A man walks among the set pieces on an empty stage. He arranges chairs, takes a candle and places it on the table at the edge of the stage. He place two packs of thin cigarettes nearby. The hall is dimly lit, the floor is carpeted, and the walls are hung with different textured clothes. The man is over forty, his long hair is combed back and marked with gray, his movements are unhurried. The way he carries himself makes it clear he is in charge here.
"The communists didn't come up with the word 'propaganda.' Here we are engaged in cultural propaganda. We want to show different nations our culture, uniqueness, our energy and problems. These aren't purely Roma problems, but universal. The problems we all have are the same, after all."
Ihor Krykunov is a folk artist and the artists director of the Kyiv theatre "Romans." It's a Roma or "Gypsy" theatre, as the actors themselves call it. The troupe has been around for twenty-four years and is based in the former "Bolshevik" House of Culture in Kyiv.
A few minutes later the musicians enter the hall. They set up their instruments–synthesizers and guitars. Ihor also takes up a guitar. In the neighbouring hall women noisily congratulate one of the actresses on her birthday. Soon after they slowly come onto the stage, in bright skirts and flowered shawls. Sneakers peek out from under their skirts.
"You have to understand that you aren't just ordinary people from the market! You have to feel it! If you don't care, me, the audience in the room – we won't care either," says Ihor, lecturing the artists.
The troupe is rehearsing "Gypsy Nights," a performance in verse that will open the new Fall theatre season. The performance is about Roma culture, whose work has inspired famous poets, including Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca.
Live music accompanies the women as they dance on stage and actors act out poetic scenes one after another. The director sits in the front row of the audience and lights a cigarette, attentively watching what is happening.
"If society is cultivated, stereotypes will disappear. In every man lives Christ and Judas, in every nation there is one and the other," Ihor tells Hromadske.
"But which of us are horse thieves today? People say that we eat children...We don't eat children! When our civil society rises to another level–culturally and intellectually – stereotypes will disappear."