Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fifth Annual International Monodrama Festival "Alabamono 2010"

I was delighted to meet Barbara Tzetzo Gosch - albeit electronically - where we have exchanged pleasant Albanian stories and anecdotes over the past year. Barbara's enthusiastic (and contagious)Albanianism - "Shqipetarizme" - has impressed me greatly, so I'm pleased to post her participation in the recent international festival held in Korce in southern Albania (where I was born) described below.


Fifth Annual International Monodrama Festival “Alabamono 2010”

By Barbara Tzetzo Gosch

It was an exciting week filled with stimulating theatrical performances, international actors, and directors from six different countries!

The whole time I was in Albania, where I was a juror at the International Monodrama Festival (Korçë) and met guests from several Eastern European countries, I thought of those reading this blog. I realize how curious you are about “Albania Today” and believe you would have thoroughly enjoyed being in my shoes.

While at the festival, I couldn’t help but think, “Perhaps it’s though Creativity and the Arts where countries will find peace?” In addition, I agree with one of the jurors Rada Djurcin (the famous Serbian actress) who said that two things should be remembered about festivals. Generally, people in the arts develop them and “festivals serve as a bridge or link between the countries they represent.”

This was certainly demonstrated through my experience. In addition, my recent trip (compared to 1995) furthered an appreciation of my Albanian, ethnic roots. I was impressed with how much Albania has changed, is changing, and will continue in this direction. For example, visitors traveling to Korçë, now, will discover that there’s central plumbing which works efficiently. In fact, Korçë may have the best drinking water in all of Albania. Most likely this is the result of the government upgrading certain areas of the country based on various criteria. One will also notice that electricity functioned well.

I found Korçë (where my parents were born and two siblings) to be a charming and still quaint city, with tree lined boulevards, little shops, and specialty stories. I even found a supermarket (with everything) where prices were less, just as in the U.S. Since I had lived in Paris, earlier in my life, I couldn’t help but compare it to that city. I was happy to see that although, new villas, hotels, and buildings had been constructed (on the whole) the city seemed to try and maintain a certain old world charm. This was true of the hotel where I stayed.

While I could write pages on “changes seen” (note: I avoided mentioning the cars) I’ll return to the Festival which was the reason I agreed to go on this trip. It began with “Opening Night” at the “Ringjallja e Krishtit” (Christ Resurrection) Cathedral where many of the monolog performances occurred. Other monologs were held at the Andon Zako Çajupi Theater named after the leading Albanian poet and playwright (1866-1930) and in nearby villages. These visited areas often pertained to the atmosphere of the monolog performed.

Along with the other jurors, Nina Mazur (Chief Juror and Ukrainian, who lives in Germany) Rada Djurcin (Serbian actress mentioned earlier) and Ahmet Jakupi (Director of Albanian Theater in Skopje) we were welcomed in grand fashion. The women all received a lovely bouquet of flowers and another night the jurors had ribbons.

This unique experience was due to the commitment of Dhimiter Orgocka (Director of Albamono 2010 who is Albania’s leading actor and director). He brought the festival to Korçë five years ago. I can tell you that I was happy and thrilled to raise my glass to several “gëzuars” in Orgocka’s honor which were well deserved. Also, Angelo Kondili (Coordinator of International Guests and Technical Affairs) along with Edmond Xhumari* (Coordinator with artistic teams) and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports of Albania—all contributed to this successful international event.

I’d like to write from my house in Eau Claire, Wisconsin — my journey to Korce was a real challenge. Prior to my departure there was concern about “take off?” The Icelandic volcano had affected overseas travel with thousands stranded in Europe. In addition, I had only one half hour to make my connection in Munich to board my flight connection to Tirana. The festival was (May 16 to May 21) so I had no time to spare.

However, from the beginning (when I considered going to Albania) I thought, “Surely, I’ll be safe flying into Mother Teresa Airport? My feelings were confirmed. I can say that I’m thrilled to have been a part of this marvelous festival that taught me so much about the arts, people, and enlarged my world view. Plus, I ate the best food of my life and didn’t gain a pound. There must be something to that Mediterranean diet.


*CORRECTION: Edmond Xhumari participated in 2009, not 2010.


At October 7, 2010 at 5:47 PM , Blogger Van Christo said...

That was most intersting, Barbara, and you have an easy and readable writing style. Put, please, tell us more about the Festival itself! For example, for WHAT did you serve as a juror? What were the various subjects, topics, scripts, etc. being judged? How did you get selected as a juror? etc, etc...

More details, pul-eeze!?

At October 12, 2010 at 8:13 PM , Anonymous Barbara Tzetzo Gosch said...

These are good questions, and I'm glad you asked. Essentially, there were (2-3) monologues daily performed during the week that I was in Albania. The plays were performed in the actors' own language. Thus, it was necessary before each performance to have a brief summary of the monologue translated in English, so I could understand it. This isn't to say that all judges knew English fluently or that judges knew the
languages of all the other Balkan countries represented. However, it was felt that we could determine quality of acting and artistic interpretation of the monodramas.
Allow me to describe a few of the plays and the artists in them. Mirjana Vukojcic from Serbia, split the best female actor award with Joanna Popouska, from Macedonia. Vukojcic was good enough to give me her entire script in English. I read it until 2:00 a.m. the night before her performance, and it brought tears to my eyes. The story was true and based on a Serbian woman who "survived" being sent to an island off of Serbia by Tito. There was an entire colony of (Serbian) women (men too) who had been sent there and tortured during Tito's reign and by Serbians. The play was based on a famous book (I was told) by a Serbian writer. While I don't have his name now, I'm sure someone familiar with Serbian literature does. It was
one of the most gripping stories I have read.
Plays varied in content and perhaps this was indicative, too, of the variety of Balkan countries represented. For example, another monologue was
"The Silver Wedding." During this performance the audience was part of the play and we indulged in champagne and other niceties-so that we felt we were
part of the performance. However, the plot was a reflective piece about why the marriage failed and the character's life. In another play, a young actor
in his twenties performed in Diary of a Madman. He actually used a real razor and cut himself in several places for dramatic effect. Needless to say
this was quite powerful as he stood there in his shorts with blood, etc. The props were amazing. Best male actor went to Elmir Sejfullai (Tetovo) for
his monodrama of life by Josip Pejakovic.
The last night of the Festival, Dhimiter Orgocha(who started the Festival)performed and he brought the house down. Orgocha did a monologue on depicting a Blood Freud within an Albanian family.

I was invited to be a juror at the festival for a few reasons. My cousin, Angelo Kondili (Coordinator of International Guests and Technology) has been
greatly involved in the festival with Dhimiter Orgocka for five years. Angelo (who's an engineer and has technical expertise, is fluent in numerous
languages, English being only one of them). We have grown closer given the internet. He knew that I was a published writer of multicultural literature
and a consultant. Since I had traveled and lived abroad, he offered me this unique opportunity. Also, it was my understanding that the organizers of the festival would like to see it grow in popularity and become more international. Since my family was from Korce and I live in the U.S.A., it was how you say, "a good match."


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