Crossings, Influences and Inspirations: American-Serbian Cultural Relations in the Field of Performing Arts

Theater is the art of collaboration between colleagues. This unique feature has enabled a multiple crossover between American and (ex) Yugoslav theatergoers on both continents. The results of the collaboration are exciting and sometimes quite unexpected, and some have grown to become international legends.

Mira Trailović and BITEF, following several guest appearances by Robert Wilson in Belgrade at the start of the 60’s, became producers of the world legendary play, Einstein on the Beach. Following his doctorate at Yale University, Professor Dragan Klaić contributed to the development of a scientific research approach to theater studies at the FDA (and was the first to explain the importance of the use of syllabi and evaluation in teaching). The plays by Sam Shepard and David Mamet were on the regular repertoire in Belgrade and elsewhere, and in some cases represented the act of civil revolt against political repression. With guest appearances throughout America, the DAH Theater opened a space for the regular artistic exchange of projects and educational programs that from Belgrade pulsate through the American educational scene. In the midst of the most severe political and economic crises, immediately after the fall of Milosevic, Vida Ognjenovic began collaborating with Columbia College in Chicago, and during her lectures to American students, worked on the staging of Serbian poetry.

In our research of the influence of American artists on the Yugoslav theater scene, special attention is paid to events and artists who have permanently marked the local space with their guest appearances at festivals, including the celebration of Living Theater and LaMama. On American soil, we conducted video and audio interviews about the experiences of our theater artists, asking them how their work in America on one hand affected the American environment, and their personal later work on the other. Among those whose answers you can hear in the webinar presented on this web-site page are Chicago director ‘dado’ on the work of Uglješa Šajtinac at the TUTA theater, director Lenka Udovički who worked in Los Angeles and producer Milena Trobozić in Washington – the screening of the play based on the text by Snežana Gnjidić was interrupted due to the pandemic.

Theaters in America as well as in Serbia have been hit hard today by the consequences of the pandemic. But it is certain, that new collaborations, new successes, new interesting encounters between the American and our artists will be a part of our near future.

Presentation and Discussion

Taking part in the discussion:
Milena Dragićević Šešić, Nataša Vučurović Đukić, Silvija Jestrović, Ana Miljanić, Dijana Milošević, Lenka Udovički


  • 1969 -

    The Yugoslav premiere of Hair at theatre “Atelje 212,” directed by Mira Trailović & Zoran Ratković

  • 1971 -

    Robert Wilson first visit to Belgrade at BITEF (Belgrade International Theatre Festival). Later participations with A Letter for Queen Victoria and Einstein on the Beach (coproduced by BITEF)

  • 1975 -

    Macbeth directed by Arsa Jovanović. La Mama Theater from New York participates at BITEF with The Trojan Women, directed by Andrej Šerban.

    La Mama continues to visit Yugoslavia regularly at BITEF and other festivals like BELEF, when Ivana Vujić was the program director.

  • 1981 -

    Arsa Jovanović directs Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello at SUNY Albany (Fulbright program)

  • 1982 -

    The Liberation of Skopje, directed by Ljubiša Ristić  tours the U.S. in Chicago, after a sudden bankruptcy of the planned venue, the show is performed in a funeral home.

  • 1994 -

    Oleanna by David Mamet, directed by Vida Ognjenović performed incognito at the “Atelje 212”

  • 1996 -

    Living Theatre is the guest of BITEF and performs their play Mysteries and Short Sketches. Open Theatre and 7 Stages are the guests of BITEF with the play 1969 Terminal 1996

    Alterimage Festival at CZKD. Site-specific performances Listen, Little Men devised by Ana Miljanić, CZKD

    “DAH Teatar” and Dijana Milošević start a long-term collaboration with the 7 Stages Theatre from Atlanta. The collaboration lasts for almost two decades involving exchanges of theater plays and co-productions

  • 1999-2002 -

    Academic exchange between the Art Academy in Novi Sad and Columbia College Chicago (CCC). Vida Ognjenović and Boro Drašković are visiting lecturers at CCC, with Brian Shaw visiting Novi Sad.

  • 2006-2007 -

    The TUTA Theatre from Chicago presents the season of contemporary Serbian drama in English with productions of Huddersfield written by Uglješa Sajtinac (directed by ‘dado’) and Tracks by Milena Marković (directed by Željko Đukić).

  • 2008-2009 -

    Lenka Udovički teaches at UCLA. Udovički directs MEDEA in Los Angeles.

  • 2012 -

    The Serbian National Theatre presents The Doll Ship by Milena Marković, directed by Ana Tomović at the La Mama Theatre in New York

  • 2020 -

    The world premiere production of Einstein’s Wife by Snežana Gnjidić, translated by Milena Garfield, is staged at the EXPAT theater in Washington DC. The opening night was at the beginning of March 2020; most of the run was later cancelled due to the pandemic.


Dr. Milena Dragićević Šešić, former President of University of Arts, Belgrade, now Head of UNESCO Chair in Interculturalism, Art Management and Mediation at the University of Arts Belgrade, professor of Cultural Policy & Cultural Management, Cultural studies, Media studies. Member of National Council for Science (2006-2010). Diplomas: D.E.A. Paris VIII 1977, Mag. University of Arts Belgrade (1981), and Ph.D. in Literature and Communication University of Belgrade (1990).
Board member of the European Diploma in Cultural Project Management (Marcel Hicter, Bruxelles) & EQ-Arts, Amsterdam; former ENCATC, IUC and ELIA Board Member. Adviser to the Minister of Culture Republic of Serbia (2007-2008). Commandeur dans l`Ordre des Palmes Academiques (French Ministry of Education) 2002.  ENCATC Fellowship Laureate 2019. University of Arts Laureate in 2004 & 2019.

Natasha Vuchurovich Dukich (Nataša Vučurović-Đukić) is a Chicago-based theater designer and educator.  Most recent theater credits include Scapino at Gulfshore Playhouse in Naples, Florida, as well as Gentle at TUTA and The FundamentalsBetween Riverside and Crazy and Grand Concourse at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. Natasha is a founding member of the TUTA Theatre, where she designs costumes and occasionally sets.  Natasha taught theatre design and design history classes at James Madison University in Virginia and Loyola University Chicago.  TUTA design projects include sets and costumes for Music Hall and costume design for BaalUncle Vanya, Brecht’s The Wedding and many more.  Other Chicago credits include projects at Trap Door, Theatre Y, Theatre at The Center, Light Opera works, European Rep, Northwestern University Opera, Roosevelt, and DePaul University Operas.  Nationally Natasha’s work has been seen in Washington DC (most notably at Woolly Mammoth Theatre), LA, New York, Richmond VA, and internationally in the former Yugoslavia.  Independent feature film costume designs include Black Mail and Cast in Grey. Fun fact: She designed costume for Robin Lopez in a short Alice in Wonderland inspired movie for the Chicago Bulls that was featured on ESPN in December. Natasha holds an MFA in Costume Design from University of Maryland, College Park.

See Natasha’s work at www.


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