Marijela Margeta Hašimbegović, director of the National Theatre

Wherever she appears, she draws attention with her energy, smile and style.

Interviewed by: Elma Zećo

Photos: Edvin Kalić

Even as a student, the first female director of the National Theatre located along the river, knew how to push the world of rigid physics with emotions, which is why her mentors directed her towards the stage, where they believed she would be able to transform theatre literature into a multidimensional world of performance with ease. And they were right. However, she is not just full of an unstoppable creative energy, but she also possesses an unbelievable will to never give up on her intentions.

Risk, if you wish to succeed

You are the first female director of the National Theatre in the nine decades of its existence. Why do women not get an opportunity to be in charge of theatres more often?

–  We must admit that we live in a male world. Women find it hard to fit into the dominant manner of decision-making, or they underestimate themselves with the idea that it is easier to take the path that doesn’t require sacrifice. I consciously „entered the fire“, completely directly, I knew what to expect, but I also knew that nothing could defeat hard work, love and sacrifice. Women, still, find it easier to take risks, and you have to risk, if you wish to succeed. The definition of success is also different in male and female entrepreneurship. Care and nurturing comes easier to women, which is something we need today, as well as community service.

Formula for a happy life

“You have to be realistic when it comes to your needs and expectations, explore your inner world and become your own best friend, not always wait for someone to make you happy, do it for yourself, then you are capable of loving more and appreciating love. Love and respect yourself and others around you, be gentle towards yourself and others, each given emotion will be reciprocated a hundredfold. Live your life honourably, that might be the hardest path, but it is the only one that pays off. Live each day to the fullest and believe that there is a place under the sun for every creature on the planet.” 


You have managed to bring back audiences to the theatre. How did you do it?

–  The audience felt our positive energy, our desire for quality and our respect towards them. An audience is an irreplaceable part of every show and it knows how to reward artists for their art. Also, a high quality and rich repertoire are the recipe for greater theatre attendance, i.e. a program that can satisfy the tastes of all generations!

At a time of spiritual poverty, how does one motivate artists to take a chosen path and push the boundaries?

–  An artist corresponds with the environment and filters all external energy through their personal energy, which provides them with inspiration, or it, possibly, separates them from the essence. That is where you need to recognise your place in leading the artist to never lose faith in their missionary path, to not forget why they are on the “shrine” known as the stage, and what their role is in society. Motivation comes through working on good and inventive works, stories, and it also happens through fruitful collaboration with professional and gifted colleagues. People are also encouraged through affirmation, as well as their own example that there’s no giving up, only moving forward!

Reviving the stage

While you were studying at the Faculty of Architecture, your professors noticed that you were very talented at scenography. What was it that made you decide that it would become your profession?

–  My creative energy was always unusual and very refined. My artistic expression was amorphous, emotive, I put emotion into every physical world, I explored the behaviour of material in relation to people. All this led my professors to direct me towards the world of performing arts, where my own art felt at home.

How do you approach the creation of an imaginary world, which in the end needs to look real?

–  I breathe life and purpose into each imaginary world, I give it soul and time, and as such, it becomes a part of our existence.

How much do you think your architecture degree helped you in your work as a scenographer?

–  My architecture degree helped me understand the logic and psychology of space, and also that with the aid of artistic elements I’m capable of creating the laws of statics in the physical world, which live only on the stage. Because, when you have a request for a part of your backdrop to become a cupboard, which then, for example, needs to fly, you realise that the dimension of creativity transcends reality.

A part of your aesthetic expression was also costume design. Which criteria does an ideal costume need to fulfil?

–  The theatre concept of costume is extremely complex. Namely, you must understand that for artists the costume makes the „skin“ of the character they are playing and whose essence they must portray. At the same time, a performer must have the freedom of movement in their costume. The artistic treatment of a show is something we first see in a show and which connects us to further plot development, atmosphere and energy. First, we see, then we hear.

Is there a show that you are emotionally attached to in particular?

–  I’m emotionally attached to many shows, but the show The Legend of Ali Pasha always holds a special place for me, directed by (the late) Sulejman Kupusović. Our greatest director and I collaborated for years and every project with Sule brought something special. For this show, I explored the life of the čaršija and our dear Sarajevo. When the curtains went up at the premiere, the audience gasped, and for me that was the most beautiful gift that I had ever received.

Inspirational Tunisia

Marijela believes that it is useful to leave your everyday life behind and go somewhere, changing the rhythm of life in this manner. That is why she loves to travel. She will never forget some of her trips.

“Forever ingrained in my memory is our honeymoon, staying in Tunisia and a place in the desert with a blood-coloured lake. It looked surreal. It is indescribable how much inspiration nature can give us.”


A person grows through temptations

People perceive you as a great lady. How much of that comes from the way you were raised, and how much from your life choices?

–  I think that this is something you take from your home. I was raised in a home atmosphere where the words: „I won’t“, „I can’t“, „I don’t know how to“ didn’t exist, which is why today I can do anything! Also, I was taught that it is not polite to speak negatively in company, which is why today I exude positive energy and I never burden the external world with the internal one. My life choice is that I want to fight for good things, to personally, together with my surroundings, live through as many beautiful and happy moments as possible.


Who were your role models in life?

–  Hard-working, good, honourable and honest people. Creative people, eccentrics, revolutionaries…

And where do you get your positive energy from and what is it that makes you a vital person?

–  I regenerate very quickly, as if I’m allergic to bad feelings. Actually, you learn that as you experience temptations, you actually grow. Nothing is as bad as it seems, we don’t know why something is good for us in that moment.

In summary of 2017, what will you remember it by?

–  My life trajectory is directed mostly towards the theatre, treating personal and work life very similarly. Time at home mostly passes in plans and preparations for further creative theatre illusions, while theatre dynamics inspire me to always be able to heartily create again and be happy with what has been done. I will remember the current year mostly through the words of our dear audience, which won me over numerous times, and confirmed and indebted me with their gratitude and compliments for our work. My office is often described as a lighthouse, after all something must shine in this turbulent reality. Because of that, I also personally feel affirmed as a human being, who is on the right path and who is fulfilling her artistic mission.


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