The book by the Russian theatre theoretician Natalia Mikhailovna Vagapova is dedicated to the Belgrade International Theatre Festival. Forty years in the life of this distinctive theatre organism corroborate the principal thesis of the book’s author that Bitef, founded in 1967, outgrew the boundaries of ordinary annual reviews of new productions. The Belgrade International Theatre Festival has become a modern theatre direction laboratory, a chair and a debating club not only for theatre practitioners from different countries, but also for critics, theatre educators and students, and ordinary theatre public. In fact, study by Natalia Vagapova is the first written history of Bitef.
NATALIA MIKHAILOVNA VAGAPOVA was born in Moscow, 1934. In 1951 she enrolled the Department of Slavonic Languages of the Faculty of Philology of the Moscow State University. She learned the Serbian language with Ilya Ilyich Tolstoy, the grandson of Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy and the author of the best Serbo-Croatian-Russian language. In 1956-1959 Vagapova attended postgraduate studies. The title of her dissertation was The Literatures of the Peoples of Yugoslavia. In 1966 she became a member of the State Institute for the History and Theory ofArt attached to the Ministry of Culture of the USSR, that is the Russian Federation today. In 1983 The Moscow Academic Publishing House Nauka published her study The Formation of Realism in the Stage Art of Yugoslavia in the 1920s and the 1930s. She has been following the contemporary theatre art in Yugoslavia ever since and regularly attends Sterijino Pozorje and participates in its symposiums. As of the mid-1970s Vagapova is a constant Bitef visitor and participant in its round table discussions. In 1998, as a result of her regular visits in Belgrade the Moscow Institute, of which she is a member, published her book Bitef, Theatre, Festival. The book was presented to the 33rd Bitef audience in 1999. Natalia Mikhailovna Vagapova sat on the Bitef jury that year. She translated into Russian stories by Ivo Andrić, Oskar Davičo, Erih Koš, Milorad Pavić, Svetlana Velmar-Janković as well as plays by Miroslav Krleža, Marin Držić, Marijan Matković, Đorđe Lebović and Dušan Kovačević. The majority of them were staged in Russia. Owing to her translation of Milorad Pavić’s play Forever and a Day, this is the first Serbian play staged in the celebrated MHAT.