You imagine, I create

The spaces of theatre workshops represent corners, hidden far from the eyes of the audience.

These are spaces filled with leftover materials, excess wood, pieces of cloth on the floor, sawdust on the cutting table, a space with a specific smell of glue and paint, freshly brewed coffee, early in the morning… spaces where sounds of machines can be heard, sounds of radios coming from the background… sounds of laughter that arise in the work process. This process is a time of continuous exchange of ideas and experiences, first of something that is intangible and immaterial, just an idea, which then takes its material form and is born through the art and craft of shaping materials.

People who inhabit these spaces have years of inherited or acquired experience; they defy the time in which mass production has assumed absolute primacy in all spheres of human life. Everything that is made in the workshop has its own specific path of creation, the time it takes to rest, the time it takes for one material to “get to know” another, for the colour to settle on the surface of the material, for the right machine to be used on a certain material… craftsmen understand the duration of this journey because their gifted eyes that assess the possibilities, and their skilled hands that connect everything, have been doing it for a long time.

When the curtain rises or the first lights are turned on, everything that has been made on the stage until then looks as if it was just dropped there, in front of the audience, with great ease, having the time of making it, the anxieties about whether it will work or not, the injuries of valued hands, remain hidden far away, far in the spaces behind the curtain.

Every theatre has its own craftsmen, especially skilled in some work; it also has storage rooms which contain various admired objects, which testify to the importance of the skill of the crafts that create magic. Memories are often recounted in theatres of an upholsterer who was extremely skilful and neat, of a wig maker who could make anything, of a carpenter whose scenery looked perfect, and whose chair could do anything and even fly… they are all beautiful memories and beautiful stories.

Today, more and more of those workshops are closing down and the crafts are becoming forgotten.

In my work, what I remember the most is the feeling of admiration and gratitude to all the craftsmen who were able to bring my ideas to life and who selflessly shared their experience with me.

I remember a premiere in a theatre in the south of Serbia, when the craftsmen who participated in the realization of the scene design arrived at the end of the joint work, now dressed in formal clothes, in white shirts, accompanied by their wives, to praise me, because they were rightly proud of their work; such an attitude towards work is the most beautiful thing you can meet. The creation of a theatre performance is a collective act and the contribution of craftsmanship is as important as the artistic one, that is why the mentioned sense of pride was the most accurate thing I’ve ever seen in relation to theatre work.

The world of magic happens on stage, but behind the theatre curtains, in the workshops, a real world takes place, one that deserves great respect, and above all, that deserves the continuation of the tradition of handing down the craft.

Today, more and more of these workshops are closing down and the crafts are becoming forgotten. If art is a reflection of reality, reality will be the moment when the aesthetic image offered by the theatre will be reduced to ready-made, i.e. objects that are only available for purchase, so the spaces of our imagination will only remain an, unproduced, idea.

If we can do something to prevent that from being the future, now is the time to do so. We need to go behind the curtain, open the doors of workshops, talk to people, and redirect young people to learn theatrical crafts whose skills can be combined with the new ones offered by the new, technological world.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Selena Orb