dramaturg Duca Knezevic
*Studio Theater at Lone"
Jasmina's and Duca's intro and cast members comments
The Language of War Crime
Does genocide have a global language all its own? An international, transnational sound, of lies deployed as weapons in the silence of the dead, as a choir of invisible yet omnipresent ghosts of civilians, the missing, the buried...
"In 1995, during the war in Bosnia, about 8,000 Muslim men and boys were rounded up and killed after Bosnian Serb forces captured Srebrenica, a UN-protected enclave. Ten years later Serbian media for the first time presented the public with a graphic and direct evidence of the massacre. The video, screened on TV stations across the country, showed six Bosnian men being executed by soldiers wearing uniforms of special forces under command of the Serbian police, the so-called Scorpions. Five killers were recognized from the video and put on trial as the first suspects to be tried over the massacre by a Serbian war crime court. It was also the biggest war crimes trial of Serbs by Serbs to date.
"Over 14 months relatives of the Bosnian victims attended the trial, and watched from behind bullet-proof glass. Relatives of the defendants were also in the front row. Playwright Jasmina Tesanovic, witnessed the trial as a peace activist and was our eyes and ears in the courtroom.
"In Jerusalem, after World War II, Hannah Arendt, the most influential 20th century political philosopher, followed the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the engineer of Holocaust. It was her presence in the courthouse that made her understand and describe the banality of evil. Now we know that the great evils in history are not executed by fanatics or sociopaths, but rather by ordinary people who accepted the premises of their state and participated convinced that their actions were normal."
Let me try to explain how it feels to see a play of my own, written in the language of war crimes and in my mother language, Serbian, performed here in San Francisco, in the English language, by Americans.
The Serbian paramilitaries are still pleading innocence. Ten years ago their mayhem was called patriotism, security, homeland defense; today it is rightly called war crimes.
Ten years from now, who knows how history will judge our present muddled actions – be it by Serbians or by Americans – and judge our own responsibility for the hidden crimes committed in our name.
The young Californian actors are perfectly in tune with the costumes and the words of Bosnian, Serbs...of the Dutch NATO troops who looked the other way... of the victims, of the mothers of the dead, of global journalists, of the perpetrators and the prey... It is precisely as if those distant war crimes of the 1990s happened and are happening today, in their own language, in their name, with their votes, with their money.
From the war of Vietnam to the war in Iraq, the military rhetoric of power and domination, the patriarchal values of a homeland security rampaging far away from home: in English they have come to sound as familiar as they still sound in Serbian. The mass graves of Bosnia are massed just like those in Kosovo, or in Rwanda, Sudan, Chechnya, Algeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Burma... name it!
The silenced global voices of the opposition to the world's blaring military hysteria... that division line is no longer ethnic, political, or national, it is between the few powerful and the silenced masses of the dis-empowered.
Some years ago, I wrote a "Letter to My Imaginary American Friend," asking her/him to say "stop" to the war so clearly coming. To speak out, in her/his name, for the sake of the long and important American democratic culture, a history of rights and freedom which the whole world once admired. I did not imagine that my play about a Serbian paramilitary group would mirror everyday reality in the USA: the daily toll of the bells of death, the endless racket of weapons, the theatrical language of
the Globalization of Balkanization.
The last show of the Necromancers. Cast members channeling directly to Jasmina’s blog.
We are trying to extend the energy and love we found for each other in this show through the night. At least.
Here they come – thoughts in random order from a random bunch:
1. Sara Zimmerman (Grieving Sister) – This has been an amazing experience for me. I haven’t done theater in a few years and this was the perfect way to enter back into the world of Theater. I am extremely thankful for the chance to work with Dijana and Duca and the chance to perform Jasmina’s play. I have learned so much in the process and have not only gained knowledge about Serbia, but I gained many friends and in a way…a new family. Thank you so much to each and every person involved and I hope I have you in my life always.
2. Addysen Trumper (The Judge) – “Order! This is a court not a circus!” Playing the role of a woman who I know walked the steps of justice and commitment has been eye opening. The reality of knowing that this “Judge” is actually breathing and living her life in a far off country this very moment has been an different experience for me. I was playing a woman who had a very difficult job and finding her inner peace was not an easy task. I cannot imagine living a life of fear and I admire her for her bravery and strength. I feel honored to play such an upstanding woman and I will never forget or regret the opportunity and I am thankful of everything that I have learned! Thank you to the cast and crew! I am honored!
3. Edna Barron (Assistant Director/ Properties Manager): I learned so much from working on this show, and I will take with me the lessons from Dijana, the Director, and incorporate them into my future work. I’m so glad I was a part of such a special premiere in the US, and it’s extremely unfortunate it cannot be shown in Serbia. My deepest sympathies go out to all the families of the 8000 victims and the six Muslim men who were all massacred. I hope the cast remembers the gravity of this atrocity and does not disregard its significance in our own country.
4. Caitlin Finch (Women in Black): “I plead guilty to being unable to stand this anymore” I am eternally grateful to everyone involved in the process of bringing “The Necromancers” to life. This has been the experience of a lifetime and I will forever carry with me a bit of everyone involved. Thank you Jasmina for sharing your experiences with us and providing us with an inspirational work of art. Dijana and Duca, thank you so much for opening my eyes to not only the history of Serbia, but also to a politically active frame of mind. You are both truly inspirational women. I am honored to have been a part of such an amazing show and I love you all. “Not in our names!!!”
5. Kaitie O’Donnell (Scorpion Wife 3): “Are you a man or a woman?” I am so glad I was able to be a part of “Necromancers,” and able to help in the creative process. It is amazing for me to see how this play was resurrected and established by each introductory exercise we partook in. I am so glad I was able to live this experience. Thank you SO much, Dijana and Jasmina, for providing this terrific opportunity. It means so much to me, to be educated in this topic and enlightened about the world!! Thank you!
6. Lana Moriece (Scorpion Wife #2): Writer’s block does not begin to describe my lack of words! It is only a few hours after our final experience, and it is so difficult to describe the whirlwind of emotions I am now feeling and have felt for through the duration of our experience. I came to our first rehearsal hysterical, in tears because other students had mocked my family’s beliefs during my “Religion and the Environment” course, and that made me delve into this project with an open heart and an open mind. Ironically, I was selected to play a role that required me to do the exact opposite. It was important to me to accurately portray the wife of a Scorpion woman because, as an outsider – or even an insider, for it is easier to demonize than to humanize. I hope that I represented the wives of the Scorpion accurately – even if I do not concur with their ideology. I would like to thank Dijana, Jasmina, and Duca for opening their experiences, hearts, and culture to me. I will carry and treasure their spirit and motivation for the rest of my life. As for all of you who are reading this bog… I would like to thank you to be worldly and conscious enough to seek such material out – for these are the steps we need to change the world.
7. Mary, friend and roommate of Duca: Many discussions with Duca only gave me glimpse of the horror that had taken place in her country. As a citizen of the United States, everything we see and learn cannot be trusted. We can only hope that we can find those who will tell us the truth. It is hard for me to hear, to believe and to yearn to learn more truth. After I watched the show for the first time, I could hardly breathe for a few minutes realizing how parallel the paths of the US administration and what had just witnessed. I am so honored and lucky to meet Dijana and Jasmina and to spend time with such talented and strong women.
8. (Green Grieving Mother) Margarita Galindo: Dearest Jasmina – “Words are not enough . . . tears are not enough.” . . . but you already wrote that – I thank you for those words. They speak my heart, and they give me a foundation for further conversation that I would never know how to begin without your words. They inspire my physical movement, and give voice to an inexpressible grief that now can be expressed. I will always remember.
9. (scorpion #4) David Galvan: Jasmina!!! I want to say thank you for everything. I have had such a learning experience by doing this. I feel that I have grown as a person and will always carry part of this in my life. So thank you once again and keep doing what you do because someone needs to do it!!! DG!!! =)!!
10. (Gay Activist) Alexander J Edwards: When I was informed that not many people “come out” in the Balkans, an immediate thought of “why” entered my head. This role was amazing to play. I made the activist very proud and strong. That is what I thought he would be. He put his orientation aside, and focused on something much more important; saving life. Thank you very much for this opportunity. This play was awesome! God Bless!
11. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be writing, but let me say that I think you are amazing and I love you! Thank you for all that you have done! Love you lots!!!!!! –Helina Zisa (Grieving relative)
12. Daniel Drane (Zombie Boy, Scorpion, Victim) – First I want to thank both Dijana and Jasmina because it has been an amazing journey and I have enjoyed this experience more than I can say. Second, I have enjoyed learning about something I previously did not know much about and it has broadened my horizons immensely. So thank you for everything.
13. Chris Williams (Penitent Scorpion, Victim) – I just want to thank every one involved. I had an amazing time.
14. Rebecca Salochna George(Reporter) – Dijana’s creativity is full of inspiring surprises. She’s taught me to work with no expectations but with devotion and motivation.
15. Jolie Greenberg (smoking woman) – this experience has been both an amazing learning and growing opportunity. Thanks so much to both of you for giving us this remarkable project. I’ll see you in Serbia – and p.s. Dijana your hair is inspiring.
16. Halimah Najieb-Locke(Narrator)- I can not express in words how much this experience has meant to me. I have learned so much in this show it amazes me, the content has broadened my mind. Thank you for taking the time to teach us all about such an important event. I appreciate everything you have done for me and the world regarding social justice. I hope to see you in the near future.
17. Sam Finger (SCORPION MAN) – Amazing experience. I have learned so much through this experience and you have opened my eyes to a completely new style of performance and work. I can’t wait to see you in Serbia. Thank you so much for everything.
18. Paloma Wodehouse (Prosecutor)- I learned so much about myself through this experience. Thank you so much for being there for all of us. I will never forget you two. I plan on coming to the intensive workshop this summer with Sam and I really hope it works out because I know the time spent there would be unforgettable. Thank you so much for everything. Love you both.
19. Amber Dennis(Woman In Black 3)- This has been such an interesting and informative learning experience. I will take all of these lessons, both good and bad, with me. Thank you.
20. Zdrvo Jasmina! I am so happy to have met you and thank you for giving us this beautiful gift of poetry to impart on people this side of the world. I wish you could have been here to see the development of the play in its entirety. But your presence has been so inspiring- if only to fight for what we believe in and to not let injustice stand. I am honored to have played your wonderful character and I hope so much to see you in the future! Your strength will stay with us and I am sending so many hugs and warmth your way! So much love- Martha (activist number 1)
21. Marisa Lloyd (Scorpion Wife 1) – This has got to be the most amazing play that I’ve done thus far at the University of San Francisco, and I thank you and Dijana for that. I’m going to try my best to make it to the workshop in Serbia during the summertime. I would love to work with you again. Thank you for everything you’ve taught us as a cast, and for your sincerity in criticism and compliments on opening night. You are fabulous.