Roma theatre festival held for the first time in Prague

By Alena Skodova

Yes, we are in a theatre - the Roxy music club in the centre of Prague, to be exact. For the past two nights Roxy has been the venue of a Roma theatre festival, which has been organized for the first time in Prague. One of its organizers, Ondrej David, explained how the idea of bringing Roma theatre to Prague was born:

"Actually the first idea to organize such a festival came from my experience from Ida Kelarova's singing workshop which I participated in in summer 2000 and that was the first possibility for me to meet some Romany guys from Eastern Slovakia who actually participated in a certain field of activity in the town of Presov. And throughout the year, as I started working here in the Roxy Club as its programme director, I started mapping out Romany troops from around Europe and together with my production manager we managed to find quite a lot of these and we decided to organize a big festival."

So how many theatre troops were performing and where were they from?

"This is the first year of the festival, the initiate one, and this might have been the reason that unfortunately we were not given much financial support and so we managed to invite only two troops, the first one is Czech - Caborika ni luna of Olga Fecova's children theatre troop, and the second one, Roma Theater Rota is from Vienna, Austria."

It may come as a surprise to many people that Roma theatre has a long tradition throughout Europe and that many of their performances are focussed on social themes, which was also the case for this theatre festival in Prague.

"Well, in the Czech Republic, there are more than only one Romany theatre, but a lot of them only remain working just on an amateur basis, so we had focussed our mapping on only professional troops in Europe and other parts of the world. So that was the basic idea, but it was then further developed and we found out that there was actually no reason to make difference between amateur and professional Romany theatres, and so we chose the troop according to what theme they reflect. And both of the theatres we present at this festival deal with social topics and I personally feel that a social topic at a Roma theatre is something that can easily address non-Romany public as well."

...and it really did. This year's festival, which bore the name Amalipe - meaning Friendship - drew an unexpectedly large audience and its organizers plan a similar festival on a much larger scale for next year.