The story of the Theatre with No Home
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Uršuľa Kovalyk is a writer, social worker and principal actress in the Theatre with No Home project. We asked her about the successes and obstacles experienced by the 2020 SozialMarie prize winning project.
- What was your most surprising experience or moment while implementing your project?
Experiences of other theatre groups that had worked artistically with homeless people suggested that such groups did not last for long and gradually fell apart for a number of reasons. With this on our mind, after finishing rehearsals for our first theatre production called The Bloodied Key, we were pleasantly surprised when our actor Augustín Horváth asked us: “And what are we going to rehearse next?” This was unexpected, but it motivated us to continue and formally establish the Theatre with No Home project.
- Have you developed any new and unexpected collaborations since receiving the SozialMarie prize for social innovation?
We had a strategic planning workshop with Dušan Ondrušek (Founder of Partners for Democratic Change Slovakia, trainer and coach, and SozialMarie patron in 2020), which was very important and beneficial for us. The closure of theatres during the coronavirus pandemic brought us a lot of uncertainty as we could not come to terms with the idea of transferring our theatre activities into the online space. Dušan guided us “into the future” in a fantastic way and, thanks to his support and experience, we now have a specific plan to deal with this situation.
- What has been the biggest challenge you have faced during the life of your project?
There have been a few challenges. However, the biggest one was arranging and securing the rental agreement for theatre space in the Pisztory Palace despite the problematic attitude of the former mayor and formerly elected representatives of the Bratislava-Stare Mesto District Council. According to our information, various „business interest groups“ interested in acquiring the property had tried to put pressure on the former mayor, district officers and some of the elected district representatives. Fortunately, we managed to sign a rental agreement thanks to the support of the public,non-profit organisations as well as the liability of the district council towards the Norwegian funds scheme used to finance the palace reconstruction.
- Has there been any mistakes that others could learn from?
Of course there has. In the beginning, we were trying to build know-how in our creative work with homeless people without any academic literature on the subject to draw on. We have been slowly and carefully developing guidelines, methodologies and work standards while learning from our own mistakes and making sure not to bite off more than we can chew.
- Is there a particular achievement that you are most proud of?
We are proud of all our achievements, but most of all, we are proud that we have been performing for 14 years, have an audience who regularly visit us and always have a full house. Our actors and actresses are recognised and greeted by people on the streets and all of them have accommodation and feel proud to be part of the Theatre with No Home.
- What motivated you to initiate the project and what inspires you to continue even in times of hardship?
Artistic community life, which began in the theatre, is our greatest inspiration. We have built our relationships based on trust and psychological safety. We enjoy spending time together and we enjoy our creative process together. That is our greatest inspiration.