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"The Doll Ship" From Serbia Dips Into Fairy Tales


The Doll Ship" by Milena Markovic

From November 29 to December 2, La MaMa will present "The Doll Ship" by Milena Markovic, directed by Ana Tomovic, accompanied by songs by Darko Rundek. The production, mounted by the Serbian National Theatre in 2009, renders the life of a woman artist, from childhood to old age, through an archetypal string of classic fairy tales. It won the Sterija Prize for the Best Play Production and the Critics' Round Table Award at the 54th Sterijino Pozorje Theatre Festival held in Novi Sad, Serbia, that year.

The play will be the introductory event of La MaMa's European Young Directors Forum, a series of productions, panels and workshops which also includes "A Letter to Heiner Müller" by Zagreb Youth Theatre of Croatia December 6 to 9. Both plays will be presented in La MaMa's Ellen Stewart Theater , 66 East Fourth Street. Between these two productions, there will be a series of panels and workshops December 2 to 4 in La MaMa's rehearsal studios, 47 Great Jones Street. For more information and a calendar of events, please visit

L-R: Nenad Pecinar, Radoje Cupic, Radovan Vujovic, and Jasna Djuricic (Snow White). Photo by Miomir Polzovic

Poetic and Brutal, "Boat for Dolls"

Poetic and brutal, "Boat for Dolls" invokes the fate of a female artist who, like the great heroines, treads along her own path, well apart from the well-trodden and secure social patterns, in search of her own identity and sense of being. She carries within herself her own miracle, but also her own demons. Her atypical life is bound to lead her to a point that every woman fears: that she will end up alone and that she will turn into the witch from a fairy tale. She moves through the cynical melodrama of Snow White, the satirical parable of Goldilocks, the expressionist tragedy of Kingdom of Darkness and the fantastic grotesque of Hansel and Gretel. All the time, her true and seeking spirit engages in an intimate confrontation with itself.

Traveling through different stages of life, the heroine takes on the identities of well-known fairy tale characters. Her life is not a fairy tale-it is not even especially nice-but painful life experiences strengthen her artistic determination. As Thumbelina, she is a student discussing her artwork with a professor Frog who stands on a staircase above her to illustrate the climb she must make and the ceiling above her. Along the way, her life is paraphrased through various other fairy tales.

The First Fairytale, "Alice"

The Little Sister reveals her teenage adventurous spirit; Goldilocks reveals her disappointment in marriage. Ultimately, the once-famous artist is depicted as an alcoholic witch in her final stages, visited by Hansel and Gretel. Her life's tragedy is a failed search for a boat. In the first fairytale, "Alice" (referring to Alice in Wonderland) notices that her father has started to look at her 'differently.' She doesn't want to face the reality that her father is a pedophile, leaves home and never comes back, but the father figure stays with her to the end. He used to make small boats for her dolls. All her life, she seeks such a boat: a safe harbor in a calm sea.

The play renders the life of a woman artist, from childhood to old age, through an archetypal string of classic fairy tales. Here, Thumbelina discusses her artwork with a professor Frog. L-R: Radoje Cupic and Jasna Djuricic. Photo by Miomir Polzovic

Finding the matching archetypal model in every fairytale, author Milena Markovic makes obvious yet unobtrusive parallels with various everyday archetypes: the disoriented youth, the absent mother, the non-existing father, the unemotional in-laws, the users, the freaks, the overconfident youngsters and the insensitive crowds we live with trying to fight our way through our lives.

Onstage Band of Flute, Guitar, Accordion, Drums and Double Bass

Songs by Darko Rundek, the noted Croatian rock singer, songwriter, poet, and actor, link the scenes from various periods in life of the heroine. There is an onstage band of flute, guitar, accordion, drums and double bass.

Director Ana Tomovic states, "Like myths, fairytales are the greatest truths we have about life. They reflect our striving towards completeness, towards seeking out the truths about ourselves and life. At a conscious or subconscious level, a fairytale character's path forms the underlying fabric of each and every work of art. To think that fairytales are merely stories for children is a misconception, because they tell us about the harshness of life for which we must prepare, about great distances that need to be covered and great challenges that need to be overcome on the path of life."

The production is mounted with a company of six actors, five musicians and eight crew members. The actors are Draginja Voganjac, Jasna Djuricic, Milica Grujicic, Nenad Pecinar, Radoje Cupic and Radovan Vujovic. Dramaturgs are Vuk Ršumovic and Svetislav Jovanov. Scenic design is by Ljerka Hribar. Costume Design is by Momirka Bailovic. Choreographer is Saša Krga. Masks and Make up are by Vladimir Radovanovic. Sound Design is by Marinko Vukmanovic. The performance is in Serbian with English subtitles.

Playwright Milena Markovic

Playwright Milena Markovic is also a poet and screenwriter. She won the Special Prize for the drama Pavilions at the MBH Vienna Theatre in 2001 with her play "Pavillions." Other plays include "God Had Mercy on Us," "The Wood Glitters," "Tracks" (Special Prize at the Sterijino pozorje festival) and "Simeon the Foundling" (Serbian National Theatre, 2006). In 2005, she won the Borislav Mihajlovic Mihiz prize for her plays. Her screenplays include "Tomorrow Morning" and the documentary "The Miners' Opera." Prior to its Serbian National Theatre production, "The Doll Ship" premiered in June, 2006 at the Yugoslav Drama Theatre in Belgrade.

Director Ana Tomovic graduated from the Belgrade Faculty of Dramatic Art Theatre and Radio Directing Department under tuteledge of Egon Savin. She had helmed over ten productions in Serbia before winning the Director Award at the Joakimfest in 2005 for "Duck" by Stella Feehily at the Kraljevo City Theatre. Her productions at National Theatre in Belgrade include "The Doll Ship" and "Ronald, Please Understand Me" by Filip Vujoševic.

La MaMa's European Young Directors Forum

"The Doll Ship" is the introductory event of La MaMa's European Young Directors Forum, a series of productions, panels and workshops which culminates December 6 to 9 with "A Letter to Heiner Müller" by Zagreb Youth Theatre of Croatia, written by Goran Fercec (Croatia) and directed by Bojan Djordjev (Serbia), in La MaMa's Ellen Stewart Theatre. Between the two productions, there will be a series of panels and workshops December 2 to 4 in La MaMa's rehearsal studios, 47 Great Jones Street. For more information and a calendar of events, please visit

Performance Information

"The Doll Ship" will be performed from November 29 to December 2, Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 PM and Sunday at 2:30 PM. To get tickets, call the Box Office at 212-475-7710 or visit General admission is $25 and tickets are $20 for seniors and students. The play will be performed in Serbian with English subtitles.

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