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I was born to Roma parents in Bucharest in 1987 and I spent part of my childhood in dire poverty in a traditional Roma community and most of my teenage years in a state-run children’s home, where I petitioned to go live in order to be able to go to university. Thus at 18 years old, having decided to pursue acting classes, I enrolled in the National University of Theatre and Film “I. L. Caragiale”.
Before graduating, in 2009, I had the chance to also attend a program at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. The experience gained there inspired me to start writing and producing socially engaged art as an answer to racism and violence against Roma. I used material from my teenage diaries to write the early versions of what later became my one-woman show I Declare at My Own Risk: Slumdog Roma and Two Weeks, Maximum One Month, Maybe Six Years. The play is a reflection on my past, growing up as a girl in a traditional Roma community confronted with all the current social structures shaped by institutional racism and segregation in Romania.
Back then I had to struggle to produce this one-woman show, and creating a space in theatre and a public for it has in many ways pioneered a whole movement. This was the first show of its kind in Romania, at the time when Roma political art was non-existent locally. My biggest achievement at that point was to shift the paradigm in Romanian theatre through sharing my own voice and my own experiences, and to start shedding light onto a community that was previously completely vilified, using art to point out racism and anti-Roma structural violence. With increasing national and international media attention, my play served as a counterpoint to the dehumanizing mainstream discourse on Romas that was (and largely still is) the norm. Since then, the play has taken various forms and I have performed it in many countries, including Romania, Hungary, France, Sweden, Italy and USA.
In the meantime, in 2011, I received a scholarship and started a Master’s program at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. While living in London I wrote Home, a play that tells the stories of different immigrants looking for a better life in the UK. There were several shows and the play won Rich Mix’s “Stories of London” competition.
In 2015 I performed in and co-created the play Romo Sapiens in Berlin.
Then in 2016 I embarked on one of my most ambitious projects so far: writing, producing and directing a play on the little known history of more than 500 years of Roma slavery, after an extended research period and collaborations with several historians. The Great Shame is the first play about Roma slavery and the history of Romas in Romania in general, with a mostly Roma cast, directed by a Roma woman. It addresses contemporary struggles of Roma people through the lens of the past, understanding current violence and exclusion as a point in a historical continuum. The Great Shame is a play both about historical accountability for racism and about Roma dignity and struggle in the face of injustice and stigmatization. After a few shows in various theatres and other venues throughout the country that were met with positive reviews in 2016-2018, I have now produced the play in a new form and since April 2018 it has been picked up by Excelsior Theatre in Bucharest — a major achievement, as this is the first time that a play by a Roma playwright and director, and most significantly a play about Roma slavery, has a home in a mainstream, state theatre in Romania!
Apart from theatre, in recent years I have started to get involved in working in film, as well. In 2016 I played a leading role in “Scris”/”Nescris” (Written/Unwritten), a short film directed by Adrian Silisteanu. Written/Unwritten won a number of awards in 2016-2017, including at Amarcort Film Festival, Festival Internacional de Cortometrajes de Aguilar de Campoo, Zubroffka Short Film Festival.
In 2017 I worked on two feature films in which I play the main character, both expected to launch in 2018: Seule A Mon Mariage (Belgium) and Gypsy Queen (Germany). Seule a Mon Mariage was premiered on May 10th 2018 as part of the ACID Programme at Cannes Film Festival.
In 2016 I also initiated Untold Stories, a platform intended to make Roma culture and history more visible through various artistic, cultural and activist tools. As part of this project, I published an online collection of Roma fairy tales, in Romani, Romanian and English.
When not creating and producing theatre and art, I use various venues and platforms to write and speak about the things that I care about.