The Colonel Bird
By Hristo Boytchev
Over the course of the season, our assistant directors and student dramaturgs will be compiling dramaturgical resources relating to each production as it develops. Below are some links to websites which relate to the history of the play, the biography of the playwright, and sites that contextualize and, we hope, shed light on the directorial approach to the dramatic material.
We hope you find these resources of interest.
Hristo Boytchev (b. 1950)
Hristo Boytchev, born in 1950, is a celebrated Bulgarian playwright whose work has been staged in over 40 countries. Boytchev’s came late to the theatre. He graduated from the Higher Institute of Engineering in Rousse, Bulgaria as a mechanical engineering major in 1974 and for ten years thereafter he worked as the technical manager of an engineering plant.
It was during those years that Boytchev started working on his first piece, That Thing, which premiered in 1984. The success of the play prompted him to quit his job at the factory and study drama at the National Academy for Theatrical and Film Art in Sofia, Bulgaria. Upon leaving the Academy in 1989, Boytchev was named Playwright of the Year.
In 1990, while That Thing was being made into a film, Boytchev started to become significantly involved in politics (it was also during this time that the ideas for The Colonel Bird were born). He began to appear as a political satirist on one of Bulgaria’s well-known political television networks, and in 1996 he ran for president of the Republic of Bulgaria.
The campaign, however, used all of its television time to satirize Bulgarian politics, and in the end Boytchev won a mere 2% of the national vote. That same year, Boytchev won a state subsidy to make a film of The Colonel Bird and he also began to author and host his own TV show.
Less than a year later, The Colonel Bird was awarded Best Play in the International Playwriting Competition held by the British Council. It would go on to be staged in more than 30 countries, including at the Festival d’Avignon at the Theatre de la Commune d’Aubervilliers in Paris, and at the Bonner Biennale at the Pleven Theatre in Bulgaria, both in 1999.
The Bosnian Conflict
The Bosnian Civil War took place between April 1992 and December 1995 and was primarily a conflict over borders after the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991. The Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s referendum for an independent nation was rejected by the Serbs in the Bosnian government, who had already declared their own republic.
When Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence, Bosnian Serb forces descended upon them in an effort to gain land for Serbia, supported by the Serbian government and the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA). During the war, the JNA and the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) were also deeply culpable for ethnic cleansing throughout Bosnia, an issue that had roots far back in Slavic history. The Croatian Defense Council (HVO) was also involved in the conflict, primarily in an attempt to gain territory from Herzegovina-Bosnia for Croatia.
A political agreement between the Serbs and the Croats resulted in the partition of Bosnia, which led to the Croatian army turning on the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the beginning of the Croat-Bosnian War, one of the most indiscriminately violent periods in the entire war.
It was marked by waves of ethnic violence and a high rate of civilian deaths. In 1994, the Bosnian and Croatian forces signed a ceasefire through the Washington Agreement, which led to the creation of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Federation fought against the Serbian VRS forces until NATO intervened in Operation Deliberate Force in 1995. The war ended after both sides signed the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia in Herzegovina in Paris later that year.
Listen to this 1996 NPR interview on the various conflicts in the war.
London’s Gate Theater, 1999 (The Evening Standard Review)
Journeymen production at Chicago’s Holy Covenant United Methodist Church (Chicago Reader Review)
The University of Cape Town’s Arena Theatre (LitNet Review)