a TIE-workshop about racism

A theatre-in-education workshop presentation with Roma and non-Roma about racism commissioned by PanoDrama turned out to in such demand, that in a different arrangement from the days before the 320-seat auditorium proved too small for the spectators, over half of whom were Roma, whom one really never sees in such theatres despite the fact that Trafó is on the border of one of Budapest’s gypsy ghettos and as soon as one steps out of the building, one sees many of the local Roma inhabitants, who never consider going to the theatre.

The workshop was led by the outstanding drama teacher Yvette Feuer, while participants came from several cities and drama groups. An intense rehearsal period of eight days followed the initial meeting. The stories of racism the group worked on were all stories that happened to them personally or to their families and were never based on hearsay, but on their own experience. The magic of the presentation, put together with extreme skill and a light hand by the group and their teacher, was that the stories were so simple and yet so absolutely to the point, so moving and so everyday. An added bonus was the fact that Roma and non-Roma youths both played Roma and non-Roma characters mixed, which underlined the universality of the problem and helped participants understand the other side better.

The discussion after the fifty-minute presentation was of equal importance, if not even more important. It was difficult to make sure everyone gets a chance to speak up, since so many spectators and so many participants wanted to share their views. Members of the audience, which included many teachers and secondary-school students, whom we made a special effort to invite and include in the discussion, underlined repeatedly how very important our work is and how it is a must that we take this or a similar workshop to their schools, involving their students. One non-Roma participant of the workshop told us how this ten-day work made him realize it isn’t enough if he disapproves of racist remarks against Roma he hears in his school, but that he has to speak up and engage in conversation to stop fellow-students from talking and thinking that way, a white girl told the story of her two racist brothers, whom she has to listen to at the breakfast table every day and whom she invited here, an educated audience member confessed how she disliked a big Roma boy in the group at first and how she completely fell in love with him by the end - such reactions were countless.

Thanks to the huge success of the workshop PanoDrama is now developing a full TIE program for the group to visit schools and work with students on the issues of racism and discrimination, particularly against Roma.

The first school we visited was the Apáczai Csere János Gimnázium,  an elite school where these issues are a real problem and where a packed auditorium waited for us and engaged in a very active conversation after the presentation. Further visits to other schools are being organised, as well as a full TIE program, pending support, for the next school year.