Roma Theatremakers, Roma Stories: Pieces from the Roma Theater retrospective


Trigger a warning: racism, police brutality, suicide and death in the family.

This fall, HowlRound Theater Commons will broadcast the Roma 2021 retrospective live in partnership with Independent Theater Hungary. The project shares twenty performances and interviews broadcast live twice, showcasing the work of 70 Roma artists in ten countries. The performances included in the project were originally featured in one of the previous editions of the Roma Heroes International Theater Festival in Budapest, which has been presented annually by Independent Theater Hungary since 2017; it is the only international Roma theatrical event. Striving to break down racism and social barriers, the festival strives to change the rhetoric about the Roma who constitute the largest ethnic minority in Europe with around 12 million people. The performances are being broadcast live via this page on HowlRound and the next round of live broadcasts will take place next week, from November 29 to December 10. Below are reviews of a small selection of shows.

Hero from the Vienna-based Romano Svato theater company presents a play about three women in pre-trial detention for asylum assessment in Austria. The play features an Iranian woman, a Syrian woman and a Roma woman from Kosovo navigating between prejudices, fears and desires while receiving dehumanizing and sometimes violent treatment from those who will decide whether they deserve a sanctuary. Portrayed by Simonida Selimović, Mateja Maded and Ivanana Nikolic, the three women double as performers and interrogators, a rotation of roles of power that adds to the production’s incredible plunge into the experiences of immigrants. As every woman faces hardships within the detention center and the fear of returning to dangerous countries of origin, the public is urged to consider the morality of the practices of our Western governments, which needs to change, which are the most criminally guilty: immigrants, traffickers, or the government itself? Selimović, Maded and Nikolic deliver solid performances and a powerful story meant to galvanize us to broaden our thinking. Watch the show’s trailer here before it airs live on Friday, December 3 at 9 a.m. PST / 12 p.m. EST / 5 p.m. GMT / 6 p.m. CET / 7 p.m. EET.

From Sonia Carmona Tapia and Jaime E. Vicent Bohórquez in Spain, the surreal single-performer show With Profound Dignity / De Profunda Dignitatis. The show weaves the lives of two Spanish women in history and finds parallels between them in their integrity and their willingness to stand firm against opposing forces: one fought against communism while the other fought against the Franco regime. . One of the two women, Gabriela Ortega Gómez, was born at the beginning of the 20th century into a Roma family of flamenco singers and dancers and one of the most famous bullfighting families in Spain at the time. She studied theater at the University of Seville and became the first actress of the Spanish University Theater; Gabriela was the first Roma performer to graduate from university. After college, Gabriela performed successfully throughout Spain and received the gold medal in Madrid in 1958 for her acting. One of his performance specialties was to weave the rhythms of flamenco dance with poetry. The other woman is Emilia Fernández Rodríguez, the first Roma woman to be beatified. Emilia was sentenced to prison during the Spanish Civil War for trying to hide her husband from pressure from Republican paramilitaries. At the time, the young woman was pregnant and illiterate, but taught prayer to her fellow inmates. During the interrogations, she was pressed on her faith and persecuted, but she did not want to retract. She gave birth to her daughter in prison and was left without medical care, before dying alone from blood loss and unsupervised in her cell.

Connecting these two lives, Tapia alternates between the characters with little warning, seamlessly switching from one to the other. This dramatic choice in this surrealist play blurs the boundaries between the lives of these women. Using an array of props in a small theater on a bare stage, she delivers a performance that grabs your attention as the play takes on an intellectual journey that demands your full attention. With the shift from one story to another and back again, the ensuing merge focuses on how adding them together gives us a stronger look at these two Roma women and how they not only fought each other. to survive, but also to defend their integrity. Tapia delivers a performance in total immersion that is worth the detour. Learn more about the show through this conversation with Sonia Carmona Tapia via HowlRound’s YouTube channel and watch the show trailer here. The next performance will be broadcast live on Tuesday, December 7 at 9 a.m. PST / 12 p.m. EST / 5 p.m. GMT / 6 p.m. CET / 7 p.m. EET.

In a return to the Zoom theater, European family explores the experiences of Roma families during the pandemic. Written by Richard O’Neill, a UK Roma playwright and actor, and presented in English, it follows a family with a father, mother, daughter and two sons. Spread across the continent for jobs and vacations as lockdowns and travel bans are put in place, they are trying to find ways to get home when one suddenly dies from COVID-19. Much like the characters, the co-writing cast was equally diverse in their locations. Sonia Carmona Tapia (Spain), Sebastiano Spinella (Italy), Tamás Szegedi (Hungary), as well as Richard O’Neill and Lucia Lakatos created, rehearsed and performed this piece entirely in the digital space. Coming together across such distances captures how Roma themselves are an ethnic family that transcends borders. With Roma funeral traditions frustrated by distance, the family finds a new way to come together to honor their loved one and their culture. As they reunite in a virtual wake, they also mend their difficult relationships with each other. The issues addressed by the play are experiences familiar to many Roma and non-Roma audiences; the loss of loved ones, the struggle to connect, the frustrations of adapting traditions are struggles we have all experienced over the past 21 months. The production of this piece captures the idiosyncrasies of the pandemic experience and how we have worked to love from a distance. You can check out the trailer for the show here, which will air live on Wednesday, December 8 at 9:00 a.m. PST / 12:00 p.m. EST / 5:00 p.m. GMT / 6:00 p.m. CET / 7:00 p.m. EET.

From the Giuvlipen feminist theater company in Bucharest, Romania comes the play Who killed Szomna Grancsa?. Presented in a mixture of Romanian and Romani, the play is based on the true story of a 17-year-old Roma girl who committed suicide at her home in Frumoasa, Romania, in 2007. The production stars performers Mihaela Drăgan, Zita Moldovan and Liana. Ceterchi plays various characters, including Szomna, her parents, her schoolteacher, the village priest, various neighbors and the journalists who covered the story. The play refuses to explain Szomna’s death with a simple set of reasons, instead exploring multiple points of view and the complex circumstances that Szomna lived in. The play’s investigation undermines the history of the mainstream Romanian media which criticized his traditional Roma parents for having stopped his studies on the basis of the message Szomna inscribed on the wall before his death: “School is me. Instead, the play explores Szomna’s everyday reality, like the anti-Roma racism she experienced in school, the rural poverty she lived in, and the all-too-common oppression she suffered. as a woman in Romanian society. Was his suicide caused by any or all of these circumstances? By decision of his parents, as the mainstream media have said? Or was his suicide a form of protest in the name of the right to education?

These questions will always remain unanswered and unlike the simplified version told in the media, Who killed Szomna Grancsa? investigates how nobody’s opinion explains their last act and although all perspectives seem to have some validity, each carries a share of a larger responsibility. He is powerful in his portrayal of the characters, each moment approached with specific intentions and executed with a precise tone that both empathizes and critically thinks. With Drăgan, Moldovan and Ceterchi, director Mihai Lukács traded in media sensationalism for a raw staging that was incredibly compelling even through a computer screen. One of those moments came towards the end in which Szomna performs a monologue under a white sheet, simultaneously representing her shroud and her ghost, her words increasing in speed and emotion as the sheet wraps more and more around her. neck like the rope she used in her suicide. Behind her, another was pulling the sheet around her, visually staging the question: Who killed Szomna Grancsa? The play will again air live on Wednesday, December 8 at 11:00 a.m. PST / 2:00 p.m. EST / 7:00 p.m. GMT / 8:00 p.m. CET / 9:00 p.m. EET. You can watch the trailer here and read more about the show on HowlRound’s YouTube channel which shares this 2019 filmed discussion and 2020 Zoom discussion.

Due to some technical difficulties with the livestream, a personally highlighted part for the second round is You haven’t seen anything! / Voi n-ați văzut nimic !. This play for a single Romanian performer by Alex Fifea presents an investigation into the death of Rom Daniel Gabriel Dumitrache, 26, an informal parking attendant taken into custody and beaten to death in the parking lot of a police station in March 2014. For two years after his assassination, Fifea researched the circumstances of the case, reconstructing and analyzing the social mechanisms that surround him, public discourse and their intersections with police violence. The play presents an analysis of how anti-Roma racism overlaps with prejudices against “poor” and “beggars” to fuel police brutality and its role in preventing change in power relations. Speaking at times in Romanian and Romani, Fifea alternates between several key people linked to Dumitrache or his murder, using interviews and testimonies to unravel this example of the long history of anti-Roma racism and police violence. It will air on Thursday, December 9 at 9 a.m. PST / 12 p.m. EST / 5 p.m. GMT / 6 p.m. CET / 7 p.m. EET. Watch the trailer here.

Extended Play is a project of The Civilians. To learn more about The Civilians and access exclusive show discounts, visit us and join our mailing list at

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