After a lot of effort and work invested after the initial idea, at this year’s Kotar FEST! we had the honor of holding a special ceremony. Although this is a rarity in Croatia, a living actor was honored by having a theater hall named after him. In the crowded Workers’ Hall in Delnice, Pero Kvrgić, the doyen of Croatian actors, was awarded a plaque in a formal act of honoring this Gorski Kotar native, who is turning 90 years old in 2017.
At the fifth Kotar FEST!, Pero Kvrgić and Lela Margitić performed their legendary Exercises in Style (Stilske vježbe), a play that has entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-lived play in the world performed by the same actors. This theatrical phenomenon has been performed for 48 consecutive years, and has thrilled audiences around the world. Pero Kvrgić and Mia Oremović started making theater history in 1968, with Lela Margitić taking over for Mia Oremović two years later. This legendary theatrical duo is still dazzling us with the play today, and have, as they themselves say, already lost count of the number of performances.
Pero Kvrgić thanked his colleagues: “I would like to thank the young actors and Kotar FEST! for the initiative. I couldn’t have even dreamed that Lela and I would be performing Exercises in Style, directed by the late Žiro Radić and Tonko Maroević, for 48 years. Thank you all for making this happen here in Gorski Kotar.” The great actor, who was born in the village of Moravice in Gorski Kotar, was visibly overcome with emotions.
The first theater hall in Delnice was opened by the actress and director Barbara Rocco, who explained what Exercises in Style meant to her: “As a child, I fell in love with theater, and this play played a large part in that. My father advised me to make sure that I go and see it. He said that it was a play that you go see multiple times throughout your life. Now I know how right he was. It is my great honor to be able to be here tonight and open the “Pero Kvrgić” Theater Hall.”
Tonko Maroević, a longtime friend and colleague of Pero Kvrgić, who translated and adapted the Exercises in Style with Tomislav Radić, also spoke at the opening ceremony. In his speech he reminisced about Kvrgić’s beginnings, when he moved from his home village of Moravice to Zagreb and started his ascent towards theater greatness. He also recalled some of his famous parts, such as the Father from Six Characters in Search of an Author, Scapin from Molière’s Scapin the Schemer, Sganarelle from Dom Juan, Sampognetta from Pirandello’s play Tonight We Improvise, Harpagon from Molière’s The Miser, and Dundo Maroje from Marin Držić’s Dundo Maroje.
Lela Margitić also gave a short speech, revealing that the play would not have been as successful and long-lived were it not for the friendship between this legendary duo: “We didn’t think that Exercises in Style would survive, but this play has actually lasted an entire lifetime.”
The idea to open the theater hall was initiated by Sanjin Rožić, a longtime collaborator of Kotar FEST!, the only festival in Gorski Kotar and Croatia at which the youngest performer was five and the oldest eighty-nine years old.