(The work in this post is supported through a Global Connections grant–learn more about the program here.)

We talk about the style and scope of our show. Pedro is used to working on big stages in Colombia and France lately. I am a “theatrical mutt” with a back eye to the big theatrical shows in Eastern Europe and the feet firmly planted in the NYC new-play soil as I studied at NYU and worked in NYC in the past 12 years. Pedro studied in Colombia and at Columbia – I mean, Columbia University! (we call Colombia “Columbia” in Romanian :) ) We talk about the different styles of directing, acting, playwriting on different continents and in various countries we had a chance to live and work. What does “contemporary performance” in a globalized work mean for us? What’s the role of the playwright? What’s the role of the director? What kind of show are we planning to make? For US audiences? For NYC audiences? For Broadway? For Under the Radar festival? For touring it internationally? How can we start small with developing the idea and the first scenes at Ensemble Studio Theatre (EST) and then explore the potential huge theatricality of the piece? What kind of musicians do we need to collaborate with? International? US? A Gypsy band from Eastern Europe? A multi-ethnic band? Are we creating the show in English or in English & Spanish? And what about Romanian?

We have many questions, many ideas, many possibilities. As we go see various NYC shows – “Pippin”, “Lucky Guy”, “Murder Ballad”, John Guare’s play “3 Kinds of Exile,” Roland Schimmelpfennig’s “The Golden Dragon” with The Play Company, EST’s Marathon, etc – we understand better where our own ideas and styles meet, what we’d like to explore together. We talk in restaurants and cafes until midnight, feeling like global aliens in a hot bohemian capital of the theatre world. NYC brought us together again, but in Boston (we met at the TCG Conference last year) we planted the seed of this international collaboration.

Shall we tell you more about where we are with our project?
No. Wait for the final product. Or at least for the first workshop at EST!

OK, we can’t be that secretive, here’s some info about the project.


In the last couple of years I have been very interested in exploring the topic of human traffic from poor or undeveloped countries such as my own – Romania. I know firsthand stories of people from Eastern Europe who were tricked into prostitution or other forms of human slavery. I have discussed with representatives of organizations from Moldova, Serbia, Ukraine, Latvia, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, etc. and found out more details about the ways in which such human traffic networks operate. It’s a topic that haunts me and I’ve always wanted to tackle it in a play (actually, one way or another, all my American plays explore similar issues: legal and illegal immigration, the lives of the underdogs, of the underprivileged, of the invisible global aliens that people tend to forget or ignore).

(a play with songs)

motto: “When I die, bury me standing, because I’ve spent all my life on my knees.” – Gypsy proverb

playwright: Saviana Stanescu (Romania/US)
director: Pedro Salazar (Columbia)

This project in development explores the life of a Gypsy (Roma) girl, DIDA, as she is forced into marriage when she is 11 years old, she gives birth to a child at 12, then she is trafficked across borders: from Romania, her native land, to France, to Columbia, to Mexico, and ultimately to the US.
Dida finds a way of coping with the desperate situation through the songs and stories she learned from her grandmother, Rada, the fortune-teller.

The story is based on comprehensive research on the hardships that many girls (Roma, Latina, Asian, African, etc) endure as they are forced into marriage at a very early age and sometimes trafficked by their own families or other international criminal groups specialized in human/sex traffic, the modern day slavery form that needs to be fought and eradicated on a global scale.

Sample research:

(A gypsy wife has become the world’s youngest grandmother – aged just 23.
Rifca Stanescu, from the village of Investi, Romania, told how she gave birth to her daughter, Maria, while only 12.)

Selling Brides: Native Mexican Custom or Crime?
The case centers on an alleged marriage arrangement that went sour involving Marcelino de Jesus Martinez, his 14-year-old daughter and her suitor, Margarito de Jesus Galindo, 18. Galindo had agreed to pay Martinez for his daughter’s hand in marriage, according to Greenfield police. According to the cops, the total cost was $16,000, one hundred cases of beer and several cases of meat.
In the neighboring market town of Juxtlahuaca, Maria Bautista sees the practice as coercive and barbaric. “It’s like a form of slavery. They buy their women and then treat them like their property,” says Bautista, a single mother with her own business. Bautista has a Triqui father and Mixtec Indian mother, but she speaks only Spanish and follows few of the old traditions. She cites the cases of many older men who came back minted from working in the U.S. and who bought themselves several young wives.

In BURY ME STANDING, I plan to dig deep into my own Gypsy (Roma) roots on my father’s side and explore the complex life of a Roma girl who’s married too early and then trafficked across borders. Her only comfort and joy are the songs and stories she learned from her grandmother, Rada, the fortune-teller.

Pedro Salazar is the perfect working-partner given his background (Columbia, studies in the US) and directorial style that employs theatricality on a large scope. Working together here, in the US, in NYC, adds the dimension needed for creating a truly compelling performance that addresses global issues of today.

Pedro 01Pedro Sálazar is a Colombian born theater director. He studied theater direction under the guidance of Anne Bogart at Columbia University (MFA); at Brown University (BA) and at the Jacques Lecoq School in París. He is the Artistic Director of La compañía estable, which resides at the Teatro Libre de Bogotá in Colombia. His most recent credits with his company include “El feo” (The Ugly) by Marius von Mayenburg, “The Pillowman” by Martin Mac Donagh and “La vida es sueño” (Life is a Dream) by Pedro Calderón de La Barca. His work in opera and musical theater is extensive. He recently directed and developed “María Barilla”, an original Colombian musical, which opened the 2012 edition of the Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro de Bogotá. Other musical theatre credits include “Little Shop of Horrors” (Teatro Arlequín 2007), “The Executioner” by Jon Kern, and “Cabaret” (Teatro Nacional, 2006). Pedro also assisted French Director Patrice Chéreau in the 2007 production of Richard Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde” at Teatro alla Scala in Milan, under the musical direction of Daniel Barenboim.

StanescuphotoSaviana Stanescu (www.saviana.com) is a Romanian-born award-winning playwright based in NYC. Recent productions include: Ants at NJ Rep, Aliens With Extraordinary Skills (Women’s Project, Ego Actus, NYC; B Street Theatre, Sacramento; Know Theatre, Cincinnati; Teatro La Capilla, Mexico City; published by Samuel French), Waxing West (La MaMa Theatre, 2007 NY Innovative Theatre Award), For a Barbarian Woman (Fordham/EST), Polanski Polanski (HERE, PS122, Chain Theatre). Her plays have been developed with: NYTW, Lark Play Development Center, EST, NY Stage&Film, Long Wharf, New Group, PS122, HERE, etc. Saviana founded Immigrants Artists and Scholars in New York (IASNY) and curates playgroundezero and New York with an Accent.
MA in Performance Studies, MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU, Tisch School of the Arts. PhD in Theatre from National University of Theatre&Film, Bucharest, Romania. Currently she teaches Playwriting & Theatre Studies at Ithaca College.

The Global Connections program was designed by TCG and is funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Learn more here.