The monodrama Down, by Law of the author, director and choreographer Mila Čuljak in the performance of the CNT Ivan pl. Zajc actress Jelena Lopatić, will be premiered on Tuesday 15th May in the space of Delta 5 (the former Ivex building) with the beginning at 19:30 hours. This project was made in the coproduction of the Rijeka Zajc Theatre and the artistic association Co-authorship initiative OOUR from Zagreb.
The monodrama was written as the impression of the period from the time of birth of Boris, a boy with Down syndrome, until the time when this piece was written. The struggle with wishes, expectations, time spans, operations and illnesses impressed in the surplus of the chromosome 21, also created a specific parenthood that the author wrote in a new code, the performing code of togetherness. The author of the monodrama Mila Čuljak, Boris’s mother, aspired to the strengthening of the daily life that brought her the intensity of emotional, organisational, nursing and social balancing. Wanting this story, as well as Boris, to contribute to the understanding and support of the community to the people with Down syndrome, she looked for a body to write in, weave and dance out, and found it in Jelena Lopatić.
Mila Čuljak is a performing artist from Rijeka, also the president of the Down Syndrome NGO Rijeka 21 and coordinator of the Fifth Ensemble of the Rijeka CNT Zajc and the City of Rijeka, the aim of which is to include people with disabilities in the artistic work of the Theatre. In all aspects of her work Mila examines the way a community functions, that which strengthens a community and which makes it weaker, especially so in the cases when an individual intensely depends on it.
Let us remind ourselves that the CNT Ivan pl. Zajc, in co-operation with the Down Syndrome NGO Rijeka, has become the first national institution to move barriers in the socialisation of people with Down syndrome having engaged three young people with the syndrome in their box office service as part of the work therapy.
Thus, as well as with initiating the Fifth Ensemble Project, funded by the European Social Fund and in the partnership with the City of Rijeka and the Educational Centre Rijeka (Centar za odgoj i obrazovanje), the Rijeka CNT has become the first institution in the region, possibly also wider, that implements the practice of inclusive theatre in such a way.
The performance Down, by Law presents, according to the author, “55 minutes of closeness, togetherness, care, tenderness and understanding for all families of people with Down syndrome and all of us.”
Regarding the play title, the same as the title of the Jim Jarmusch’s film, Mila Čuljak says it conveys the meaning of closeness and togetherness. “In the eighties it was used in the street slang, referring to a close person. It was also used earlier in the prison jargon, says Jarmusch, for the person who upon leaving the prison would contact the family of the person he/she had shared the cell with, taking care of them if necessary.”
“I’m honoured to have been able to experience at least a part of Mila’s life through rehearsals, this having made me stronger. And when I let myself go to her sentences, a catharsis takes place. As we wish to sensitise and create a more emphatic society with this performance, I would like to underline that all the children with special difficulties in their development are actually children of special possibilities. Their hearts are open to us, so that now we need to open ourselves to them”, says the actress Jelena Lopatić.
Speaking of how the music for this staging was created, its author Adam Semijalac points out: ”At a late hour, Mila would record herself singing with the metronome and send me the recording. I would add music to it. The songs were created between the years 2013 and 2015, in the period when our Boris and his family were undergoing the hardest times, moments about which Mila openly speaks in the play Down, by Law.”
The authors’ team also comprises the dramaturge Nataša Antulov, Mera Mujičić as costume and set designer and the lighting designer Alan Vukelić.
The reruns of the staging are on 16th and 17th May and then again in June.14