Bosnia and Herzegovina
The 1st Broadway Musical in Bosnia!
BiH Broadway began as an innovative way to show the power of interethnic cooperation in the arts. Sixteen young actors from across Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Croatia, and Serbia came to together to collaborate in a professional production, in local language, of the Broadway Musical, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” We worked with numerous local partners for this project, including National Theatre in Sarajevo, and the Drama Academies in Sarajevo, Banja Luka, and Tuzla.
Two thousand people in seven cities saw the show live and thousands more in the region heard about the program and its impact through both traditional and social media. BiH Broadway built relationships between individual, institutions, and countries. It provided a living demonstration to people in BiH the value of interethnic cooperation, proving that cultural programming can be a non-political way to send a powerful message.
The beauty of BiH Broadway was that it told its own story.
Audiences across Bosnia saw the successful collaboration and cooperation of a diverse collection of young artists from across the Balkan region. The rehearsal process for Spelling Bee built strong relationships between young people who would not otherwise have had the chance to work together.
BiH Broadway laid the groundwork for cooperation between local institutions. The company for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee included a stage manager, lighting technician and two stage technicians from the National Theater of Sarajevo who, during the tour, worked in theaters in six other BiH cities, collaborating with the staff in those venues and building relationships for future cooperation. The project also drew together the drama academies in Sarajevo, Banja Luka and Tuzla from which the actors were originally recruited.. The goal was to plant the seeds for future joint projects between the academies and theaters, which have not cooperated since before the Balkan war.
Collaborating Across Borders
Musicals are very rarely performed in BiH and drama students do not receive much training in the genre. Aaron Thielen (director) and Ryan Nelson (music director) worked to equip the young artists with the skills they needed to be successful in pulling off a “musical comedy.” In turn, the young actors and musicians added their own Balkan perspective to this uniquely American art form, through language, new twists on the jokes in the script and regional musical touches, such as the addition of an accordion to the band (brilliantly performed by Divanhana). This made the show more accessible to local audiences and provided a unique and meaningful cultural exchange experience not just for the local participants, but also for the American artists!
A Powerful Message
BiH Broadway used the unique American art form of musical theatre to empower the young Bosnian artists to send a powerful message that was uniquely vital in BiH. As the leading daily, Oslobodjenje, put it:
This program is an excellent message in the days before we choose our own future [in the October 7, 2018 general election]. These young people have chosen unity. It’s up to us to look to them.
2018 Bosnian Tour
28 September 2018
29 September 2018
1 October 2018
2 October 2018
3 October 2018
4 October 2018
5 October 2018
Spelling Bee Cast
|Rona Lisa Peretti||Tijana Jovanović|
|Douglas Panch||Srdjan Knjeginjić|
|William Barfée||Faris Pijno|
|Olive Ostrovsky||Nikolina Vujić|
|Leaf Coneybear||Marko Vukjević|
|Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre||Ana-Marija Tomić|
|Marcy Park||Lea Sekulić|
|Chip Tolentino||Nemanje Bajić|
|Mitch Mahoney||Sanjin Arnautović|
|Olive’s Mom / Ensemble||Sejla Grgić|
|Olive’s Dad / Ensemble||Mak Čengić|
|Carl / Ensemble||Duje Martinić|
|Dan / Ensemble||Darko Stojić|
|Coneybears Mom / Ensemble||Sara Ristić|
|Speller / Ensemble||Lamija Ćeljo|
|Speller Ensemble||Jelena Jandrić|