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[whitespace] 'Nobody's Boy'
And the Horse You Came In On: Love and family bloom in Gypsy circus.

Romany Holiday

'Nobody's Boy' reworks Gypsy stereotypes

By Rebecca Patt

THE ADVENTURES, JOYS and sorrows of Gypsy circus performers come to the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium this weekend in the Evergreen Theater Company's original musical Nobody's Boy.

The production features dancers in vibrant costumes, circus performers--including fire jugglers and stilt walkers--and a Gypsy band playing exotic instruments. The performers will enter the auditorium in a Gypsy wagon pulled by a live draft horse, and the show offers an educational glimpse into the little-known Gypsy (Romany) culture through authentic choreography, music, language and rituals.

Nadya Wynd, who wrote, produced and directed the show, also plays a leading role as Zaphira, a down-on-her-luck Gypsy minstrel traveling through France in 1889 with three performing dogs and a monkey. Wynd adapted the story from a screenplay written by Dan Bessie, Ernie Sheldon and Todd Flinchbaugh and from the classic French novel Sans Famille by Hector Malot. She says her adaptation differs from the novel because it reverses the negative stereotypes of Gypsies as child thieves. Instead of stealing a child, Zaphira takes in an orphan named Remi (played by Derek Talbot), who discovers for the first time what it means to be loved and wanted. Told through song, dance and circus arts, the story, says Wynd, offers timely messages about finding family, reconciliation and celebrating diversity.

Nobody's Boy is the second full-length production from the Evergreen Theater Company, which presented the musical My Best Friends: The Life and Stories of Beatrix Potter in 2000. According to Wynd, the production is unique in Santa Cruz because it has an original script and score, and it bridges the gap between children's and adult's theater.

To make the production as authentic as possible, Wynd exhaustively researched the Gypsy culture and met with a Romany consultant.

"The more I researched, the more fascinated and captivated I became," she said.

The Romany are a nomadic people who have no land, political leaders or written language. Their rich traditions have been passed on musically and orally in their language of Romany. Most Gypsies prefer to be called Roms (their term for human), because in many parts of the world, "gypsy" has the connotations of a racial slur.

The word "Gypsy" is itself a misnomer that comes from the word "Egyptian," because people used to believe that Gypsies originated in Egypt. In fact, linguists have traced the Romany language back to India in the 11th century. Nobody knows why they left India, but over the following centuries they spread through much of the Middle East and Europe.

Since then, the Romany have lived on the fringes of society and faced oppression and persecution wherever they have traveled. They were enslaved in Romania in the 1300s, and half of the Romany population--about a half-million--died in Nazi death camps during World War II. Today the Romany are Europe's largest minority.

"The Gypsies have weathered a lot of adversity and still come through as a very soulful people with a love of life and a respect for life," said Amy Pine, who is the composer, lyricist and musical director of the show.

Nobody's Boy will be performed by the Evergreen Theater Company on April 19, 12:30pm and 7:30pm; April 20, 2pm and 7:30pm; and April 21, 2pm, at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, 307 Church St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $12-$18. (831.420.5260)

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From the April 17-24, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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