Berlin /Belgrade – Berlin/ (2005) and Pomorandžina kora /Orange Peel/ (2006); Almir Imširević: Kad bi ovo bila predstava... /If This Were a Performance.../ (1999), Balkanski đavo Sram /Balkans Devil Shame/ (2000); Filip Šovagović: Cigla /Brick/ (1998) and Jazz (2004); Almir Bašović: Priviđenja iz srebrenog vijeka /Apparitions from the Silver Age/ (2004); Ljubomir Simović: Kosovski boj /The Battle of Kosovo/ (both 1988 and 2002 versions), Slobodan Šnajder: Utjeha sjevernih mora /Comfort of the North Seas/ (1995), Radmila Vojvodić: Montenegro blues /Montenegro Blues/ (2001); Uglješa Šajtinac: Banat (2007), Marija Karaklajić: Lice od stakla /Face of Glass/ (2005), Milica Piletić: Dokle?! /How Far ?!/ (2008); Miro Gavran: Vrijeme je za komediju / It’s Time for Comedy/ (2002), Igor Bojović: Happy End–Divče (1994), Milena Bogavac: Dragi tata /Dear Dad/ (2003), and Miljenko Jergović: Kažeš anđeo /Angel, You Say/ (2000).
In the division of the secondary text, the author takes several terms from other researchers, but also forms his own, notes changes in the writing of all stage direction elements in the time of the beginnings of writing Serbian comedy and the present time. First, the out-of-stage-direction text of Sterija and his contemporaries (in separate chapters) is examined, in which he deals with forewords, dedications, play titles, genre determinants, lists of persons and authorial afterwords, as well as ways of dividing the whole dramatic text (acts and scenes), notes, footnotes, playwrights’ advice, which he calls marks of a stage direction character. In relation to dialogue, in the following chapters the author separates independent from dependent stage directions, within which he distinguishes stage directions of stage and dramatic illusions, and considers that both are necessary for the reader’s visualization of a theatrical play. As specific descriptions, the independent stage directions support the stage illusion and are usually inserted at the beginning of an act and/or scene, however in new dramas they can also be found in between text lines. In Sterija, they are few in number and not in pure form, because the information regarding play characters are ”inserted” into them. There are many of them in contemporary writers, usually written together with information about the characters, although there are also those that only do stage reporting. Due to their abundance, they can evolve into separate scenes of a play. Stage directions of dramatic illusions, since they determine the position of the characters in the realm of drama, are active. They often take on the function of text-line stage directions, especially with authors who avoid dependent stage directions. They are written at the beginning of the acts and scenes, at their end, as well as in between dialogic lines, and their task is to provide the best possible understanding of the world of drama. Within dependent stage directions, which he calls text-line directions, also from the stage and drama point of view, a division is made into locative directions, mobility directions, stage directions with elements of stage set and props, costumes as well (visual expression), as well as destination, imperative and stage directions indicating a stagnation in communication (verbal expression).
In special chapters, the author deals with the procedures in writing and printing of stage directions (topography, time and degree of bindingness in them), notes the changes and pays special attention to the stage directional work of Biljana Srbljanović and Ivana Sajko. After each completed chapter, the author makes a summary for readers who do not have the patience to read everything. The whole study is aggregated in the last chapter in which it is claimed that the change in the treatment of the stage direction layer in the contemporary dramatic text, in relation to tradition, becomes crucial when the stage directions contain the entire text of the dramatic character, but also of the author as an interacting figure. In trying the new dramatic form, the greatest achievement was made by abolishing the difference between stage directions and dialogue lines, i.e. equalising them, which makes the play open to different readings and even more different directorial conceptions. The author believes, taking into account the current performing practice, that the primary and secondary dramatic text will be so intertwined and that everything will merge into a single text due to the removal of important differences between dramatic and non-dramatic prose form and abundant use of documents as integral dramatic text, and particularly because of the form of performance lectures that can affect the future status of stage directions or performance writing that implies creating the text at the time of creating the stage performance, often collective authorship; the question arises as to what stage directions will be retained in such texts if they are printed, as well as their existence in the case of immersive theatre.
Translated into English by Zoran Šakotić
IZDAVAČKA KNJIŽARNICA ZORANA STOJANOVIĆA SREMSKI KARLOVCI • NOVI SAD 2022