Called Gypsy, Tsigan, Gitane, Cygane, Zigeuner, the Roma people have wandered the world for a thousand years—their mysterious origins a source of fascination as well as suspicion. They’ve been romanticized but also brutally persecuted by the more settled and orderly cultures they’ve traveled through and enriched.
Tsigan: The Gypsy Poem is an acclaimed book-length poetic sequence written by USC poet Cecilia Woloch. It intertwines her personal journey of identity with the larger forces in the world that have shaped the Roma people’s fate and fortunes. Tsigan both eulogizes and celebrates the lives of Gypsies, a people who have endured centuries of dispossession, exile, poverty and extermination. The soul of the Gypsy has been pursued to near extinction, yet its wandering fire survives, emblematic of the freedom and creativity of the human spirit.
The text of Tsigan will form the basis for this moving multimedia performance produced by documentary filmmaker Paula Fouce. Woloch’s reading from the poem will come to life against a backdrop of archival footage depicting the history and travails of the Roma people. Testimonies from the USC Shoah Foundation of Roma survivors of the Nazi Holocaust will be featured. Film and still images from sources such as the National Archives and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, edited by USC film students under the direction of professor Lisa Leeman, will be screened. Music and dance by José Cortés, Ethan Margolis and Cihtli Ocampo will be woven throughout the performance, celebrating the lyrical fire of the Gypsy spirit—a poetic spirit that transcends geographical boundaries and the limits of space and time. They will perform with guitar accompaniment in the Flamenco tradition developed by Spanish Gypsies to express duende, the sorrow and passion of the soul.
USC professor of English and former poet laureate of California Carol Muske-Dukes will introduce the evening. Following the performance, Stephen Smith, executive director of the USC Shoah Foundation, will moderate a conversation with Woloch and Dr. Ian Hancock, an author, linguist, political activist and the formost Romani scholar in the United States. Students involved in the evening’s production will also participate. The image of the Gypsy has come to symbolize the creative spirit so often suppressed by more conventional societies. Thus, the discussion will focus not only on the issues raised by the presentation, but also on how art serves as a vehicle for diving into their deeper meanings.
Organized by Cecilia Woloch (English), Lisa Leeman (Cinematic Arts), Alfredo Avila (Dramatic Arts), Andrew Ramirez (English) and Paula Fouce (independent filmmaker). Co-sponsored by the USC Shoah Foundation - The Institute for Visual History and Education.