We were afraid of Gypsies

A Workshop Script by Robbie McCauley in collaboration with Ethela and Ilona Ferkova, Ondrej Gina, Margita Reiznerova, Hana Syslova, and MiroslavMencl
First performed in Czech and Romany atthe Roxy Experimental Space, Prague
October 12, 13 and 14, 1995

The ACTORS sit in a semi-circle facingthe audience. They pass an old woman’s hat. When it is each one’s turn to be STORYTELLER, the actor holds it in his or her hands before speaking.
All STORYTELLERS speak the words of anolder white woman.
I was born in 1907. In our village theGypsies stopped twice a year.In spring and fall.
We were afraid of the Gypsies.We were afraid that they would steal our children.
When they were coming, our grannies locked the doors and closed the big gates.
ETHELA (Takes hat)
One time my mother locked us up at home. The door was locked from the inside by putting a big stick across it.
I was the oldest daughter, and I wantedto go out. I removed the stick, and all four of us went out.
But we saw the Gypsies, and we ran backhome: all four of us.
ILONA becomes ‘the Gypsy woman’.
Somebody knocked at the door, but we didn’t open it.
We had a dog named Bellussia.Somehow Bellussia pulled the door open, and the Gypsy woman came in.
The dog saw her, and started to attack.She got really scared and jumped up on the wardrobe. RUDA:
We were afraid of her, and she escaped up there.We kept on shouting at her.
Then mother came home from work.She said, “What are you doing here?”
When the Gypsy woman came down, my mother found two hens under her skirts. HANA:
The Gypsy woman started to run home.You can imagine the women in the village.They started to chase her, and tried to find out whose hens she stole.But we never found out. ILONA:
They took anything they could eat — apples and other fruits: cherries, whatever they could eat.
They dug for potatoes, beets, or roots.
At the little chapel they would make a fire to cook what they had found.
They used to live in their wagon.Sometimes they invited the children to come and see them.
They had a little monkey. And there was an old man standing there with a little drum and shouting Di Di Di Di Di Di Di Di.
He asked the children to give him money and we gave him — maybe one crown.
We liked watching the little monkey, and our parents had to let us go there. You know children: they get their way.
Whenever we could see the monkey, we had to be there. RUDA(and Ondrej)
In the middle of the village the old man stood there singing Di Di Di Di Di Di Di Di.
I’m not sure I believe that Gypsies used to steal blond children, but people still think so.