Zagreb Youth Theatre

Zagrebačko kazalište mladih [ZeKaeM]

At this conference, the Zagreb Youth Theater is represented by Dubravka Vrgoč, Artistic Director and General Manager.

Teslina 7, 10 000 Zagreb, Croatia
Contact: Dubravka Vrgoč

performing arts center / theater
public institution (governed by public law), established in 1948 by a group of professional artists; owned by City of Zagreb

ZeKaeM has written its name into Croatian theater history after 60 years of existence. During its enviable half-century, the Zagreb Youth Theatre has undergone diverse artistic and organizational modifications and changed its names and locations, but has always remained a theatrical focal point that brings together younger generations as well as audiences inclined towards daring explorations on stage. Today, the Zagreb Youth Theatre adopts an original approach to all its projects at all levels of their realization, and gives itself the opportunity to explore, shape, and express ideas engraved in actual social, civil, and political reality. It is a theatre open to various aesthetic approaches with the goal of talking about the real dramas happening here and now.

Exceptional plays, famous directors, an always carefully- and contemporarily-curated program, and numerous initiatives in European and world co-productions that have greatly enriched the cultural content Zagreb has to offer, are just some of the reasons why the Zagreb Youth Theater constantly attracts and thrills audiences of all generations. During the last four years, the Zagreb Youth Theater has received 50 awards at national and international theater festivals and presented performances at festivals in Brussels, Berlin, New York, Frieburg, Nitra, Moscow, Heidelberg, Wiesbaden, Plzen, Varna, Helsinki, Vienna, Belgrade, Skopje, Ljubljana…

Zagreb Youth Theatre - Generation 91 - 95

Decision-making: The decision-making structure is defined by general laws on public institutions and culture, as well as by specific laws on theatre. Since it is owned by the City of Zagreb, the City Assembly appoints the director, at the recommendation of the Theater Board. Of the Board’s 3 members, two are appointed by the city council’s Department of Culture and one by the theater’s artistic assembly. The Board considers and accepts programmatic and financial reports, monitors the execution of the program and its financial and human resources, passes the theater’s statute and other general acts at the director’s recommendation, and performs other activities determined by law or statute. The director runs the institutions and makes program and operational decisions.

Organizational openness: To be open to Europe, to make co-productions with foreign theatres, to stage guest performances, and to organize festivals are today our most important aims. All kinds of exchange programs are therefore extremely useful, putting us in touch with contemporary European theater as well as placing (setting) our theater in an interactive European context. This will put Croatian theater in a position to compare itself with foreign theaters and redefine its vitality. However, co-production – which is structurally very popular in modern European theater – does not mean a one-way exchange. Co-production is always two-way, and both sides should receive the same kind of profit.

Zagreb Youth Theatre - Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose

Venue/s / resources: The Zagreb Youth Theater is located in the very centre of the city. It has two main auditoria: the Istra hall (stage 320 m2, 268 seats) and the M. Polanec hall (100 m2, 100 seats), plus the Polly hall (100 m2), used for dance rehearsals by the Zagreb Dance Company, Studio: Contemporary Dance Company, and the Zagreb Youth Theater’s own Dance Studio. It also has 3 rehearsal rooms used for our performances and for dance companies to practise. Besides the theater building itself, we also have a house in Preradovićeva street which is the venue of our children’s workshop. This currently involves 14,000 children (from 4 to 18 years of age) in drama, puppet, and dance studios, led by pedagogues employed by the Zagreb Youth Theater. The Theater itself is fully equipped and can host various events, from small and big theater productions to concerts and exhibitions.

Budget: more than €300,000 and less than €500,000.

Co-productions: During the last few years, we have practised various models of collaboration:
In our co-production with La Comédie de Saint-Etienne, the director, Jean-Claude Berutti worked on two performances based on the same play – one with French actors on the stage of La Comédie de Saint Etienne and one with Croatian actors at the Zagreb Youth Theater. In this case, the Croatian actors will work with a French director, the French actors will come to perform in Croatia, and the Croatian actors will go on to perform in Saint Etienne.

During the last few years, we have put on three co-productions with Jan Fabre’s theater company Troubleyan from Antwerp:

  • The first co-production was Requiem für eine Metamorphose directed by Fabre. Two Croatian actors from the Zagreb Youth Theater took part in this production, which had its première at a theatre festival in Salzburg.
  • The second co-production was Another Sleepy Dusty Delta Day, which had its première at the Avignon festival in cooperation with the Zagreb Youth Theater and Zagreb Theatre Festival, and was presented after Avignon in Zagreb.
  • In the third co-production, Prometeus, directed by Jan Fabre, one of our actresses performed.

Currently, we are also using the co-production model in which our actors perform abroad with La Comédie de Saint-Etienne and the Volksbühne, Berlin.

In May 2008, the Zagreb Youth Theater became a member of the European Theater Convention and thereby joined the Orient Express Theater Project, which brings together six theaters from Turkey, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, and Germany. The goal of the Orient Express project is to create a travelling theater laboratory, a place for theatrical experimentation with the other and the different, questioning identity all the way from Istanbul through south-eastern Europe. The theater train started from Istanbul, stopped at railway stations in the above countries over the next two months, and ended at the International Theatre Festival in Stuttgart.

Following a series of successful co-productions, the Zagreb Youth Theater is now embarking on a new project in co-production with the State Theatre of Braunschweig, which the two companies have jointly submitted to the Wanderlust Fund (German Ministry of Foreign Affairs). The State Theatre of Braunschweig and the Zagreb Youth Theater will use this historic occurrence as a base to develop two ‘teams of pioneers’, comprising actors, playwrights, and directors developing a play at each theatre. While the Braunschweig team will examine the tragic life of David Schwarz, the Zagreb team will investigate how (aeronautical) scientists regard themselves and their profession today. In addition to the shared performances, the theater partnership will include a youth theater project entitled Workshop of Inventions and a personnel exchange.

Zagreb Youth Theatre - On the Other Side

Hosting: Since 2006, guest presentations in the European theater cycle at the Zagreb Youth Theater have included: Animali nella nebbia, Teatro Metastasio della Toscan; Hamlet, Space Productions, Bosnia and Herzegovina; Fedra, Seinendan Theatre, Japan; Alica, Slovenian National Theatre; Grasshoppers, Rails and Hadersfild, Yugoslav Drama Theatre, Belgrade; One and the Other, Slovenian Youth Theatre, Ljubljana; N. Bitef, Balet Preljocaj, France; Cirkus Historija, Yugoslav Drama Theatre; Sclavi: An Emigrant’s Song, Farm in the Cave, Prague; Celebration, choreography by Lenke Flory and Simone Sandroni, EnKnap Group, Slovenia; Pigsty by Pier Paolo Pasolini, directed by Ivica Buljan, Slovenian Permanent Theatre of Trieste; Inbal Pinto’s dance performance Shaker, choreography by Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak, Israel; Sing and Be Joyful, directed by Ruud Gielens, Royal Flemish Theatre of Brussels; The Robbers by Friedrich Schiller, directed by Martin Nimza, Theater and Philharmonic Orchestra of Heidelberg – Städtische Bühne; Macbeth After Shakespeare by Heiner Müller, directed by Ivica Buljan, Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana, Slovenia; Little Red Riding Hood by Joël Pommerat, directed by Sascha Bunge, Theatre an der Parkaue, Berlin; Faust-Fantasy, directed and performed by Peter Stein, coordinated by Change Performing Arts/CRT Artificio; Lowering of the Sky, Slovenian Youth Theatre, Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Zagreb Youth Theatre also organizes the World Theatre festival, which was established in 2003. The last eight seasons in Zagreb have included performances directed by Peter Brook, Eugenio Barba, Robert Lapage, Frank Kastorf, Christof Marthaler, Josef Nadj, Thomas Ostermeier, Eimuntas Nekrosius, Lev Dodiin, Jan Fabre, Heiner Goebbels, Dimiter Gočev, Luc Perceval, Rimas Tuminas, and others.

International collaboration: The cooperation of theatrical artists and theaters from different parts of Europe allows different cultural sensibilities to meet and intertwine, change their experiences, and re-examine each other. The concept of such theater is realized through a call for a general investigation, which spurs on the creation of new dramatic texts and theatrical models, and which, at a certain point, brings about the conditions for a show to be created that will change and define the direction of future theatrical research not only in the host country but also in the whole of Europe. In parallel with European theatrical events, a value system of co-production is also being created within the national theatrical context, by which artists in theater are challenged, and by which the artist should be responsible for locating the active position of theatrical creator. In this way, the Theater’s dramaturgy has carefully started following and figuring out the joint principles of European theater. Every individual theater, in that sense, is like a device catching the signals of today’s world through European and world dramatic and theatrical investigation, coded through the reality of the space from which it comes.

Participation: The Zagreb Youth Theater’s acting, puppet, and dance workshops currently involve more than 14,000 young people, who are learning how to be not only artists and audience but also active citizens in our society.

Neighborhood: Through our program The Cycle of European Theater, we staged many performances in the neighboring countries of the region, trying to inform their audiences about theatrical events in our neighborhood as well as our own theatrical intentions.

Municipality: The Zagreb Youth Theater is owned by the city council of Zagreb.

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