In the old days, the city of Mostar was characterized as a “city obsessed by theater“ by those better and smarter than us. Ever since the 19th century, professional and amateur theater performances have been performed here; the enthusiasts were directing and acting, making backdrops, sewing costumes, and writing for theater and about theater. The audience, happy and well-dressed, rushed to the theater to watch new performances or to revise their opinion of those they had already seen.
Back then, the first puppet shows in Mostar were performances of Karagoz, a traditional Turkish shadow theater. They were performed either in the taverns and gardens of richer houses, or at city squares and fairs. But already in the late 1930s, Đorđe Bovan, a pioneer of contemporary puppetry in Mostar, began making his first puppet shows. To begin with, he gathered enthusiastic amateurs who had fallen in love with puppetry, and started transferring his knowledge of the stage life of puppets, which he accumulated during puppet training in Ljubljana.
Finally, in 1952, the first professional Puppet Theater was established in Mostar. It was (and still is) situated in the former building of the Jewish Synagogue in the neighbourhood called Brankovac, and Đorđe Bovan was appointed as its first Manager. Puppetry in our city soon became recognized and famous; the constantly growing success of this “Theater House in Brankovac“ made it one of the most important puppetry-related facts in the former Yugoslavia. Furthermore, according to many theater critics and theorists of the 1970s and 1980s, Puppet Theater of Mostar was acknowledged as one of the best puppet theaters in the country at the time.
This was true until the last decade of the 20th century and the latest war atrocities. At that point, heavy darkness fell on all the stages of this city, which was, interestingly, famous for its light. The spotlights went off and applause died down. However, even then, tiny lights of theatrical hope, like fireflies in the darkness, remained smoldering to preserve the spark of theater fire for the future. And as soon as the evil times passed, the theaters in Mostar renewed their work – in war-torn buildings with poor conditions, in cold, damp and dusty spaces and creaking stages, hypothermic actors warmed themselves only to the flames of love for theater art.
So, the Puppet Theater of Mostar had to start from scratch too – with new people to form a small and inexperienced ensemble, and with a new audience that made it worth starting all over. And again, just like a firefly, it started glowing from the depths of darkness. The Puppet Theater of Mostar managed to emerge again and educate its actors, enriching them with the experience they gained through collaboration with the best European puppet directors, set designers, creators and masters of puppets. As a result, in the last decade alone, the Theater has won over 50 awards at domestic and international puppet festivals, and has performed in fifteen countries receiving praise wherever they went, both from theater professionals as well as from the large audiences.
Hence, the time has come for Puppet Theater of Mostar to glow in the dark again, just like a firefly.
We have long been pondering over the idea of launching a Puppet art festival in Mostar. By doing so, we would be able to treat our city to a genuine puppetry feast. We would bring dear and cheerful guests who are willing to do their best to make such a festival come true and to merge and unite the whole city into a large puppet stage. This city, that has always been known for its unparalleled beauty and warm hospitality, craves for a festival designed for the whole city, for both children and adults, and for all those whose imagination can still emit beauty and happiness, as well as for all those who believe Mostar needs to be even wider, more open and even more beautiful. Now is a good time to launch such a festival.
So, we wish to send an invitation to our puppeteer friends from all over the world to be a part of the very first Puppet Art Festival in Mostar in September 2021. Having in mind that puppeteers are widely known as people of good will, we genuinely hope they’ll respond positively and support our bold initiative. We gladly make a solemn promise to provide a quality festival, a wonderful atmosphere and our heart in an open palm. At the same time, we are able to guarantee that our city, without a doubt, will get a lot of wonderful plays and performances and, at least during the festival days, an atmosphere worthy of a true city of art and artists, which aspires and which truly can become the European Capital of Culture in the future.
We kindly invite our fellow puppeteers from all over the world to submit their best performances for the Puppet Art Festival in Mostar. We shall be good hosts to them, our city will be their second home during the festival, and our audience will become their best friend.
The first Puppet Art Festival in Mostar will be held from September 26 to 30, 2021.