what is it about?
This collection presents the values, past and present, the creators and the works of GRT (Gypsy, Roma, Traveller) theater and drama in a non-exhaustive list.
The collection draws attention to the fact that Roma theater has existed in Europe since 1887, and many professional theater artists and groups still work today - usually without an institutional framework. We believe that by getting to know various theater creators, their works, the themes they cover and the heroes they present, the European Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and the representatives of the majority will become richer, as well as the representatives of the mainstream culture.
We believe that the content of this collection contributes to the strengthening, cultural and social growth of the European Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, social inclusion and development through interethnic collaborations. What is more, it provides opportunities for artists of Roma origin to find further artistic work and collaboration. The young people who can read or see these works, through the example of the Roma heroes, will be able to believe that they themselves can consciously shape their own lives and have a significant impact on others, regardless of their origin.
What can you find in the Collection?
Time allows you to go back in the past of GRT theater, Space allows you to visit each country and learn about the local characteristics of GRT theater. In Stars you can get to know individual artists, in Troups you can get an overview of theatrical companies, and in Treasury you can get an insight into some of the plays. Some parts of the performances are available on the website, while the entire recordings and the scripts of the plays are available on request. In Allies you can find mainstream theaters and festivals open to cooperation with Roma theater groups.Inspiration shows you how to use Roma dramas in education, and Reflections contains academic and creative reflections on GRT theater.
How was it created?
The Independent Theater Hungary began its research on European GRT (Gypsy, Roma, Traveller) theaters in 2015, and we were also surprised by the high number of professional Gypsy, Roma and Traveller theater creators, theaters, and valuable works in many parts of Europe.
Since 2017 we have organized the first international Roma theater meeting called Roma Heroes Festival, where besides presenting the pieces, we also recorded the plays on video with the aim of making them available for posterity. Most of the plays found in the Collection were translated, performed and recorded related to the festivals. Over the years, a network has been built among the European GRT theater makers who have started a long term cooperation – the Collection is one of the realization of this cooperation.
In 2017 we invited four theater artists we held in high esteem to Hungary. At the festival we presented The Hardest Word by Richard R. O'Neill (UK), Speak, My Life by Dijana Pavlović (Italy), Tell them about me- Del Duma by Mihaela Drăgan (Romania) and I Declare at My Own Risk by Alina Șerban (Romania), all of them were monodrama and storytelling performances. They were also recorded on video for educational purposes and for posterity.
In 2018 we launched a tender to invite monodrama / storytelling performances from across Europe. There were twenty-four applicants, eight of which we could present. At the festival, in addition to our performance Chameleon Girl and the play called Letter to Brad Pitt by Franciska Farkas, we invited six major foreign productions to Hungary. You didn't See Anything by Alex Fifea (Romania), Gypsy Wheels by Nataliya Tsekova (Bulgaria), With Profound Dignity by Sonia Carmona Tapia (Spain), Children of the Wind by Sebastiano Spinella (Italy) could also be seen, and Today's Lesson by Richard R. O'Neill (UK) who this time debuted as a performer, and It's a Cultural Thing. Or is it? by Michael Collins (Ireland) were in the festival program, too. In accordance with the practice of the previous years, these were also recorded for future generations.
After presenting 12 monodrama / storytelling performances, in 2019 we invited chamber plays to the Festival. Forever Holiday?! by The Romano Svato company in Vienna in cooperation with the studio stage of the Gorki Theater in Berlin, Shoddies by the Independent Theater Hungary, ... and again we all slept pindral by the ARA ART company from Prague, and Who Killed Szomna Grancsa? by the Guvlipen company from Bucharest were presented and recorded for posterity.
In 2020 the nation states locked themselves up due to the spread of the Covid virus, and realising offline theater became impossible. However, we, Roma people did not give up but continued the Roma Heroes Festival, this time in online form. The guiding themes of the Festival, not coincidentally, have become survival and prosperity. The troupes participating were selected by tender and had recorded their performances according to the specifications provided. These recordings were made public week by week, reaching a much higher number of views than if the works had been shown offline. Besides our own play Village Day, we presented a British, Italian, Spanish and Hungarian co-production entitled European Family.
Bambina, the Queen of Flowers by ArtHub from Bucharest, Perkucigo by Zsolt Fekete-Lovas from Sfântu Gheorghe, and The Age of the Witch by the Giuvlipen company in cooperation with the Andrei Muresanu Theater were performed. Just like The Leader by the Romance Company, the play called Heroes by the Romano Svato company from Vienna appeared in the Festival programme, while the RRoma AKT company of Berlin presented I can see you based on the short story called The Burrows by Franz Kafka.
Why was it created?
“When I was at theater school, I could not find authentic Roma heroes and Roma plays either in the library or on the stage, thus, I decided that this had to change. The Roma youth of the future have to find stories that come from a Roma perspective, present authentic Roma heroes, and convey our message to the outside world.” – Rodrigó Balogh, the curator of the Collection, the professional leader of Independent Theater Hungary.
The multiple objectives of the Collection:
1. Promoting authentic and diverse theatrical self-representation.
2. Shaping the attitudes of the majority and the minority, theater professionals and non-professionals, to put it simply, the attitude of all of us, regarding Gypsy, Roma, Traveller communities and the different theatrical languages, so that we can show the diversity of the communities, the challenges they face, the dramatic heroes and the different dramatic genres.
3. Ensuring visibility for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller theater creators and workshops, this way helping them to interact with the mainstream culture, develop a network and gain new professional opportunities.
4. Collecting and making cultural heritage available for educational and artistic initiatives, both for professionals and non-professionals – this heritage may also serve as the intellectual basis for the future European Roma theaters.
Why is theater important?
In the history of mankind, the development of citizenship and theater have always gone hand in hand – beginning from Ancient Greece, Elizabethan England and the French classicists until today. Dramas, unlike most pieces of art, present active heroes who respond to challenges with making decision, taking responsibility actively and thereby, initiating changes – just like active citizens who facilitate civil democracies.
We believe that the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities can also grow stronger if they can take control of their destiny following the examples of dramatic heroes.
Why are self-representation and visibility important?
Only the members of a group can present authentically the stories of their own group or nation. As they say, “Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter." (J. Nozipo Maraire)
As long as the values, challenges and diversity of the Roma communities, theaters and dramatic heroes are not recognised by the wider group of Gypsy, Roma, Traveller communities and majority society, it is difficult to take substantive action in the field of GRT (Gypsy, Roma, Traveller) identity and self-assertion, the majority's image of GRT people and the development of inclusive cooperation. There are many artists of Gypsy, Roma or Traveller origin in numerous countries of Europe but the majority society either ignores their existence or is truly unaware of their work. Often the artists coming from different countries do not know about each other. However, if a community does not have the sense of itself (self-representation), it makes it impossible to get to know who they really are, which deepens the stereotypes about the Roma.
What do we mean by GRT (Gypsy, Roma, Traveller) theatER?
There are several interpretations, according to the editors of the Collection at least two of the following criteria must be met to talk about a Gypsy, Roma or Traveller piece of art:
- the main creators of the work (e.g., writer, director, performers) claim to be part of the GRT (Gypsy, Roma, Traveller) community – and not only the executors but also the authors of the creative concepts should be Gypsy, Roma or Traveller persons.
- the work presents dramatic heroes of Gypsy, Roma or Traveller origin and deals with topics that concern (also) the members of theses communities.
- the work was written or presented in Romani or in a dialect of Romani language (this is now exceedingly rare, as such performances are difficult to sell in most parts of Europe).
Who are we?
We, the Independent Theater Hungary – a group of Roma and non-Roma theater creators and educational professionals - work so that the Roma and non-Roma underprivileged youth can become successful artists, trainers and professionals in different fields, and above all: active citizens.
We work so that the different groups can understand, accept each-other, and create value together. We work so that culture can also reach out and motivate those who have no access to it most of the time, and they can also become active citizens.
Our goal is that the young people of the future can find valuable and authentic works about today's society. It is important for us that more and more people become familiar with the Roma theater, the different genres, and themes through our educational and cultural work. We work with our international partners to ensure that the works and values of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller theaters reach as many people as possible.
To whom do we owe thanks?
After all these years of research and organizational work, there has been an endless line of people who have done their work with faith, integrity, humility and service towards the culture-loving citizens of the world in order to complete this Collection. Long live the theatrical creators who give us heroes and hope for this world becoming more liveable; and God bless the theater-loving people without whom theater cannot exist.