Respected Colleagues and dear Friends,
Mala Scena theatre in Zagreb, Croatia is under the threat of shutdown, after 25 years of existence.
Herby we appeal to the international theatre community and to theatre artists from all over the world, pleading for their support, hoping it will ensure survival of the theatre, enable continuity of our work as well as sheer existence of its founders and owners, Ivica Šimić, artistic director and Secretary General of ASSITEJ, and PhD. Vitomira Lončar, theatre manager, actress and producer.
Mala Scena is the only independent and privately owned theatre in Croatia that used its founders' funds to build its own venue, as well the most successful one according to all standards of quality and quantity. Each year theatre produces at least three new shows for children of all ages, perform between 400 and 500 performances a year, and is the only Croatian theatre that has toured all continents and was invited to perform at the world's landmark venues including Sydney Opera House, Kennedy Center in Washington, USA, Barbican Center in London, UK or Koen-ji theatre in Tokyo, Japan. In addition to that, Mala Scena has been in charge of several multicultural and intercultural international projects and continues to actively participate in international exchange.
Regardless of it all, The City of Zagreb, and the Mayor, through their Office for Culture, are doing all in their power to shutdown the theatre and stop the activities of its founders. Local politicians have been publishing falsified documents on Mala Scena’s ventures, threats have been made to both of its founders, and for over ten months the theatre has been scrutinized by different government inspections.
It is beyond any doubt that all aforementioned is an orchestrated retaliation campaign posed as well to silence the constant calls to end the corruption within both local cultural and municipal structures. Vitomira Lončar an accomplished scholar is writing a weekly blog exposing malpractices and corruption in both local authorities and different cultural institutions. Blog called ‘Slamka spasa’ quickly gained extreme popularity, threatening to change the ‘golden standard’ of an established ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy that has been ruling the local community for years.
In May 2012, Zagreb City Council’s president of the Culture Committee published a falsified report on the operations of Mala Scena in a local weekly and thus started an intimidation campaign. The city’s Office for Culture decided to revoke the consent to three year old Mala Scena’s annual reports; the theatre is being forced to produce additional proof of its day-to-day operations in the past three years, although City had no objection to any of the reports at the time of their original filing. Although Mala Scena complied, submitting absolutely all the available documentation, City claimed it can not audit the records and wanting to find Mala Scena in breach of its public funding contract which would inevitably force the theatre into bankruptcy and closing. On top of it all, theatre has been scrutinized by inspections of all kinds, from State Inspector's Office to police and revenue officers. All of them have been investigating the operations of Mala Scena for months but in the end could not find any anomaly at all.
Regardless the fact that theatre Mala Scena accomplished all the tasks and fulfilled the program for which it was contracted in 2012, and regardless the fact that inspections of all kinds found no anomalies, Office for Culture refuses to pay its dues, one third of funding, from 2012 to the Theatre. Furthermore, Office for Culture imposed severe cuts to the public funding of Mala Scena in 2013 reducing it to a minimum insufficient for any let alone artistic work. The amount of public funds granted to Mala Scena in 2013 are well under the amount that theatre got in 1993, i.e. 20 years ago, regardless of the exceptional results achieved in the meantime. Needless to say, under these circumstances it is impossible for Mala Scena to continue its work, and is threatening the closing of the theater.
With the campaign for the closure of the Theater, Vitomira Loncar PhD, assistant professor, who spent past eight years at the Academy of Dramatic Arts, is disabled to be employed at the Academy in an undemocratic manner that the lower competence candidate got the position. In this way, her academic career and professional development are stopped.
Vitomira Loncar and Ivica Simic became persona non grata in the Croatian culture, Ivica Simic and his position of Secretary General of the World Center ASSITEJ is systematically suppresses and discredited, the public media spread misinformation and lies about the work and the work of the Theater in the manner of certain other long-past political time. Although we have sought the protection of the legal system, we have not got it.
The last option for the small theater scene for us as artists and people is the voice of the public both domestic and international.
Therefore, we kindly ask you to support Mala Scena theatre in it’s struggle for survival, support the right of the individual to publicly reveal all the pathology of actual cultural policy in Croatia, and with that enhance the democratization processes as well as strengthening Civil Society and supporting the freedom of speech in Croatia.
We would highly appreciate your written support, and kindly ask you to send your electronic letters to firstname.lastname@example.org and your letters will be sent to Mala Scena and to the office of the Major of the City of Zagreb.
Thank you for your support
Artistic director of theatre Mala Scena
Secretary General of ASSITEJ