Serbian National Theatre since 1861
16/28 July 1861
Serbian National Theatre was founded in Novi Sad, in the, then, Austro-Hungarian Empire, during a conference of Serbian National Theatre Society, founded by the Serbian Reading Room (“Srpska čitaonica”). Svetozar Miletić, one of the founding fathers, along with Stevan Branovački, Jovan Đorđević and Jovan Jovanović Zmaj, presided the session. The Society had a Board of Directors headed by the Chairman, with two Departments: Theatre, which took care of the acting troupe, repertoire and other relevant professional issues, and Commercial, which provided funds for the Theatre operations.
First General Manager was Jovan Đorđević.
The Theatre was founded with nine actors: Dimitrije Ružić, Dimitrije Marković Kikinđanin, Nikola Nedeljković, Kosta Hadžić, Mihailo Gavrilović, Mihailo Rac(ković), Mladen Cvejić, Stevan Čekić and Draginja Popović (married Ružić), and on the next day, 17 July, were hired: Ljubica Popović, Milica Grunčić and Nikola Zorić.
23 July/4 August 1861
First plays were performed: Prijatelji Lazara Lazarevića (“Friends of Lazar Lazarević”) and Muški metod i ženska majstorija (“Male Method and Female Craft”) by Lajoš Kever.
Jovan Đorđević, responded to the request by the Duke Mihailo and left with half of the acting staff to Belgrade to establish the National Theatre, being replaced by Antonije Hadžić.
The Theatre performed in many towns of Vojvodina, and also had guest performances outside of it. In Novi Sad, performances were staged on the first floor of the inn “Kod sunca”, in the hall of the „Kod kraljice Jelisavete” inn (today- hotel “Vojvodina”), in summer in the arena of „Kod Zelenog venca” (today’s Apolo-centre), in the period 1872 to 1892 when the building located at Trifković trg was demolished, and from 1895 in Dunđerski Theatre (located in the yard of “Vojvodina” hotel of today, burnt down in the fire of 22 January 1928), a building that the large real estate owner Lazar Dunđerski consigned to the Serbian National Theatre.
26 December 1871
Theatre started with publishing activities; first issue of the «Theatre» magazine was published. The editor was Antonije Hadžić. As of 1872, the Theatre started the edition “Zbornik pozorišnih dela” (“Almanac of Theatre Plays”), where domestic dramatic texts, as well as translations of foreign writers that were on the repertoire of Serbian National Theatre were published.
Antonije Hadžić managed the Theatre until 1879, then the temporary General Manager Dimitrije Ružić until 1892, and then again Atonije Hadžić followed by Dimitrije Ružić until 1904, Branislav Nušić, then Pera Dobrinović until 1911, and finally, up to the WWI- Žarko Savić.
12/25 January 1919
First performance in the post war period: Hey, Slavs by Rista Odavić was held in the Dunđerski Theatre hall. Opening ceremony of the Theatre began with an appropriate song The Prologue by Anica Savić Rebac.
After WWI, Vojvodina became part of a new state. Under harsh conditions, without government aid, Serbian National Theatre Society revived operations of the Theatre. General Manager and President of the Association was Doctor Đura Trifković.
22 December 1919
During the Society’s Assembly the Theatre became a state property, and operated under the name Serbian National Theatre of Novi Sad until 31 December 1921.
Operetta was founded, followed by Opera, at a later stage.
In the spirit of Yugoslavism, all nationally related connotations were removed from the titles of government institutions in 1921, so Serbian National Theatre became National Theatre. After the fire in which the building of Dunđerski Theatre burnt down (22-23 January 1928) the National Theatre was left homeless.
The Government soon reduced the subsidy, and in March 1926 it joined the National Theatre in Novi Sad and Osijek National Theatre in one theatre, under the name Novi Sad-Osijek Theatre, with headquarters in Osijek. This theatre operated as such until 1934.
17 February 1924
The Society gave back the name to the troupe, and it began operating again as Serbian National Theatre until August 1937.
Banovina Government stopped already small subsidy to the SNT, and allocated a substantial amount to the National Theatre in Belgrade to establish a Section of the National Theatre of Danube Banovina which would give performances in Novi Sad and around Vojvodina. This Section was operational only in the Season 1934/35.
As of 15 August 1937, two Sections of the National Theatre of the Danube Banovina operated on the territory of Vojvodina. Based on the Resolution (signed on 29 January 1937) on Cooperation between Prince Regent Pavle’s National Theatre of Danube Banovina and Board of Directors of the Society for SNT, Serbian National Theatre operates under these conditions until 14 May 1939, when the Association breaks the Cooperation Agreement, so the Serbian National Theatre with (its) Society continues to operate independently until the breakout of WWII.
1941 – 1944
Beginning of war marks the end of any form of theatre life in Novi Sad. Part of the National Theatre of Danube Banovina was temporarily allocated in Smederevo, where seventeen actors died in a horrific explosion of ammunition storage facility. Reminder of the troupe continued to work in Pančevo, under the name of the Danube National Theatre, or Theatre of the Danube Banovina.
17 March 1945
First performance after the liberation: Invasion by Leonid Leonov.
From December 1944, until December 1951 it operates under the name National Theatre of Vojvodina. Initially the performances were played at the Hungarian Roman Catholic Reading Room situated in the Port of the church, and in summer 1945 was opened the Summer Stage in the Port itself. Building of the Cultural Centre (ex- Sokolski dom, toady - Youth Theatre) was conceded to the Theatre in 1947.
Apart from the stage in the Cultural Centre, SNT opened another one at Jovana Subotića street no. 5, named in January 1961 “Playhouse Ben Akiba” (today - Novosadsko pozorište/ Ujvideki sinhaz).
Serbian National Theatre established Opera in 1947 and Ballet in 1950.
First post-war General Manager was Žarko Vasiljević, followed by, among others: Vlada Popović, Stanislav Bajić, Bogdan Čiplić, Jovan Konjović, Dušan Popović, Radomir Radujkov, Miloš Hadžić (whose management period from 1958 to 1979 is referred to as “The Golden Age of SNT”) and many others.
28 March 1981
Precisely 120 years after its inception, SNT moved to the current location. Serbian National Theatre marks 28 March as the date of its anniversary. This is the day when achievements from the previous year are being summarised, and meritorious members awarded. Most prestigious award presented is the “Jovan Đorđević Award”.
In the area of international cooperation, apart from regular guest performances in the Regional countries (ex-Yugoslav republics, Romania, Hungary, Slovak Republic, Austria...), Serbian National Theatre carries out joint projects within the European Theatre Convention (one of the most prominent European theatre associations, connecting more than forty theatres from around thirty European countries). One of the projects accomplished within the ETC was Orient Express – a travelling festival, where along with SNT performed theatres from Turkey, Romania, Croatia, Slovenia and Germany.
Serbian National Theatre is one of the founders of the “Quartet” Association, comprising several European theatres.
Being one of the most important institutions of culture in the country, Serbian National Theatre initiated establishment of other cultural institutions such as “Sterijino pozorje” in 1956, Academy of Arts in 1970, and Theatre Museum of Vojvodina in 1982.
(Prepared based on the text by Milena Leskovac and available data and literature)