A Theater Menu: FOR EVER AND A DAY by MILORAD PAVIC Translated by Christina Pribicevic-Zoric

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Writing in the Swiss paper Journal de Genévee, André Clavel compared Dictionary, of the Khazars with an “inn where every customer can compose the menu according to his or her own taste”. This amusing observation can also be applied to what I am doing now. I want to give the audience, directors and theater companies greater independence from the writer and more of a say in creating the play itself.

Such a play could indeed be compared with a menu. Just as food menus usually offer several starters, one or more main courses and a choice of desserts at the end, with the customer composing his dinner according to his own taste, so the play Forever And A Day offers something like a “theater menu”.

True to this idea, the writer suggests a menu like structure for the play: 3 + 1 + 3 (three interchangeable “starters”, one “main course” and three interchangeable “desserts” to wind up). The spectator, director or theater manager can thus choose any one of the play’s three introductory sections as a starter and any one of the three conclusions as an ending for the play. But he should never take more than one “starter” or more than one “dessert” with the same dinner. Hence, the love story of Petkutin and Kalina can have one director and a happy end in one theater, a different director and a tragic ending in another theater, and a third version with a third director and cast in a third theater.

Taking all the possibilities into account, there can be nine different combinations of the love story of Petkutin and Kalina and audiences can see nine performances that differ in text and directing. Needless to say, any one of these nine versions is the viewing minimum. However, the more versions one sees, the more complete a picture one gets of the love story of Petkutin and Kalina, because the introductory segments of Forever And A Day are interconnected, as are all three endings.

To conclude, the spectator can choose the kind of ending he or she prefers, the director can select the type of play that suits him/her best, and the theater can join other theaters in staging a joint project. There are other possibilities as well, such as reciprocal visiting productions if different versions are being played in different towns, or one theater might take on, say, three directors, and have each stage his own version of the play on successive evenings. Finally there is the intriguing possibility of staging a “One Drama Festival” out of Forever And A Day, with nine theater companies having nine different directors and their troupes put on the nine different versions of the play.

Here, as with any dinner, there is an interval before serving dessert.