Member Spotlight: Ibadete Abazi
Ibadete Abazi is a screenwriter/playwright, born in 1990 in Kosovo (former Yugoslavia). She is currently completing her MFA in Dramaturgy at the University of Prishtina's Art Faculty.
She holds a Bachelor of Dramaturgy from the same University. Abazi's first play, entitled Soldier of Two Wars was produced on December 2015 at Kosovo's Dodona Theatre.
The play is considered a very powerful production, whose focus is an American soldier who served in Balkan conflicts - specifically the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo - and married a wealthy Albanian Kosovar. The play has been translated from the original Albanian into English and Turkish
Ibadete Abazi is a screenwriter /playwright, born in 1990 in Kosovo (former Yugoslavia). She is currently completing her MFA in Dramaturgy at the University of Prishtina's Art Faculty. She holds a Bachelor of Dramaturgy from the same University.
badete Abazi is a screenwriter/playwright, born in 1990 in Kosovo (former Yugoslavia). She is currently completing her MFA in Dramaturgy at the University of Prishtina's Art Faculty. She holds a Bachelor of Dramaturgy from the same University. Abazi's first play, entitled Soldier of Two Wars was produced on December 2015 at Kosovo's Dodona Theatre.
The play is considered a very powerful production, whose focus is an American soldier who served in Balkan conflicts - specifically the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo - and married a wealthy Albanian Kosovar. The play has been translated from the original Albanian into English and Turkish. Abazi has also authored two other plays entitled Female Fragrance and Two Enemies and Soldiers, both produced in Kosovo in 2016. She is married to Kosovar-American actor Avni Abazi, and they have two daughters. In the foreseeable future, Abazi plans to live and work in the United States
Q: Why did you become a playwright?
A: It's funny how life sometimes pulls you into unexpected directions in your profession. The truth is that I never thought someday I would ever become a playwright, even though during my teenage years I wrote poetry.
I was at the end of my high school studies for architecture, when I met my actor boyfriend, who is now my husband. Following high school graduation, I tried to get into the faculty of Architecture at the University of Prishtina, but because of stiff competition, I wasn't accepted. I was very disappointed, but Avni, my then-boyfriend approached me and said that it wasn't the end of the world, because there are other things as beautiful as architecture.
He proceeded to place on a table volumes written by Shakespeare, Arthur Miller and Chekhov, noting that “books can be the biggest pain-relievers at the most disappointing times of our lives”. After reading Chekhov's The Boor, I asked Avni why he had given me only theatre plays to review. He replied that if I decided to write plays, he may have the chance to act in them someday. However, he continued, if I became an architect, he may never enjoy living in any of the buildings that I might design.
Finally, he asked me what I ultimately wanted to be in my professional life. He opined that as an architect I would help to create buildings, but as a playwright, I would have the opportunity to enhance and beautify the human spirit. And that’s how it all started.
For six months, I pored over the authors' works that Avni had recommended, and then diligently prepared for study at the Faculty of Arts. I remember the first dialogue that I wrote. Avni suggested that I plumb my memory in order to call to mind the most unique and different characters that I knew from life, and unite them.
Doing that, he said, may potentially create a conflict, and when you have the latter, you have a perfect recipe for drama. Even now as I am doing my masters, that’s the principle I apply when starting any script or a writing play.
Looking back, I couldn't be happier that I wasn't accepted into the architecture program.
Q: Are there any special challenges in being a female playwright?
A: Well, it's an out-of-the-gate challenge, because your work is judged by a double-measure compared with your male counterparts. You are obligated to create higher-quality work than a man, not because someone forces you to do it, but because you feel that in all of the discussions, male authors are held up as the best models in writing.
I personally feel lucky, because three of my plays have been produced by my husband, and I have been cooperating with him even while being produced. Now that I've passed the test on staging here in Kosovo, I've been working with an excellent British female translator named Alexandra Channer, and the good news is that we've received a positive response from Kosovo's Ministry of Culture (MOC).
We are pleased about the MOC's decision to finance the three-play publication in English. We also believe that my plays have universal themes, even though the subject matter is taken from Kosovar life. For example, the play Female Fragrance, deals with the topic of rape, and I think that everywhere in the world, women are vulnerable to many types of abuse.
I also think that Two Enemies and Soldiers, which focuses on two enemies (one Serb and one Albanian) who are fleeing from the war could be a drama that might be produced in Austria, and involve a Jew and a Palestinian. It could also take place in New York City, and deal with an American and a German in the aftermath of World War II.
So I can say that it has been a challenge to work as a playwright in Kosovo, but all things considered, I believe I've succeeded in achieving my goals. And I hope and pray that I'll find success in the U.S.A. as well.
Q: What is special about theater in Southeastern Europe?
A: I would consider the answer to lie in our great diversity of culture, as well as the major political changes from communism to democracy that the region has undergone. The latter have led to numerous senseless wars, and the suffering that people have experienced are, for good or for bad, inexhaustible resources for playwrights.
That said however, up to this point, has Southeastern Europe, otherwise known as the Balkans, utilized these events to create the best plays and novels? I really don't think so. Even years after the Yugoslav wars have ended, theatres in this part of Europe are still characterized by extreme nationalism.
Authors and directors, in many cases, have become complicit with the nationalist politics of their respective governments in almost all former Yugoslav nations. Some well-known writers who found success in the 1990s today ply their trade for daily consumption.
Depending on which country the play is produced in, theaters attempt to show that their nation's people are upstanding and progressive-minded, and entrusted with sacred missions.
The neighboring people, with whom they once fought, are formulaically introduced as evil and corrupt. The enemy, as in the case of Muslim Bosnians and Kosovar Albanians, are often typecast as terrorists.
No matter how good a play may be that is written by say, a Croatian author, it is extremely difficult for that work to be staged in Serbia or other Balkan countries. The situation is even harder with ethnic-Albanian authors from Kosovo, because of the large presence of the international community, and the latter's influence on local artists.
In Kosovo, following the war's end in 1999, the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) helped to engender a spirit of forgiveness towards the Milosevic regime, with regard to the crimes perpetrated by Belgrade's directive in the region. And so the artistic community found itself in a difficult situation: Some adopted the same exclusionary attitude that was prevalent in other former Yugoslav countries, in order to create a kind of national folk-theater.
Others lobbied for international funds, and staged improvisations that cast negative aspersions on "outsiders and enemies". A third category violated Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) laws by performing international theatre plays - after translating them into Albanian - and producing/publishing them as their own.
I should also note that there is a popular trend among theater managers to seek offerings by American and European authors. In my opinion, this is an unfortunate development, because millions of dollars have been invested in promoting Kosovar culture by foreign foundations over the past 17, post-war years.
However, if you ask the average person whether any noteworthy local playwright has appeared on the arts-scene resulting from all of this outside "financial encouragement", the answer is an emphatic no. I therefore think the time has come for these small Southeastern European nations to form an open dialogue, and to organize dramaturgy competitions.
I am confident that the results of such collaboration would be of interest to European and American theaters, as something exotic and different for those audiences.I have, by the way, competed in dozens of American theaters with my two dramas, but have ironically been unable to break into a sole competition in the much closer neighboring countries.
It is tragi-comic, I think, that playwrights from this region need to work very industriously to be produced in western theatres, only after which our local theatres will recognize our value and produce our plays.
Q: What advice would you give to your fellow (or aspiring) playwrights?
A: If you go to a zoo to be entertained, you see a variety of wild animals locked in their cages. In my plays, I undo the latches and attempt to set the creatures free.
Thereafter, the beasts fight for their territories - for their rights, if you will. It is this catalyst that creates a conflict, which quickly evolves into a drama. That said, find the zoo both within you and around you, and throw them together. At that point, you're good to go with the resulting mix. I actually think I read that formula in an Ingmar Bergman biography.
Welcome New Member
Sidra Rausch, USA
Thank you to all those who participated in the online Annual Meeting for all ICWP members. All Board of Trustee members were reinstated with the welcome addition of Lilian Cauldwell. In the Board Meeting that followed, these officers were elected.
President - Sophia Romma
Vice President - Lucia Verona
Treasurer - Rita Barkey
Secretary - Sharon Wallace
Now Playing & Coming Soon
If you have a play or a reading between June 1 – June 30, please email Amy (firstname.lastname@example.org) before May 15 and it will be featured in the NOW PLAYING column of the June newsletter. Any play or reading in July will appear in the COMING SOON column.
May 2017 Half Full, Catherine Frid's play about youth anxiety for grades 7 - 10 is receiving a school tour by Mixed Company Theatre in Toronto, CANADA.
May 3 Come and seeAct Like a Feminist Artist. Guerrilla Girl Aphra Behn speaks, signs, and unmasks at CalPoly, Pomona, California, USA
Faye Sholiton’s Funny Valentine will be produced as part of the Stray Kats Theatre Company's "Still Crazy After All These Years" festival, one of 8 short plays for folks over 55. Newtown, Connecticut, USA May 5, 6, 7 Hamden, Connecticut, USA May 11, 12, 13
Elana Gartner's new play Before Lesbians will be receiving a staged reading at her 20th reunion at Oberlin College. Directed by Zoe Kushlefsky, class of 2018. May 20, Oberlin, Ohio. USA Warner Building.
An excerpt of Nancy Gall-Clayton's full-length comedy Lightening Up is one of several featured May 19-27, at Khaos Company Theatre in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
God Bless Phyllis Schlafly, a ten-minute play by Amy Drake examining the women’s movement in America, will be playing July 15 & 16 as part of the MITF Short Play Lab, New York, New York, USA
The Mess, a 10-minute play by Catherine Frid that explores memory and forgetting, and the importance of reaching out across generations, will be playing at the NewMarket National Play Festival on July 22. Ontario, CANADA
Articles of Interest
The national Theatre of Kosovo hosts a growing performing arts scene in Pristina.
Poland is home to the Polski Theatre in Wroclaw, the Gdansk Shakespeare Festival and the International Theatre Schools Festival.
The Czech Republic has a thriving theatre scene, including experimental and puppet theatre.
The State Jewish Theater in Bucharest, Romania is keeping Yiddish culture alive.
In Ukraine, civilians and soldiers are collaborating on stage to exorcise war-related trauma.
Yours for innovative, engaging and equitable theater,