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Bosnian native explores neighbor relationships in play

UNI+communications+master%27s+student+Milica+Njezic+wrote+and+directed+the+play%2C+%22Live+Thy+Neighbor%2C%22+about+what+it+means+to+be+a+neighbor+to+people.
UNI communications master's student Milica Njezic wrote and directed the play,

UNI communications master's student Milica Njezic wrote and directed the play, "Live Thy Neighbor," about what it means to be a neighbor to people.

COURTESY PHOTO

COURTESY PHOTO

UNI communications master's student Milica Njezic wrote and directed the play, "Live Thy Neighbor," about what it means to be a neighbor to people.

SARAH HOFMEYER, Staff Writer

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“Live Thy Neighbor,” a play written and directed by Milica Njezic, a master’s student in the communications department, will be presented March 1, 2 and 3 at 7:30 p.m. in the UNI Interpreter’s Theatre.

The play is a creative thesis meant to explore the act of neighboring, according to Njezic. Njezic, a native Bosnian, has experienced both individualistic and collectivist cultures, and the way neighbors interact is different to her.

“I come from a collectivist culture; back home, everyone is always together. When I came here for school seven years ago, I did not feel that same community,” Njezic said. “I felt like there was a distance between myself and all my neighbors. Back home, kids play soccer on the street, and people are always out. Here, it is so quiet. I began wondering, what is the difference in how we perform neighboring?”

Njezic argues that neighboring is a verb; it is something people actively “do” or “do not” do. “Live Thy Neighbor” is performed from the perspective of Bosnian people, starting with Njezic’s perspective. Much of the play is based on her experiences in Bosnia and the United States, including the experiences of her family and neighbors back home. She also interviewed Bosnian refugees in Waterloo to add depth to the performance.

The play is a cohesive story that is set in present-day Cedar Falls-Waterloo. Memories are also written into the play to discuss the history of Bosnia and Serbia’s wars in the 1990s. Njezic notes that Bosnian history is complex, and the play explains that complexity. Njezic’s mother is a Bosnian-Serb, and her father is a Bosnian-Muslim, so her identity is also explored throughout the play.

“Live Thy Neighbor” features a cast of 11 students, including a mix of undergraduate and graduate students. Njezic’s directing stresses flexibility with actors, allowing them to take on and grow into the roles she wrote.

“It is wonderful to see them shape their characters in the way they see the characters, even though they are based on people who live and breathe,” Njezic said. “They can stay true to the stories of these people, but still create characters how they see fit.”

Together, this mix of writing and directing allows for a unique creative thesis that reflects on an important topic. Neighboring is an ever-relevant topic on UNI’s campus as administrators try to make UNI and Cedar Falls home for international students. Njezic’s questions echo many other students.

“I am a foreigner here, but I am a foreigner at home as well,” Njezic said. “Are there people, like me, who feel in between? Do they understand and perform neighboring the way I do?”

There will be a talk-back session following the play that Njezic encourages students to stick around for. Audience members are asked to stay and discuss themes and concepts from the play.

“I would love to hear audience members’ experiences in terms of neighboring, including different periods of time and areas,” Njezic said. “The ideal purpose [of the play] is for the audience to reflect on their relationships with their neighbors.”

Njezic also sees a contemporary connection to U.S. politics and poses the question: “This is such an interesting political moment; who do we allow to be our neighbor?”

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Bosnian native explores neighbor relationships in play