Performer and musician Tina Milo, who immigrated from Valjevo, Serbia to Vancouver in 2000, started a personal research project in 2012 that would eventually become her current production: The Village. A Serbian-Canadian multimedia collaboration, The Village is a one-woman play born from a set of queries.
Milo interviewed 18 close friends, many of whom work in the performing arts. She asked them to look closely at their wedding photos – a symbol of the “happiest day of their life” – and answer the same 14 questions. How did you feel the moment you got married? Did your dreams come true? Have you ever suffered from depression?
“My initial idea was to speak up about depression. Why do women and men slip into it? What triggers it?” says Milo, 41, who spent about two and a half years in total working on the project.
Although the sources and inspiration were primarily women, Dijana Milošević, director of The Village, says depression is a stigma and stigmatizes men especially.
Milo’s studies in acting were cut short when the war broke out in Sarajevo, the capital of modern day Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“Professionally, I was a little lost as I felt all my dreams were gone. I came back [to Serbia], saw an ad that was looking for actors. It was getting back to my roots, and I knew what my future was going to be,” says Milo.
When stage director Milošević, 53, met Milo in 1993, Milo was a young, aspiring actress at a crossroads in life.
Milo answered an ad from the Dah Research Centre (Dah means ‘breath’). They were looking for ‘fresh faces and talent.’
Milošević co-founded the Dah Research Centre in 1991 with the idea of continuing theatre traditions that existed in Europe for nearly 100 years.
“It was an extremely new idea because it was then Yugoslavia. We wanted to create a professional company that devotes time to develop the skills and techniques of actors and directors,” says Milošević, who now lives in Serbia.
Milo’s first production with Milošević and Dah productions was Zenith, the story of a 1920s avant-garde movement in old Yugoslavia.
“[Milo] had that sparkling energy – which she still has now – but being 20 years old, you can imagine. She was bursting with this energy, a great attitude and bravery and so extremely talented,” says Milošević.
Acting as a sanctuary
For Milo, being a part of the Dah production team and acting were critical to her own survival.
They were bombed for 87 days by NATO, living fearfully in uncertainty, not knowing if they were going to wake up the next day, recalls Milo.
“In the middle of the chaos, the fear and suffering that was going on, you spent a couple of hours extremely focused on creating something – [it was] our way of fighting the war,” says Milošević.
Laughter helped too. According to Milošević, humour is a big part of them; it’s how they survived. She adds that there’s plenty of humour in The Village.
“If your phone rang and the bomb sirens were going on, your friend might say, ‘did I wake you up?’ Better you than a grenade,” says Milo.
The play is also about ‘calling up the soul.’ When you lose your core purpose, stop and try to call up your soul and see what it is that makes it happen.
“Whatever it is (art, music, etc.), have you neglected it for something else? Because we all satisfy everyone else’s dreams, what happens to us?” says Milo.
Milo says the power of art and theatre is to have even one person make that connection – their experience is spoken about in public and that it’s also happening to somebody else.
“People feel lonely and isolated. It is rewarding for them to know they’re not alone and those around them need to reach out and help. On a deeper level, I would be happy if the audience leaves with a little more [of an] open heart,” adds Milošević.
The Village runs Feb. 24–28 at the Firehall Arts Centre.