Newcomers, a play directed by a York instructor, wins four awards in Serbia

Although its beginnings were modest, Newcomers, a play adapted and directed by Glendon drama studies course director Aleksandar Lukac (MFA ‘95), has done remarkably well winning four Grand Prix Awards at the 44th annual Joakim Vujic Theater Festival last weekend in Serbia.

Right: A scene from the play Newcomers

The play had its start as a street performance piece called Newcomer, staged by Lukac at last summer’s international Open Arc Theatre (OAT) cluster conference in Uzice, Serbia, which attracted participants from England, Holland, Slovenia and Bosnia in addition to Canada.

The aim of OAT is to explore inner and outer spaces of theatre through workshops and art production, festival organizing, performing arts, music programs, tourist and other creative economy projects. Lukac’s play received such "significant initial success" at OAT that a fully-staged, but somewhat different, version of the play was created and given the revised title, Newcomers.

Newcomers is a co-production of OAT and the National Theater of Uzice, where it has been part of that theatre’s repertoire since last summer. Selected to compete in the Joakim Vujic Theater Festival this spring, it beat 17 other productions from south Serbia to win Best Show, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Music Score.

Left: Aleksandar Lukac

"It was really exciting," says Lukac, whose play is an adaptation of the 1910 novel Dosljaci (Newcomers) by Serbian writer Milutin Uskokovic, hailed as the first Serbian author exploring the themes of Serbian internal migrations in the years preceding the First World War. His book, Dosljaci, follows a small town writer’s survival in Belgrade who falls into the traps of a metropolitan lifestyle, where his love affair with a spinster ends in her suicide, as the world around them starts descending into the war.

With the unrest that has plagued the Balkan region, Lukac has only recently begun working in Serbian theatres again. In 2006, he directed Roger Vitrac’s Victor or Children in Power at the National Theater in Uzice, following a 14-year hiatus. 

Right: A scene from the play Newcomers

In the late 1980s, Lukac was at the very centre of political theatre controversy in the former Yugoslavia with his productions of Class Enemy (Theater Group Plexus Boris Pilnyak, Belgrade) and Three Sisters a Hundred Years Later (Zvezdara Theater, Belgrade). He has had success with productions of Voyzeck and Ruzevic’s Trap in 1987 and 1990 in Uzice, and has directed over 50 professional productions in Canada since 1992.