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REGINA Social Intervention Through Documentary Theatre

The Long live Regina! performance vividly and dramatically articulates Roma mothers’ struggles to raise their children in an apathetic, and often hostile institutional context. The Foundation supported Parforum’s initiative to create a complex intervention based on their documentary theatre performance.

Involved was on one hand Roma women of rural communities, and on the other Budapest’s most highly renowned independent theatre’s audience - not only as spectators but also as participants of digital storytelling and socio-drama workshops. The aim of the project was to tackle Roma women’s vulnerability through reinforcing their identity and by making their struggles understood by broader society.

Parforum specialises in art-based educational programmes, social interventions aimed at community development and participatory action research. They focus on the empowerment of both young and adult Roma people and the sensitisation of the broader society. Parforum always carries out its projects in cooperation with organisations and individuals specialising in art, art pedagogy or art therapy, and with locally embedded institutions such as schools and NGOs. Their work contributes to a more egalitarian, solidarity-based, inclusive society.

Their project, ‘Regina’ is based on the theatre performance, Long live Regina! developed in 2016-17 in the framework of the Selftheatre/Borsod /HeartVoices programme. Eight Roma women from Szomolya are the cast of the hour-long auto-ethnographic theatre performance, which is based on their own life stories. The play deals with issues of motherhood and the struggles Roma women face in raising their children in an apathetic, often hostile society and institutional environment.

Showcasing this production corresponded with the Foundation’s aim to influence society’s sensitivity towards, and its understanding of, the social, economic and cultural issues facing isolated communities. As such, the Foundation initially supported Parforum to present their piece at DunaPart Festival in front of a prestigious international audience. From there, the Foundation pledged support to showcase the performance two more times in Trafo, a contemporary art venue in Budapest.

In addition to these performances targeting middle class audiences, the play was brought to three rather isolated communities - Hevesaranyos, Lucfalva and Nyíregyháza. Roma communities in these three localities appreciated that women from a similar background can create a theatre performance and they saw ’their own life stories’ retold on the stage. The performance and the guided discussion helped the audience understand that their ’individual struggles’ are in effect collectively shared, public issues. The performances were complemented by a digital storytelling workshop, in which local women reflected on their own personal stories in more detail. These digital stories will be available online and could be used as an additional tool for raising awareness. In addition, the local coordinator in each village was trained to use the digital storytelling methodology, which will also contribute to the expansion of the educational repertoire of these local organisations.

Overall, “Regina – the documentary theatre based social intervention” reacts to the extreme vulnerability of Roma women in deprived, rural communities. The isolation of these women is the most important cause and at the same time is the most important result of this vulnerability. This isolation exists and should be treated on an interpersonal, a community and a social level. The project aimed to overcome this isolation on different levels by empowering women’s personal growth reinforcing local groups, creating links between the villages, and by reducing their distance from ’mainstream society’ and privileged social groups.

Thumbnail Photo Credit: Gabriella Csoszó

Banner Photos Credit: Béla Ebner