La MaMa Theatre, New York
in association with
Qendra Multimedia, Prishtina, My Balkans, New York and Theater Atelje 212, Belgrade
A trans-Atlantic theatrical project of La MaMa’s Great Jones Repertory Company, New York
By: Jeton Neziraj // Directed by: Blerta Neziraj
With: Onni Johnson, Svetozar Cvetković, George Drance, Eugene the Poogene, Valois Mickens, John Maria Gutierrez, Mattie Barber-Bockelman, Ivan Mihailović, Matt Nasser, Verona Koxha
Composer: Gabriele Marangoni // Stage design: Marija Kalabić // Costumes: Gabriel Berry // Choreographer: Gjergj Prevazi // Visual and light concept: Nico de Rooij // Lighting design: Yann Perregaux // Dramaturges: Dimitrije Kokanov, Zishan Ugurlu // Producer of the Balkan Bordello: Beka Vučo // Production coordinator: Maud Dinand // Translator: Alexandra Channer // Production manager: Kushtrim Sheremeti // Technical support: Mentor Berisha // Ass. director: Gëzim Hasani // Ass. costume designer: Flaka Rrustemi
Performed in English language
Tour schedule 2021:
PRISHTINA – November 3, 11 & 12: ODA Theatre, Prishtina, Kosovo
GJILAN – November 4: City Theater Gjilan, Kosovo
FERIZAJ – November 5: City Theater of Ferizaj, Kosovo
TIRANA – November 6: Experimental Theater in Tirana, Albania
BELGRADE– November 8 & 9: Atelje 212, Belgrade, Serbia
Tour schedule 2022:
NEW YORK, USA – March 30 – April 15, 2022: La MaMa, Ellen Stewart Theatre
Balkan Bordello: The Saga of a Balkan Family is based on Aeschylus’ trilogy The Oresteia. As an avatar of the modern world, Agamemnon returns triumphant from the battlefield, having reduced the enemy city to ashes. But the fever and enthusiasm that come from inglorious victories are blood animals—they feed and live on blood. When he returns home, death awaits powerful Agamemnon. He is killed by his wife, Clytemnestra, the oppressed woman who, by killing her husband, seeks to find freedom. Together with Egist, a hypocritical poet, Clytemnestra wants to start a new life, without fearing she will be raped and humiliated by her husband. But freedom cannot materialize in territories where violence once reigned for so long. Now that Agamemnon is gone, Clytemnestra takes on the role of the abuser — she becomes the missing Agamemnon — and the one who must suffer from her violence, oppression and intolerance is Elektra, her daughter. But the cycle of violence cannot be easily closed, because “any blood shed, evokes new blood,” as it is sung in the play. Therefore, as she once killed her husband, Clytemnestra must now be killed by her son, Orestes, who, together with his boyfriend, Pilad, a choreographer, returns from Berlin where he was living as a refugee.
This is the bedrock of this play, which, with black humor, touches on the very fabric of the Balkan temperament, traces the morbidity of the human soul and highlights the stupidity and naiveté of an era being built on the foundations of violence, intolerance and hatred. The characters surrender to fate and nearly unconsciously fall into the trap of discontent and destruction. It’s this vein of destruction that seduces as death seduces life. Balkan Bordello is a play about traumatized societies that eat themselves. It confronts us with war as a machinery of destruction where life and normalcy capitulate in the face of humans’ infidelities and evils.
Democracy cannot be taken for granted. The battle for it must be ongoing. Any fluctuation from this goal gives way to ghosts of war, abusers of power and autocrats who see the fate of the societies they rule as a game of Russian roulette. The same examples we had yesterday, we still have today. The bloodied Balkans of the 90s and the Balkans thirsting for revenge now. Contemporary Hungary led by autocrat Orbán, where civil liberties are stolen at every step. Post-Trump America, where deceived Americans continue to see wall-to-wall dreams. Turkey and Russia where people live in fear of state dictatorship. Germany, which continues to be haunted by the living ghosts of Nazism. Israeli soldiers flattening Palestinian cities. Hamas Palestinians firing rockets at Israeli cities. A Syria made flat… for God’s sake, do we even know by whom?
Balkan Bordello is an epic tale for the age of insanity we are currently living in.
“Borrowing the setting from the Oresteia, play evokes an archetypal society which emerges from the war in a state of confusion, where the old order and power relations have been subverted, and the new does not seem to have any legitimacy because it is based on pure force”. Anna Di Lellio
Blerta Neziraj has been directing plays in Kosovo and Internationally, and her productions toured extensively abroad (Vidy/Lausanne, Piccolo Theater/Milano, Volkstheater/Vienna. Volksbhune/Berlin…). She is a Lincoln Center Theatre Directors Lab alumnae (2018) and in Spring 2019, she recreated 55 Shades of Gay at La MaMa in New York. She is an award-winning theatre director (including “The best directing for 2020”, in Kosovo) and received great local and international reviews. The Guardian described her as “one of the country’s leading directors.”, while The Stage described her shows as “uncompromising… necessary… bold and powerful”.
Partners & Supporters: Trust for Mutual Understanding, Rockefeller Brother Fund, Kosovo Foundation for Open Society, European Fund for the Balkans, Open Society Foundation Serbia, Olof Palme International Center, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC, European Union in Kosovo, The Dutch Embassies in Prishtina and in Belgrade, Municipality of Prishtina, City Theater of Ferizaj, Oda Theater, Prishtina, National Experimental Theater, Tirana.