Applied Theatre Drama Workshops in Orthodox Communities for Addictive Disease Treatment “The Land of the Living“


In orthodox communities for drug addicts rehabilitation „The Land of the Living“ in Vojvodina a unique project is currently in progress called „PLAY AS BREATHING, THEATRE AS LIFE“.

The project involves conducting applied theatre drama workshops as one of the addict rehabilitation tools. This is the first time in Serbia that dramatic forms of applied theatre are used in a systematic, planned manner in working with this specific group.

The project „PLAY AS BREATHING, THEATRE AS LIFE“ has been supported within the „Social Transition“ programme by the Cooperative Netherlands Foundation for Central and Eastern Europe (CNF CEE) and the Balkan Community Initiatives Fund (BCIF).

Consultants on the project are theatre practitioners from the Dutch organisation Formaat – Workplace for Participatory Drama. The project supervisor is Paul Murray, PhD holder in applied theatre and the former professor at the University in Winchester, England.


     „The Land of the Living“ is a community for drug addicts rehabilitation founded and started by the Kovillj Monastery with the blessing of His Grace Bishop Irinej of Bačka. The community objective is to help young people having drug issues strengthen for living a drug-free life by living healthy in nature and community and cherishing work discipline and discovering faith. Two basic strongholds of their stay in such communities are work and prayer. Houses in which the female and male addicts are accommodated in are built almost three years ago and so far over 150 addicts from Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia have lived in them. The project shall include two rehabilitation houses in which men are accommodated (Vilovo and Čenej) and one house for women in Bačko Petrovo Selo.

Project Objective

The project objective is providing support to faster, quality and long-lasting psycho-social rehabilitation of people having drug issues, overcoming taboos and prejudices towards these young people and centres for their rehabilitation and preventive action in narrower and wider social environment.     

From the process of working in the workshops theatre plays shall be developed based on personal experience of the participants. The aim of these plays will be to strengthen the participants through the process of play preparation, audience education, and drug abuse prevention and by overcoming the gap between rehabilitation facilities and local community.

In June, July and August 2009 the plays shall be performed in the local communities, i.e. the villages that the rehabilitation facilities are located in, and in nearby towns (Novi Sad and Zrenjanin).

The heart of the project is to make these young people regain self-confidence and confidence in their own abilities for continuous development and learning, help them realize that they are able to reinvent themselves and start a new life, full of love and dignity, drug-free. By being given the opportunity to experiment with their identities and roles in the workshops these young people practice for the life they are about to embark after leaving the communities, in which they, and not drugs will play the leading role – the role of responsible creators of new stories of their lives.

Some of the statements of the workshop participants:

…I found out that I can improve my communication skills

…I like the fact that through playing i.e. exercises I pay attention to many things, think about many stuff that I was not even able to observe from the right point of view

…the workshop helps me improve myself and eliminate certain complexes I have, things that trouble me and brings me closer to other people in the community

…I remembered some nice and ugly things that happened in the past, which is good, because the bad things the drug brought I have quickly forgotten, and I remembered some nice things without drugs

…I want to make the best of every single day. The workshop often wakes me up from the lethargy that I fall into frequently and undeliberately, it fills me up with positive energy and shows me the brighter side of life…