"Puls" (Netherlands), staged by Jolika Sudermann, at MESS Sarajevo 2010 | Photography by Vedad Divović

SARAJEVO —  Randy Gener — the Nathan Award–winning editor, writer and critic — will serve the U.S. juror in an international jury European artists, top editors and prominent critics for the 51st edition of the MESS Sarajevo International Theater Festival  in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the oldest international theatre festival in the Balkans.

Poster of of 2011 MESS Sarajevo International Theater Festiva
Poster of 2011 MESS Sarajevo International Theater Festival

This year’s MESS Sarajevo International Theater Festival takes place from September 30, 2023 until October 9, 2011, presenting 32 performances from all over the world in six festival categories.

Established in 1960 by Jurislav Korenic as the Festival of Small and Experimental Stages, MESS was one of the best theatre events promoting modern theatre expression in the former Yugoslavia. “MESS” stands for Small Experimental Stage.

Today, MESS (Međunarodni teatarski festival Mess) is the most significant annual celebration of theatre art in South-East Europe and takes place in Sarajevo in the second part of October.

This festival is produced by the National Theatre of Sarajevo, famously known as the Bosnian theater where Susan Sontag staged a production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in the midst of the Siege of Sarajevo in 1993. Sontag’s production drew so much attention to the city’s plight that many Bosnians believe it helped end the war. A square outside Sarajevo’s national theater is dedicated to the U.S. writer and activist who died in 2004.

Click here if you want to download the entire 2011 program.

MESS also organises MEMORY MODUL, a project aiming to investigate the way artists deal with the experience of genocide and destruction.

Here is a promotional video created for the 2010 MESS Sarajevo edition on YouTube:

Background and History:
Sarajevo is the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is also known as the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This country is located on the Balkan peninsula, which allows beautiful views, access to water sports and secluded mountainous resorts. Bosnia and Herzegovina is bound by Croatia to the north, northwest and west — and by Montenegro and Serbia to the southeast, east and northeast. The Adriatic Sea attracts a good deal of tourists to this country’s coast, especially the area near Neum.

"Puls" (Netherlands), staged by Jolika Sudermann, at MESS Sarajevo 2010 | Photography by Vedad Divović
"Puls" (Netherlands), staged by Jolika Sudermann, at MESS Sarajevo 2010 | Photography by Vedad Divović

MESS Sarajevo – International Theater Festival presents the world’s top productions (usually numbering 50 shows) in a variety of artistic disciplines, from several continents each year. For almost two weeks each October, the festival becomes a venue for artists to exhibit their art forms and have the opportunity to work with other young artists in order to explore and nourish artistic creation.

Logo of MESS Sarajevo (Medunarodni teatarski-festival MESS) at Bosnia and Herzegovina
Logo of MESS Sarajevo (Medunarodni teatarski-festival MESS) at Bosnia and Herzegovina

MESS Sarajevo festival aims to present works that integrate creative efforts of contemporary dancers and composers alike. By gathering these artists together and sharing their talents with Sarajevo’s community of arts patrons, the festival feels it is making a contribution to the city’s evolution.

“This is a festival with a poignantly international character, which helps us defeat ourselves and our environment, that carries the remnants of hard times,” says Sarajevo Mayor Alija Behmen. In fact, MESS Sarajevo had resisted during the seige of Sarajevo, without interrupting its efforts and even staging some historically significant plays, as well as the first film festival entitled “After the End of the World.” As a result, MESS Sarajevo has gained a cult status.

"Life With an Idiot" by Ukranian director Andriey Zholdak (Romania) at MESS Sarajevo 201
"Life With an Idiot" by Ukranian director Andriey Zholdak (Romania) at MESS Sarajevo 201

In a 2010 address at the National Theatre, Čedo Kisić, one of the initiators and founders of MESS Sarajevo, recalled the words of Ivo Andrić, a Yugoslav novelist, short-story writer and the 1961 winner of the Nobel Prize.

During the festival’s earliest day, Andrić was flying from Sarajevo to attend the Nobel Prize Award ceremony in Stockholm. Kisić remembered: “Reminiscing about the last time he was in Sarajevo, Andrić told me, ‘I am pleased that Sarajevo is the host of a festival which has a future and manifold significance.'”

Logo of International Young Makers' Exchange at MESS Sarajevo
Logo of International Young Makers' Exchange at MESS Sarajevo

Since its establishment in March 1960 — throughout the days of siege and until today — MESS Sarajevo has remained a cultural and a historical phenomenon.

The most important goal of the festival is to promote and advance the cultural particularity of the region, which includes openness to different ideas, views and artists from East and West, North and South.

The artistic director of MESS Sarajevo is Dino Mustafić.

All the plays performing in MESS Sarajevo - International Theater Festival will be subtitled in Bosnia and English.  —RG

Want to know more about Bosnia and Herzegovina?

Watch this YouTube video tour of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the informative website Discover Bosnia:

  • Annedore Wilmes on Peacebuilding in Bosnia-Herzegovina (centrefortheologyandpublicissues.wordpress.com)
  • Angelina Jolie Honored With Heart of Sarajevo Award Cries at Film Festival Video -watch Now! (binsidetv.net)
  • Angelina Jolie Honored at Sarajevo Film Festival (Video) (sugarslam.com)
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina (igaluxy.wordpress.com)
  • What are some of the fun celebrations they have in bosnia (wiki.answers.com)
  • Penelope Cruz Shoots ‘Venuto Al Mondo’ in Sarajevo (justjared.buzznet.com)
  • Pipes, Dough Balls and Roses.. - Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (travelpod.com)
  • Cold, Cold Water - Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina (travelpod.com)
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