European Family performance
How does a family overcome the time of pandemic far from each-other? With no possibility to meet in such a hopeless situation. What can you do if you would like to bid farewell to your deceased mother during lockdown but the measures prohibit it? The performance created by Independent Theater Hungary with the cooperation of creators from four countries tributes to the victims of Covid-19 and the families who have been separated due to the epidemic.
The performance was presented at the Roma Heroes – IV. International Roma Theatre Festival on 18 November 2020 and is still available for a week on the YouTube channel of Independent Theatre Hungary. The plot of the play was invented by the creators together during online discussions, the rehearsals and the recording of the performance were also realised in the online space. The success of the whole creative process proves that distance and isolation should not be a hindrance to international artistic work. The story of the Roma family gives us strengths in this difficult time: even though the family members face loss, conflicts and secrets, they are able to move forward with the power of love. The recordings of the play are scenes from a family Zoom call.
Jess Smith, traveller playwright’s thoughts on the performance:
’It’s a wonderful play, my heart was filled with love, the acting moved me to tears. What we can see is a mother’s healing power. It’s a complete and strong drama emphasising the healing voice of a mother. Time is a gift, make good use of it building bridges instead of walls, since water can flow freely and cleanly only under bridges.’
The play can be viewed for an entire week on the YouTube channel of Independent Theater Hungary. It is performed in English but Hungarian, Italian and Spanish subtitles are available.
Starring: Sonia Carmona Tapia, Lucia Lakatos, Richard R. O’Neill, Sebastiano Spinella, Tamás Szegedi
Written by Richard R. O’Neill
Co-writers: Sonia Carmona Tapia, Lucia Lakatos, Richard R. O’Neill, Sebastiano Spinella, Tamás Szegedi, Jaime Vicente Bohorquez
Directed by Rodrigó Balogh, Márton Illés, Péter Illés
27 March is the World Theatre Day. From 1978 a message is delivered before the performance begins on each stage of each country of the world. The aim of the theatre day is to draw attention to the importance of theatre – and in a broader sense – of culture, to pay tribute to actors, theatre workers, and to ask for the love and support of the audience.
Although there are Roma theatre companies all over Europe, in the last 42 years the International Theatre Institute never asked a theatre maker of Roma origin to convey a message to the stages of the world. Year by year, the Independent Theater Hungary invites an artist with Roma ancestors to tell his/her message.
Please, welcome the World Theatre Day message of Simonida Selimovič, the artistic director of the Romano Svato Theatre Company in Vienna.
“When I think of the theatre, I imagine a world where theatre represents the citizens, and my culture has a place on stage, too. Unfortunately, this is not the case, even if the Roma people have been playing a role in the history of Europe for 700 years.
In the theatre my soul was filled with hope, my mood was upbeat, and I felt myself at home because I was happy to play. Later, I noticed that there’s few Roma who can practice this profession. I belong to those who had the courage to choose this profession. Then I soon realised why I am assigned only stereotyped roles, why I am always pigeonholed.
The quality of theatre cannot be measured by the number of the audience. Considering the whole society, theatre is an institute for a minority. However, don’t we measure the world of democracy by the fate of the minorities living in it?
Theatre is interesting and good if it explains the world.
After all, theatre is the place where society reflects on life in general. My attention is captured when I feel that the play deals with serious questions: love, death, social and political conditions, when I feel personally addressed as a member of society.
However, I don’t feel addressed at all when the “Gipsy Baron” is on stage. The language still offends me and many other Roma people. The Volksoper in Vienna can still make flyers and advertise a play in which there are no Roma actors at all, and that represents only a corny cliché-like “gipsy image” known by the majority.
The play ignores not only the undignified conditions in which most of the Roma lived but also the fact that when the canonised light opera was made, most Roma groups had settled, did not wander on their well-known ‘green wagon’ from one place to the other, but they lived together with the majority of society. If the ‘Gipsies’ are regarded persona no grata of the multi-ethnic state, how is it come that ‘the outcast’ could become the subject of the entertainer industry in the heyday of the light opera.
On this basis, this tendency became the authentic vision of society in the period, and for the art of Romantism it became the intellectual background again and again to depict the ‘Gipsy lifestyle’, which satisfied the audience of the Decadent movement both musically and dramaturgically. The opera is the product of the majority that excluded and persecuted the Roma for centuries, and this tendency lives on in this light opera performed in Vienna, too. It’s the well-designed construction of the Gipsy stereotype that was created by the majority during the centuries.
I ask the question: Why do the cultural policy of Austria, the sponsors and the banks support such an opera with an unbelievably huge amount of money? The performance they support doesn’t help the community, the nation, society and tolerance but popularises racism in the city of Vienna, and what is more, tries to make it presentable.
I wish a Roma theatre that hasn’t been realised in Vienna yet. A theatre where we can tell our own stories about our ancestors. Here, in Austria the stories of the Sinti and the Roma haven’t been told like that of the Jews, otherwise ‘The Gipsy Baron” couldn’t be on programme now.
Numerous plays and operas could be written based on our stories, we just need a place to play, recognition, and support from those who owe us. We need places and theatres that are available for us, where the Roma people can play, work and show the world their still unknown stories. Many people don’t know the real ‘Roma’ people, they just believe to know them based on the distorted and false idea they have in their minds.
Let’s make a theatre that includes people who respect each-other, where high-quality stories are told, a theatre that our descendants are delighted about, too. Let’s become an example for the next generation so that they can learn from us. Don’t let them live in an art world that is full of clichés and racism.”
RUZDIJA SEJDOVIC and JOVAN NIKOLIC: KOSOVO MON AMOUR, stage reading
Yashar and his wife, Elvira are running a pub in Kosovo during the South Slavic war. The hate campaign against the nations creates more and more corruption, violence and absurd life situations among people who are relatives and once were friends but became sworn enemies of each-other all of a sudden. The play illustrates a society suffering from propaganda of hatred, nationalism, lies and manipulation in a shocking way. A society which Hungary starts to resemble. (Rodrigó Balogh, director)
„When bulls are fighting, the grass is suffering the most.” The play was written by Ruzdija Sejdovic living in Köln and his partner Jovan Nikolic. It was presented in the Phralipe Theatre of Germany in 2000, in the direction of Rahim Burham.
Authors: Ruzdija Sejdovic and Jovan Nikolic
Translator: Kenyeres-Gyulassy Kinga
Screenplay: Illés Márton
Director: Balogh Rodrigó
Performed by: Time of the premier: 27 March 2020, on the occasion of the international day of theatre
Place of premier: RS9 Theatre, BUDAPEST, RUMBACH SEBESTYÉN str.9.
Photo: Elvira performed by Fátyol Kamilla
Created by: Vincze Alina
The performance is presented by the Independent Theatre Hungary supported by Goethe Institute.
Independent Theater Hungary presented the first Roma drama collection in the world called “Roma heroes – Five European Monodramas” at a symposium on 27th March, World Theatre Day, in cooperation with Goethe Institute and Delegation of Flanders in Hungary.
Five monodramas are included in the book, each telling the story of a real-life Roma hero. The plays not only present the life of Roma people and communities but also help to find your own heroes. Development of drama literature has always been closely connected to the rise of the middle class and democracy, from antique Greece through Shakespeare’s England till Hungary during the Reform Era. Dramas and exemplary heroes, the protagonists can play a crucial role in the rise of a Roma middle class, too. Protagonists of the plays face difficulties and they make decisions. After the decision is made, the protagonists become active and initiate change in each and every case.
The drama collection was presented by Rodrigó Balogh, artistic director of Independent Theatre. A scene from every play was read out by performing artists and Roma intellectuals. The aim of the book is to disseminate these stories, showing the values of Roma theatre to as many people as possible. Rodrigó Balogh thanked the contributors, supporters and co-workers as the collection could not have been realized without their work and support. He closed the presentation by saying: “The question is not where we are now, but how far we can go”.
The plays included in the book:
- The Hardest Word by Richard O’Neill presents the campaign of Jess Smith, the Scottish Traveller writer who demanded the first minister to apologize for the injustice and persecution of the Traveller community.
- It’s a Cultural Thing. Or Is It? by Michael Collins also shows the past of Traveller people, this time in Ireland.
- Tell Them About Me by Michaela Dragan deals with the topic of early marriages through personal stories of various Roma women in Romania.
- Speak, My Life by Dijana Pavlovic tells about the long years of Yenish genocide in Switzerland that ended in the ’70ies through the eyes and based on the novel of the Yenish writer, Mariella Mehr.
- Letter to Brad Pitt by Franciska Farkas is a painstakingly honest confession about the actress’ own life, with a touch of dark humor.
The drama collection is available in English and in Hungarian languages. You may order the book from the theatre by writing an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related to the drama collection, an exhibition was opened in the Market Hall at Rákóczi tér, presenting 11 European Roma theatre artists. The exhibition closes on 7th April.