In bookstores, “Gypsy Boy” by Mikey Walsh is the first of four gypsy memoirs on bestseller lists in England to be released in the States.
And this month at the Kennedy Center, amid a festival of “The Music of Budapest, Prague and Vienna,” where gypsy music is represented as deeply ingrained in the region’s folk music, a retooled play presented by the Katona Jozsef Theatre of Budapest at the Kennedy Center raises contemporary issues of the Romany people also known as gypsies Thursday through Sunday.
“Gypsies” was adapted from the original 1931 version by Jeno J. Tersanszky, but adapted to reflect the modern situation, its company director says.
The old play was “a wonderful piece especially its first half,” says Gabor Mate, through an interpreterfrom Budapest. “My idea was that after the first half of the old play, we just switch to the modern world to another play. And as there were several murders of gypsies in recent years in Hungary, it was quite obvious that we decided to kill one of the characters of the old play.”
A rash of killings in the Romany settlements in Hungary in 2008 and 2009 left six dead.
Just last week, Hungarian gypsies commemorated the third anniversary of the murder of a gypsy man and his 5-year-old son in Tatarszentgyorgy, a village south of Budapest.
Though they had been a source of tension for years, the plight of the Romany people — called gypsies because some erroneously thought they originated from Egypt — has not improved much in Central Europe, says Mate, who is also deputy president of the University of Theater, Film and Television in Budapest.
“There is an idea about them that is in the Hungarian people’s minds that they don’t work, they are lazy and they steal,” he says.
And there may be less understanding and tolerance of the people by the mainstream than there was before, he adds. “During the socialist regime, the gypsies had work, they were taken to be soldiers also, and, in this way, they could be part of the society. Now they are unemployed, and there is no obligatory army service. So they don’t have to do anything basically. There is no obligation for them to be part of the society.”
The veil was lifted on modern gypsy life for TV audiences through the popularity of the English reality shows showcasing their sometimes extravagant wedding ceremonies.
“After the great success of the import ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’ last year on TLC, we announced that we’d be exploring the secretive gypsy and traveler community right here in the U.S.,” TLC General Manager Amy Winter said in announcing the forthcoming “My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding” at the TV Critics Association winter press tour.