performance: "2100: A Tale of Aska", photo: Mirjana Đorđević
performance: "2100: A Tale of Aska", photo: Mirjana Đorđević

The work on each new Bitef Polyphony begins as soon as the previous one is finished. The proposals are considered at the beginning of a new year and, although the programme gets rounded off in May, there is always some space allowed for changes, new discoveries, and unplanned challenges. This year, however, changes, new discoveries and unplanned challenges surpassed any expectations, assumptions, and predictions.

Bitef Polyphony programme team has resolved all the uncertainties by building itself upon the topic which was the focus of this year’s Bitef Polyphony, creating thus a two-hour-long programme block THE PLAY FOR LIFE Bitef Polyphony 2020 which will be carried out according to the specific “polyphonic concept”.

The multitude of voices of the programme segments will be linked by threads of strange loops combined with live and virtual events, presented by the opening of the processes that start with Bitef Polyphony 2020 and end once the full programme of 21st Bitef Polyphony is fulfilled through its connection with the 22nd Polyphony in 2021.

The programme block THE PLAY FOR LIFE of Bitef Polyphony 2020 will take place through an interaction between the performers, participants, guests and the audience, in live and/or virtual mode, with programme segments which will lead them through the topics that are in focus of the three planned performances, photo/video presentations, online interviews, personal accounts, the closing remarks of the online dialogue, and an art performance at the end.

THE PLAY FOR LIFE of Bitef Polyphony 2020 consists of eight segments that are mutually connected and at the same time represent an announcement, an opening and a separate programme created as a unique programme block which draws us into the dialogue about art and artistic process as a necessity and the point of life. About being doomed to endure pressures and closedness. About understanding and the lack of it. About good deeds and the evil. About life which does not always have a happy ending. About life in which art and determination to resist can overpower any evil, even death itself. About here and now, and about the future as an image of the world.


The programme block is opened by “Duško Radović” Little Theatre and The Thread That Connects Us - the introduction to the performance Aska and the Wolf. The thread is weaved by Tatjana Piper Stanković, the director, and actors of the performance.
They are telling us that we are living in the times of violence and interpersonal relationships dictated by a new set of values. We are searching for solutions. Our story about Aska and the wolf tells a story about violence and how it might be stopped, but also about art and uniqueness. And that is where the solution is, because there are no two identical snowflakes, no two identical human beings, and no two identical fleeces. That is where art is. Art is everything around us and within us, it is just that some of us are aware of it and some are not, some are afraid of it, and some embarrassed by it. In our performance, the fleece is like a symbol of life. It gets different depending on the hand that holds it. When someone unconsciously squeezes it, it comes back to its shape. That is how we fight back, afraid someone might hurt us. The fear causes conflict. And man, just like the wool, should be caressed, respected, heard; only then does it let us weave a thread of its freedom, of our freedom in its beauty. It gives us an eternal play!
The performance “Aska and the Wolf” in “Duško Radović” Little Theatre in Belgrade was created by: Tatjana Piper Stanković (dramatization and directing), Aleksandar Lokner (music), Danica Arapović (assistant to the director and stage movement), Staša Jamušakov (stage design and costume design), Marija Tavčar (puppets). Cast: Aska/Girl 1 - Vladislava Đorđević, Wolf/Boy 1 - Lazar Miljković, Aja/Girl 2 - Jovana Cvetković, Dad/Boy 2/Little Ram - Arsenije Tubić, Teacher - Tatjana Piper Stanković.

Youth Theatre PATOS from Smederevo will reveal the process of making the performance 2100: A Tale of Aska, set in the (not so) remote year of 2100. Participants: Sanja Krsmanović Tasić, the director, Jugoslav Hadžić, and members of a chamber orchestra.
They invite us to imagine a world in which art is forbidden as a useless activity, the world which recognizes only #workstudy. The world in which young people work in #factoryschools while being closely monitored by the Caring ones over the cameras. The world where you can see a tree, a cat, or a bee, and hear the last song only in the Museum of the Last. The world in which we can breathe only through masks, and the air is sold in jars. In that world, a group of young people create their Roofage, a space of sense and freedom, where one can hear and perform important Tales, among which also “Aska and the Wolf”; where the last prophets, that we failed to listen to on time, can be heard, and in which you - dance. They learn, in the Roofage, from one another about the importance of solidarity and comradery, and that never, not even in that future world of devastation and alienation, is it too late for hope. And for uprising.
The performance 2100: A Tale of Aska was created by: Sanja Krsmanović Tasić (directing and text), Jugoslav Hadžić (music), Ivka Stanojević (costume), Pavle Kukić (stage design and props). Cast: Dunja Velebit, Ana Ivanković, Milica Ivanović, Tara Jovanović, Bojana Ristić, Natalija Jovanović, Milica Lazarević, Mila Živković and Danilo Karapandža. Music performed by Jelena Ugrinić (viola), Marko Đorđević (clarinet), Čarna Varvara Bolević (violin), Đorđe Ivković (violin), and Staša Timotijević (cello).

The closing remarks of the online dialogue on the position of artists in Serbia, “Who Is Aska Dancing For?” the audience at site but also everyone else will have a chance to follow on the screen. The moderator of the dialogue: Irena Ristić.
If “…art and determination to resist can overpower any evil, even death itself” - as stated by Ivo Andrić, the author of the tale “Aska and the Wolf” that the Polyphony keeps returning to over its twenty years of existence, what happens if they do die? Can they persist and under which conditions? Can they stay together, or will willpower have to give in? In the crisis caused by the pandemics, the public discourse gets more focused on the myth of the artist who ennobles, elevates, entertains, or at least offers a refuge from heavy thoughts and worries - art creation is celebrated as apolitical, comforting, as is typical for the prejudices about spirituality. At the same time, the crisis offers an excellent excuse to have the participants of the self-organized practices, who see art as a space of struggle and critical activity, finally shushed, left destitute, without a chance for survival. The danger is quite palpable. The studies point out the perils that the independent artists in Serbia are facing nowadays, no less than other fringe minorities. And while the elite are giving charity, thus concealing the responsibility that the institutions in charge should assume, the practices themselves show radical forms of solidarity. The question remains how Aska will keep dancing, why and for whom.
Participants: Milena Dragićević-Šešić, Zoran Pantelić, Marko Milić, Ana Vuković i Ivana Stefanović.

A mini-performance by Šabac Theatre A Psalm for Anne Frank, leads us into the performance Anne Frank, dubbed by its authors a historical anti-fairy-tale for children and adults. Participants: Vanja Pavlović, actress. Video: Igor Marković.
The whole world knows the life story of Anne Frank, but it is questionable what the story has taught us. The performance Anne Frank poses that question. It is a performance for children and for adults, because in its centre, there is a child - wiser, more mature and smarter that the majority of adults. That child was not given a chance to grow up… But, do we have one? We, as a society. As a community. As a world. This year, to an extent, we have all lived Anne Frank’s destiny. The experience of closedness, of isolation, captivity at home and the attempts, to remain upbeat, healthy, and optimistic despite everything, those are the main topics in the diary kept by this brave and wise girl. Just like Anne Frank herself could not watch performances, go out and socialize, this year none of us could do any of that either. Instead of watching a theatre play based on her diary, we will let Anne Frank watch, on her own, from the stage, a few recorded memories of the performance. The audience will believe, hope, and remember, together with Anne.
The performance Anne Frank by Šabac Theatre was created by Jelena Bogavac (directing), Milena Bogavac (dramatization), Aleksandar Kovačević (costume design), Aleksandra Veljković (stage movement), Igor Marković (audio and video), Marko Ribić (assistant to the director), Vanja Vujanović (assistant to the producer), Jugoslav Radojević (photography), Grupa Kombinart (graphic design). Cast: Vanja Pavlović, Olivera Guconić, Deana Kostić, Slobodan Petranović-Šarac, and Miloš Vojnović.

Art performance The Play for the Planet opens up a new topic and introduces us to the new projects and plays for life related to the preservation of the planet Earth. Performers, associates of Theatre Mimart: Fire - Ivana Koraksić, Earth - Lidija Antonović, Water - Marko Nektan, Air - Strahinja Padežanin.
The concept relies on an interdisciplinary approach which involves the attitude to the nature, to the importance of the preservation of the planet Earth and its resources, alongside the care of the future of the planet in the context of cosmic values. The four elements that the fifth one - man - depends on. Artists discretely search for the point of the survival of the contemporary art and of the planet, wanting to point out, through their work, the dangers of the looming ecological disaster. For, the isolation of life in nature represents a personal escape, not a constructive influence on one’s environment. We ask the audience some vital questions, regardless of their age. This is a contribution to the visibility of the artists who work and create under limited circumstances of the coronavirus pandemics, which indicates the problem of the global pollution of the planet.
The creative team: Lidija Antonović (project coordinator), Nela Antonović (concept), Anđelija Marković (costumes), Ivana Stefanović (music). Photo: Isajlo Marić.
The Play for the Planet is a part of the project MIM-ART-SPOT by Theatre Mimart, which is one of the series of art performances that take place in the exterior, and deal with the ecology of the soul and the ecology of the planet Earth. The project is supported by the Ministry of Culture and Information.

Between the segments dedicated to the performances, the audience will be able to see two additional segments on a video beam, called Variations on the Topic the Play for Life in the form of online interviews, statements and personal accounts by the participant of this year’s and the previous years’ Polyphonies. Realized by: Slađana Bušić and Tijana Đorđević.
These segments will reveal the reasons behind the title THE PLAY FOR LIFE Bitef Polyphony 2020 and why we are once again tackling the “old issues” of the project which gave rise to the first Polyphony that took place at 34th Bitef 2000, inspired by the story of the little sheep called Aska who played, or more accurately, in her case, danced for her life* and thus overpowered the bad wolf. The story of Aska has a happy ending, and the destiny of Anne Frank has determined the end of the story which is not happy. Both stories, however, persevere within books, performances, films, school reading lists… telling us all the time that “…art and determination to resist can overpower any evil, even death itself”. The fact that the two out of three proposed performances at this year’s Bitef Polyphony have been based on “Aska and the Wolf”, have confirmed the idea that this year’s Bitef Polyphony should be “The Play for Life”. It is very important to note that these two versions of Aska and the Wolf will be “performances in focus” at Bitef Polyphony 2021, which means that they will not be only performed but also accompanied by a range of “side programmes”, discussions, workshops, presentations, and various innovative, creative, and participatory activities that represent an inspiration and a challenge for new creative processes.

Finally, the performers, participants, guests and the audience will open the “Polyphony in Duration” and website of PLAY FOR LIFE of Bitef Polyphony which will represent an overview of this year’s events, an intro into the next year, but also a glance into the archives of what has been done over the previous twenty years, developing and cherishing an open creative process of the ongoing polyphony concept.
The website concept: Nikola Ilić


* "The Dance for Life" - the story "Aska and the Wolf" by Ivo Andrić, Ivo Andric Collection of Stories, pub. Prosveta, Belgrade, Yugoslavia: 1958.