“We strive to harmonise the play with the sensibilities of children and the needs imposed by life in the 21st century. Our plays are alive, changing, growing and being upgraded during the performance in accordance with an interactive exchange with the children and their reactions. They are also accompanied by an interactive, educational exchange through which we learn about the children’s experience of the play and we modify it accordingly. Through our plays, we always try to “cover” the topics that are not part of the regular school curriculum, but for which there is a need and interest among children and young people in primary and secondary schools across Bosnia and Herzegovina, “said Dijana Pejić, Executive Director of the Genesis NGO Project from Banja Luka whose interactive amateur theatre has been entertaining and educating children across the country for years.
You recently had a premiere of a new play, “Open-Minded Me”, which is intended for teenagers. The play addresses the issue of prejudice and educates young people how to fight them. Can you tell us more about the process of making this play?
The screenplay for the play was written by children’s writer Jelena Kojević-Tepić, with constant consultations with the Genesis Project theatre actors and the Genesis Project team psychologist. We can surely say that it was a longer creative process, that some parts of the script were often changed, adjusted and altered. We tested the script on different youth groups to gain insight into how comprehensible, interesting and instructive it is. The main goal of this play was to encourage young people to think, to think critically about the society in which they live, and to open up opportunities for them to see the causal links between ignorance and closed society on the one hand and prejudices, stereotypes and generalisations on the other side.
How prevalent are prejudices and stereotypes among young people in our society?
Prejudices and stereotypes are present in all of us, we are all subject to them and under its influence. When we consider the post-war times, the economic situation, the media situation, the education system and many other factors, then we can be pleased to say that young people in this controversial society have outgrown their teachers and are much less susceptible to prejudice and stereotypes than we, the adults, are. We saw this by having the exchange with our young audience, which we have after each “Open-Minded Me” play, through which we discuss many questions with young people, such as “What is the message of this play?”; “Are the relations portrayed in the play a reflection of the real relations between people in your community? If so, how? What are the similarities / differences? “; “Do some interactions in the play correspond to some interactions in real life situations?”; etc.
Is the play a good way to convey the right message to them?
Yes, a play is certainly a good method for conveying messages like this, provided it is well thought out, interactive, current, witty and creative. Since we perform the plays, among other things, in small, rural areas, our play has the necessary strength and positive impact on the young people it is intended for. It opens new perspectives to them, offers alternatives in comparison to the so far ways of thinking while entertaining and amusing them at the same time.
How many young people will have the opportunity to see the show and what kind of results do you expect?
It is planned that the “Open-Minded Me” play is performed 30 times throughout the project, in the municipalities of Banja Luka, Kozarska Dubica, Gradiška, Laktaši and Prijedor. We aim to have at least 2250 young people, ages 14-17 (elementary schools’ senior classes and secondary schools’ junior classes) see this play, in the 5 mentioned municipalities. So far, we have already contacted and agreed to cooperate with the administrations of 31 primary schools and 10 high schools, whose students will have the opportunity to watch the “Open-Minded Me” play for free. It is very important to emphasise here that the realisation of this play is possible thanks to the support of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Resilience Initiative (BHRI) program, implemented by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), with the financial support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The children, our audience, who come to us from rural parts of some municipalities, even have the fortune that, through this project, they have been provided with transportation to the Municipal Centre for Culture/Theatre where they can, for free, view our play, educate themselves and have fun at the same time.
Where can we announce the next performances?
In December, we are expecting 6 performances of the “Open-Minded Me” play at the Gradiška Cultural Centre. And during the second half of January, that is, after the end of the winter break, we continue to perform the plays in Laktaši and Prijedor. With the January plays, we would end our current collaboration with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), with the hope that we will jointly consider continuing cooperation with some others municipalities and for the benefit of some other young people. We are sure that there is a need for this among young people, and also a desire on our part to offer them education in a different way.