Before the audience entered Studio Theater in the Ford Center for Fine Arts for DAH Theatre’s performance called “Crossing the Line,” House Manager sophomore Avery Wigglesworth informed everyone that the show would start the moment they walked into the intimate theater.
Three actresses performed in “Crossing the Line,” which was inspired by Chekhov’s “Three Sisters,” and explores the themes of “missed opportunities and lost chances.” DAH Theatre took this theme and applied it to their experiences during the time of a civil war in the former Yugoslavia — the actresses often play roles of women who lived through the war, reading their letters and accounts of destruction. Through the intense symbolism of the show, its personal messages were made universal.
As the audience was seated, actress Maja Mitić stood against a wall reading from a book in Serbian. Another actress, Sanja Krsmanović Tasić, who taught Monday’s DAH dance workshop, stood with her back to the audience. On the stage, there were three platforms spread out which acted as the main performing spaces for each actress and held props for each actress. Empty glasses were scattered on the floor and a giant screen that projected images covered the back wall. The third actress, Ivana Milenović, sat in the front row, reading a book, similarly to Mitić.
Mitić walked toward her platform on the right of the audience and began to recite a letter in English, saying, “Dear women of Belgrade…” Sent from Sarajevo, now the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to Belgrade, capital of the former Yugoslavia, the letter illustrated the shattering divide between Yugoslavia’s citizens as countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia. Mitić lit a cigarette and continued reading the letter, saying, “That night the sides were chosen. That night the war began.”
Milenović came onto the stage pouring water from a bucket into the empty glasses scattered around the stage while Mitić blew smoke and Tasić looked on toward Milenović. After finishing her task, Milenović kissed letters and passed them to Tasić, who then passed them to Mitić. After Mitić received the last missive, she lit one on fire and it disintegrated in a flash. This powerful image caused surprised reactions from the audience and surely imprinted on their memories.
In another scene, projected on the wall was the familiar layout of a newspaper with the headline, “It was a newspaper page like any other.” Milenović spoke calmly at first, saying there was nothing disturbing about the article, then went on to say there were four lines in the middle of the text that stood out, “dragging the meaning into [her] brain.”
The lines were about the rape of women and girls during the war. This scene reflected the desensitization often seen in the public during times of war as they overlook news articles because the horrors seem so dull that the text blends together. However, when reading the names of the victims, such as 17-year-old Marijana who was raped hundreds of times, Milenović spoke with guilt and the burden of knowing these atrocities but was seemingly helpless to do anything.
While Milenović spoke, Mitić took off her sweater and tights to scrub herself of the feeling of being unclean, a feeling rape survivors often experience. Milenović ended the scene, saying that those who experience horrors are not able to scream out so “those in a position to scream should do so as loudly as they can.” Milenović ended the scene, revealing her character as a reporter in Prague.
Nearing the end of the piece, Tasić spoke of waiting for air raids while being in Belgrade despite it not being one of the areas being bombed. She said she felt guilty while Mitić scratched at her platform, banging her head on it, unable to penetrate the surface. Tasić continued, saying, “I dreamt of bombs falling in my bed,” as illustrated by Mitić, who lied down on her side covering her ears.
Just before the last scene, the three actresses switched clothes while smiling throughout the exchange. Mitić opened the Red Cross box full of containers of salt and passed several each to Tasić and Milenović. They salted their platforms and soon salted themselves while the sound of rain and thunder resounded. Milenović continued pouring salt onto her face while Mitić shaped the salt from the floor like a mound, took a white rose bud from a bouquet near her and planted it in the middle before exiting. After salting herself, Tasić gravitated toward the bud, admiring it, then exited. Milenović spent several more seconds pouring salt onto her face and exited as the sound of rain and thunder faded with the lights.