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Roma Heroes Empowerment and Awareness-raising through Contemporary Drama

Drama and storytelling are extraordinary and influential tools when it comes to shaping attitudes and inspiring action. Badur Foundation is therefore proud to support the newest educational programme of the Independent Theatre company, which will be based on contemporary Roma plays - a first time concept for Hungary. By profiling value-led, active and successful Roma drama heroes, Independent Theatre hopes both to empower Roma communities and to differentiate the stereotypical image of the majority.

Contemporary Roma playwrights are not widely known, despite the artistic excellence they represent and the timely messages they wish to convey. Independent Theatre’s newest educational programme is based on four modern Roma plays; each of which talks of profound human struggles. The work of Mihaela Dragan, Alina Serban, Richard O’Neill and Dijana Pavlovic are centred on strong Roma heroines who challenge the status quo. One rebels against family traditions, another excels in her studies despite personal hardship, the third achieves structural changes through civil disobedience and the fourth challenges the state authorities. These are powerful life stories which can serve as an example to everyone, especially to young Roma.

All of the plays were shown in Hungary’s ground-breaking Roma Storytelling Festival, which attracted 370 viewers and reached over a million people through its media coverage. The below video clips give a glimpse into the inspirational and thought-provoking performances:

These stories will be the basis of some innovative educational material and a workshop series that Independent Theatre will bring to 180 Roma youngsters in order to foster active citizenship. The following organisations – the majority of them specialised in teaching and mentoring Roma university students- will host the workshops:

  1. RefoRom, Reformed Gipsy* College Budapest,
  2. Romaversitas Foundation, Budapest,
  3. Pressley Ridge Foundation, Salgótarján,
  4. Wlislocki Henrik College, Pécs,
  5. Dr. Ámbédkar School, Miskolc,
  6. Lutheran Roma College, Nyíregyháza,
  7. Informal youth group, Hajdúhadháza
  8. Greek Catholic Gipsy College, Miskolc
  9. ELTE Department of Media and Communication, Roma Visual Laboratory

Through cooperative and engaging workshops, young Roma people will have the opportunity to relate these stories to their own personal lives and reflect about everyday heroes in their own communities. Youngsters will also be supported to show these personal stories via a blog featuring their creative work reaching a much wider audience beyond the workshop participants. Through this element, the project also aims to initiate dialogue with the majority society and challenge entrenched stereotypes about the Roma community.

Beyond the awareness-raising work in Hungary, the team is committed to find partnerships and cooperation beyond Hungary. This would allow them to involve Roma and non-Roma youths in other geographic regions – preferably, but not exclusively in the home countries of the playwrights- so that the impact of the project can be multiplied.

Thumbnail - photo credit: Hernan Pinera (Creative Commons license)

* Gipsy is used as a direct translation for cigány in Hungarian.