New World Order Theater presents -------------------------------- WHO KILLED CAPTAIN COOK? one act farce by H.D. Branko cast: Rose....... Elgy Gillespie Marsha..... Christine Gomez Jim........ Allen Odermatt Ramone..... Michael Husf Michael.... Branko Costumes/Props: Mia Interlandi-Ferreira Graphic Design: Dejan Mihailovic
On a cold October day in 1972 a young bearded man approached me from behind at the famous Belgrade restaurant, "Kolarac". He slapped my back, making me spill my brandy all over the table, and announced: "I'm gonna direct your play"! I was a student at the so called Academy for Theater, Film, Radio and Television, majoring in play writing and script writing, but I considered myself a fiction writer,and the reason I did not study creative writing was that there were no such courses at the Belgrade University, so I opted for the closest thing. At the end of each school year, I had to write a full-length play and a full-length screenplay so the professors could decide if I deserved to be advanced to the next level. At the time I was already in my fourth and last year of my studies. The bearded guy, Goran Cvetkovic, was a theater-directing student and he found my play at the Department Library where all the copies of student plays were sent regularly.
The play in question was an experimental piece written to satisfy the taste of our third year instructor and I personally considered it to be unstageable. Little did I know. Being even more drunk while directing it, than I was while writing it, but Goran had added music, puppetry, shadow play and a few other things to the already overwritten text. The times must've been right for that kind of symbol laden all-encompassing stuff, because the show became a huge success. As it was produced for the Student Theater, it got invitations for many festivals of Student Theaters all over Europe. Just before we left Belgrade, the news came that the play won some prestigious award.
For better or worse, the first stop on our tour was Budapest. The Yugoslav Consul and a few other spies came to see us and obviously enjoyed the show immensely but at the reception afterwards the comrade consul told us that we could not proceed with our tour. The reason was obvious: in one scene we made fun of the Soviet Unionís exploitation of their satellite states After a long discussion, they compromised: we could present the show in Poland if we took out the dialogue and did the scene in silence! Which we did, but when the Polish critics asked about the scene, Goran, under the influence as usual, told them what had happened.
The Comrade Yugoslav Consul in Warsaw was outraged. The name of our show was Theater is the Real Thing, which was the famous Coca Cola commercial slogan of the time, and the comrade consul insisted that we were all, especially me, working for the CIA as part of their propaganda war against Communism. We were promptly put aboard a bus back to Belgrade. At the very beginning of the 51 hour ride, some comrade who always accompanied us on our trips although he never had anything to do with our Theater, came to me and told me that they could not possibly award a play so controversial. The only solution was to bring another of my plays so they could produce it quickly and announce that it was actually the new play that had been awarded.
I was in trouble: after I'd heard about the award I borrowed heavily so I could buy enough drinks for everyone, as is the custom in Belgrade. You have to outspend prize award by a ratio of 1 to 3, or nobody ever speaks to you again!
On the other hand, I did not have another play to bring! For Tito's sake, I was a fiction writer who wrote plays only because it was a stupid requirement for unfortunate of playwriting students!
I grabbed a bottle of Polish vodka and withdrew to the back of the bus to think it over.
The manager of our theater came to tell me that I should choose among "my plays" one with no more than five characters, because they had five free actors. He also told me which five actors I could count on, and left me. And while the bus took us through the most uninteresting parts of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Yugoslavia, with a lot of help from Zubrovka brand of vodka, I composed a play in my head that in my humble opinion would've been ideal for those five people that were not cast during the busiest period of our theater season.
It opened in April 1974. It set the record for the longest run at the Academic Theater. In 1976 it was revived under the title "Whatever Happened to the Rakocevich Family", than again in 1979 under its original title. In 1978 a sequel was produced: "Shoot the Drunkard". In 1979 came the third installement: "The Greatest Theater Show in World History". There were numerous productions that were never registered; there were shows inspired by Cook, there were rip-offs, and a huge crowd of followers: Cookheads. They came to see every show just to see how different it would be from the previous one. And different they certainly were, depending on the amount of alcohol consumed backstage. And on stage. Sometimes the bottles originated on stage made their way into the audience. Sometimes it was the other way around. In any case that is how we imagined the real Dionysian spirit that resulted in the birth of the Theater as we know it.
That the theater deviates nowadays is no wonder: it dutifully reflects the times. We've shifted towards pessimism, boring introspection, serious treatments of the serious issues, and censorship.
New World Order Theater 94/95 season:
August/September: THE MAGNIFICENT SOVIET ROBINSON
October/December: WHO KILLED CAPTAIN COOK?
January/March: THE SERBIAN POET'S DREAM
April/June: FOOD FIGHT AT EAST PSYCHE
August/October: DOUBLE SHAKE AND A FLIP
October/December: THE GRAND ALLUSIONS
January/March: THE SPY DUST MEMORIES
April/June: APPEALING TO THE LOWEST TASTES OF THE UNEDUCATED AUDIENCE
August/October: THE COLD DOGS
October/December: J-1 CONSPIRACY
January/March: TOO MUCH GOOD NEWS or THE KING OF TONGA IN A SWIMMING POOL
April/June: DEAD HORSE SOCIETY
August/October: EVE OF DESTRUCTION
October/December: COUNTDOWN TO ARMAGEDDON
There will be no shows. In case H.D. survives the WW III the activities will resume in April 2003 with WHO KILLED CAPTAIN COOK? celebrating its 30th anniversary.