Belgrade tales: Bitef Teatar

Lejla Dizdarevic | Live the World

November 23, 2022

An acquired monument of the old town

It is no secret I adore theatre. In fact, I love it so much, that if it was possible, I would spend all my time there, and be on a theatre stage for a living. What I equally love and find intriguing are the great, beautiful spots with unknown origin. Whether you are an art lover or not, today I am presenting you a spot which you simply must see when visiting the Serbian capital. In a former church, the place where you least expect it, happens all the magic, behind and on the stage. Allow me to take you to Bitef Teatar (Bitef Theatre) in Belgrade, Serbia.

Although not the biggest theater in Serbia, Bitef theatre is certainly unique, both visually and historically. As a matter of fact, the theater is located in a reconstructed evangelical church in the city center, right in front of the Bajloni Market, in Dorcol, Old Town. Today, the theatre is recognized by predominantly avant-garde performances and rising young actors, who play their very first roles here.

Moreover, the story of Bitef theatre building is quite interesting, and today it is told as a nice anecdote. Almost all documentation from the construction time has been lost or destroyed. Most, if not all of the information about it comes from the story of a man who worked at the construction of the building back at the time. According to him, the construction of the monument was initiated and sponsored by the Germans with the intention of building an Evangelical Christian church for their own use. However, the construction was done at the very beginning of the Second World War, but since the war ended construction, the ownership of the building remained legally unclear. As the years were passing, this magnificent castle was handed over to the city of Belgrade. Not only did this monument grow into a true, renowned theater, but today the word BITEF is associated with one of the largest theater festival in the region.

It seemed that since from the day it was founded in 1989, the role of the Biter Teatar has been the expansion of art, which rapidly grew into Bitef Festival. The concept of Bitef Teatar remains the same today. It is open to all kinds of new expressions, aiming to overcome the established limits, to explore and support the artists who are ready for brave, new steps. The very special attention is given to the artistic aspects that are underdeveloped in the local theater, such as contemporary dance and many alternative theater movements. Nevertheless, it is said that the people primarily are the element that makes this theatre so unique and distinctive at the art scene of Belgrade.

Finally, Bitef theatre is a socially engaged theatre, both politically and ethically. It is constantly inspired by everyday life, which is reflected in its rich repertoire. It questions the world we live in, both in terms of form and content. Most importantly, it has been continually defending the artistic freedom in the unyielding battle against kitsch. It records the tradition of avant-garde and the continuity of the "bitef-esque". Bitef theatre is a place of continuous open dialogue between the artist and the community, and a living theatre with a leading educational role for generations of young performers and audiences open towards contemporary theatre trends and directions.

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