Roma Heroes – II. International Roma Storytelling Festival

The special cultural event aims to raise awareness of the values ​​of Roma drama and storytelling, as well as the situation of Roma communities, by presenting eight European contemporary performances, focusing on the stories of value-driven people and their non-everyday challenges.

The focus of the Festival in Budapest is personal storytelling. The performances of the four-day festival program are about Roma heroes who have been able to initiate changes in the lives of themselves and their communities. These are works where we take the activity and taking responsibility of the dramatic heroes home with us and think about it for a long time to come.

“Roma theater creators and storytellers deserve more attention than they receive. The fact that there are so many valuable artists living in Europe is best evidenced by the fact that this year we received much more applications with performances than we were able to invite. We also need to show many more storytelling performances and chamber theater plays to the world in the future – this is important for cultural decision-makers across Europe to take note of. This Festival proves that members of Roma communities have long been able to shape their lives according to active citizenship.” – Rodrigó Balogh, artistic director

You didn’t see anything!

„On the 4th of March, 2014, Daniel Dumitrache, 26 years old, died inside a Police Station in Bucharest. Daniel was an illegal parking man in the Old Center. When he saw the police patrol car he ran away. This is what caught police-men’s attention. They caught him and took him to the police station with no particular reason at all.”

Between 2014 and 2015, Alex Fifea conducted research into the circumstances of the young man’s murder. The play analyzes and reconstructs the social processes underlying the murder and the related social dialogue. Testimonies from police officers, insights from family members, and media reports all come to life in the performance.

Writer and performer: Alex Fifea
Music: Catalin Rulea
Director: David Schwartz

Gypsy Wheels

„I only need to forget. I shall forget, I promise you, for you, for me, I will go for a surgery that will erase all scars and scratches from my childhood. I will drain my blood to the last drop so that I will not hear its pulsating story and I will transfuse fresh blood. I will wipe out from my memory all that was there for years.”

The performance presents the struggles of a young Roma woman who has left the Bulgarian ghetto, who has gained a profession and has got an office work and wants to resemble the majority world. Can we forget our roots, can we deny ourselves? The heroine talks about herself and her relationships, doesn’t set an image of an enemy, and has a positive tone, which is reinforced by the piece’s humor.

Performer: Natliya Tsekova
Music: Martin Lubenov
Authors: Zdrava Kamenova, Kalin Angelov
Director: Kalin Angelov

With profound dignity

‘On 25th January 1939, I died, according to my medical chart, of some infection. My remains were buried in a common grave in Almeria. I chose well. The militia of the second Spanish Republic locked me up and let me die with my unborn child.’

In her play Sonia Carmona Tapia commemorates two Spanish Roma women. One of them is Emilia Fernández Rodríguez, the first Roma woman who was beatified, in 2017. The other is Gabriela Ortega Gómez, the first Roma performing artist with university degree. Two stories of two heroines unfold parallelly. They both stood up for their own values and beliefs opposing the authorities of the time: one of them fought communism and the other one the Franco-regime.

Performer: Sonia Carmona Tapia
Writer: Jaime E. Vicent Bohórquez

Children of the wind

„I offered to shake hand but the boy stood up and was a head taller than me and looking scary! “I don’t shake hand with Italians pieces of shit!”  My answer: “I’m Sicilian, not Italian!” This made some effect on him as I later understood that Romas like Sicily, Napoli and generally tend to have better relation with people from south of Italy.”

Circus artist, performer and educational expert Sebastiano Spinella talks about his own life. For him, his own identity is still uncertain, as his grandmother’s presumably Roma origin was tried to be concealed by his family members. The protagonist stepped down as a black lamb at the age of 17, touring Europe as a wandering musician, a circus artist. He then returned to Italy to work with Roma children without citizenship in whom almost no one believed.

Writer and performer: Sebastiano Spinella

Letter to Brad Pitt

“As a gypsy, how did you come across world literature?” Nicely tanned and temperamentally.

“As a gypsy, what’s your everyday life?” I stink and I steal.

“What do other gypsies think about you?” I don’t quite know. Should I ask?

In the performance, Franciska Farkas confesses with relentless honesty about the challenges of her childhood and youth. Despite all the possible dead ends, hopelessness, and social divination, her life reached the point where she became an example to others. She became an active performer who can tell the world a lot about darkness, perseverance, and never having to give up.

Performer: Franciska Farkas
Writer, artistic director: Kristóf Horváth
Director: Ádám Császi

Today’s lesson

„Robert carried on teaching the children, not just the curriculum, but things from his culture too, manners, team work, different ways of looking at and solving problems. He gave particular support to the children and parents who needed it the most. As Robert lived out of the town he wasn’t aware of something that was bubbling away under the surface that would affect his job and his faith in education.”

The story is about a young, popular among children, hard-working and conscientious Traveller teacher who raises his voice in a discriminatory situation. What should a Traveller teacher do if he wants to be silenced by the seemingly tolerant school management?

Writer and performer: Richard R. O’Neill

It’s a cultural thing. Or is it?

„I remember my mommy put two dresses on me and Johnny and tied us to the wattles of the tent, she was afraid that we would get hurt there was no one else on the road to mind us. A guard came on one day and said good evening to ya missus Collins. She explained to the guard that she had to get sticks and water and there was no one on the road to mind us. The guard took off his hat scratched his head and said untie the children Mrs Collins and went off on his big black bike. He came back with a big bundle of sticks and went off again and came back with a big churn can of water. I never knew his name but he was a nice policeman.”

Irish Traveller creator Michael Collins is talking to his own daughter who doesn’t want to study further. In order to convince her, he revives his childhood and leads her with a number of hard, sometimes amusing stories that learning is indeed important.

Writer: Michael Collins
Performer: Michael Collins and Catharine Collins

Chameleon Girl

„The only way to understand our loved ones is if we look beyond what they say. If we really breathe together, if we blend into them like a chameleon.”

Her helper asks a seemingly average teenage girl to understand why she did what she did, why she wants to decide the way she does. The girl brings to life memories and experiences, not all of which are her own. We can follow the challanges of grandparents, sisters, teachers, preschoolers and classmates through the tale of a girl with a special power: she can resemble anything and anyone, look into the thoughts and memories of others and not want to follow the example of others. She wants to live her own life.

The superhero story is based on the stories of Roma youth participating in the “Roma Heroes” workshops of the Independent Theater.

Performer: Emília Boda-Novy
Writer: Márton Illés
Music: Szabolcs Endrődy and Vincent Ribault
Visual: Alina Vincze
Assistant: Dorottya Mátravölgyi
Director: Tamás András Szegedi

After each performance, the audience can participate in a conversation with the artists. After the festival, an educational material will be prepared based on the plays, which will complete the educational methodology based on the shows presented at the last year festival.

The aim of the educational material is to show the values of Roma plays and protagonists to youngsters; and to help the students to present the heroes in their own community with creative art methods. In autumn 2018, the educational methodology will be taken to – mostly Roma – students in Hungary.