How do you turn off a light bulb?
About how Spiro wanted to turn off the light bulb with all his might - by barking!
The most unusual stage, but extremely dear to the doyen of Croatian theater, Špiri Guberina, was the one that was located in no less than - a stable. Every few Sundays, a large number of poets, actors, musicians and many other artists gathered at Mirjana Sačer Bobanac's renovated country estate.
Štagalj, built in the 1950s, was a real small theater. In the hayloft, instead of hay, there were planks that mean life, and various artistic performances were performed on them. Spiro was also a frequent guest of those gatherings.
We, then still small children, visiting the old estate admired the unusual guests that we normally had the opportunity to see only on television. We would sit on improvised benches that consisted of a combination of chairs and boards - because there was never enough room for everyone gathered, and we would curiously await the "show".
After long and, incomprehensible to us droolers, poetry recitations and beautiful but tiring classical music, we started fidgeting on the chairs, obviously unimpressed. Then they invited Spira to perform "something". He could play Prince Mishkin, Očenašek or Strikan. But he knew what his large audience, with an average height of half a meter, needed.
He went up to the stage where, by some convenient coincidence, there was a light bulb hanging! Appropriately bare, without a chandelier.
When this "funny man from television" climbed onto the strangest stage in all of Croatia, there was silence. Our children's eyes eagerly awaited what would happen next. The astonishment was greater because there was nothing on the stage, except for the already graying actor and the light bulb.
But additional props were not needed. The actor looked at us all with a stern look, stood in a "calm" position and asked in a serious, sharp and penetrating voice: - Do you know how to turn off a light bulb?!? –
We, a little afraid of the sudden change of mood of the nice old man, began to look at each other worriedly. - Do you know how to turn off a light bulb!?! – he asked again, louder, more serious and impatient.
There was silence in the audience. All the little eyes suddenly became huge, scared, but interested in what was happening on the stage. – 'Who knows how to turn off a light bulb?!?!? - the old man shouted, now angry and irritated. It was so quiet in the "theatre" that the hum of a distant tractor could be heard outside. Little heads began to turn, looking for Aunt Mirjana.
There was a real diffusion of responsibility. After a few tens of seconds of staring at the angry old man, some weak voice from the first row, gathering courage and turning to the rest of the insufficiently acculturated socialites, anxiously declared: - Somebody call Aunt Mirjana to show him where the light counter is... -
Hearing the remark, a faint, barely noticeable smile flickered on the actor's serious face. But immediately, fearing that one of the little starters would really turn off the light, he continued – Do you know how to turn off a light bulb?!? A light bulb goes out by barking at it! –
There was shock and silence. The audience, confused, looked at each other. This one is crazy! There was no other explanation, we all thought. And then, something terrible happened.
The stooped old man came closer to that unfortunate light bulb, looked straight at it (he didn't seem to mind the light now) and started barking. – Wow, wow, wow!!! Wow, wow, wow!!! - he shouted maniacally. The actor, barking, turned from an old man into a young man. The energy was bursting.
This part of the monologue caused the real admiration of the shaggy audience, and they, freed from fear, started laughing maniacally, while the actor's: - Wow, wow, wow!!! Wow, wow, wow!! - the eagle with the stable-stage and the whole estate.
- What, what do you think I'm crazy?!? - he shouted during breaks. – This is how a light bulb goes out!! Wow, wow, wow!! - he would repeat, passing his barking through different tonalities, sometimes imitating a poodle, sometimes growling like a real pit-bull. The most demanding part of the audience got their own show. Both old and young laughed, both those who regularly performed on stage and those who reached out to the dogs for the latter. I can't tell you for sure whether the innocent, but "guilty" light bulb was finally extinguished by Krelet's barking, Mirjana or the thunderous applause that swept the stage. But the light bulb of memory remained burning. The memory of a monologue which, after years of visiting the most prestigious Croatian theaters, is the only one I have remembered in its entirety.
The mysterious scene followed me throughout my childhood, and my astonishment never ended when, reading that awful and long book by Špirin's favorite professor Ranko Marinković, I realized: - Well, wait a minute, I've seen this somewhere. - Somewhere, in a small but big village theater. No less than Špra's favorite role of Krelet and his favorite scene – barking at a light bulb.
And that was the greatness of Špira Guberina. With his charismatic face and humor, he was an actor everywhere, and for everyone.