Father’s unfunny joke

A Workshop Script by Robbie McCauley in collaboration with Ethela and Ilona Ferkova, Ondrej Gina, Margita Reiznerova, Hana Syslova, and Miroslav Mencl
First performed in Czech and Romany at the Roxy Experimental Space, PragueOctober 12, 13 and 14, 1995
In Slovakia during the war – even duringthe war my father liked jokes.
It was terrible during the war becausewe could not go to the city. We could be killed just because we were Gypsies. And the National Guard used to come regularly to cut our hair, or shave it, or put a cross on our heads: to humiliate us.
But my father enjoyed jokes, and he scared us with a false alarm. He told us that the National Guards werecoming to cut our hair.
We young ones ran to hide in the fields, the woods, and the meadows. It was spring, and there was mud everywhere. We pushed ourselves down into the mud. Dirty, freezing cold and afraid, we waited for a long time.
Then we thought they may have finished cutting the hair, and we went back to the settlement, very carefully.
It was peaceful: nothing was going on. And the old woman, Urania, was sitting against a wall staring at us as if we were ghosts. We were very dirty and cold – and surprised. When our father saw us, he started laughed at his joke: he had really made us believe that the National Guards were coming.
But it didn’t stay funny.
One day two National Guards came to the settlement, and along with them the mayor and a policeman. If we had been warned about this, we wouldn’t have run away: we would have thought it was just another one of father’s jokes. But now it was too late anyway: the National Guards were standing right there in themiddle of the settlement.
So, Gypsies: we’ve come to cut your hair.
And he made snapping noises with a big pair of scissors. They cut our hair — men, women, children, everyone. They put a big chair in the middle of thesettlement. We were not allowed to talk. We just cried quietly.
My friend was hiding in the woods, all by herself. She was watching everything that happened, so scared she could hardly breathe. ONDREJ:
Why did they cut our hair? For the same reason they did it to the Jews — psychological terror — to have us constantly afraid.