Tsvete Yaneva and her followers almost 30 years change the destinies of children and young people through the theater of coexistenceThirty years ago, a private theater gathered like-minded people, who then set up a non-governmental organization and work to this day FOR and WITH children and help them get to know themselves and get better. In one sentence, this is the story of the Flower Theater. Its creator is visible in its name: Tsvete Yaneva. Behind these frugal words are thousands of children and young people, touched by the magic of the theater, experiencing themselves, their fears, worries and hopes. The Flower Theater is changing destinies.
Today, the Flower Theater is a vibrant civic organization, which brings together professional actors, directors, psychologists and volunteers. Applying in his work innovative for Bulgaria interactive theatrical techniques, they help children and young people get to know and accept themselves and others; provoke their personal development; encourage their positive inclusion in public life.
While preparing for the conversation with Tsvete Yaneva, spend hours in their site: projects, performances, digitalization of presentation, reactions of participants, audience, people, who are in fact co-creators of the history of this civic organization. Its activities come to life, make sense of the mission, create the results.
"We were a group of friends, we had exam papers at VITIZ, we went to kindergartens together, then we scattered, we found out, that we miss each other. On vacation, as we gathered, we dreamed of being together again - and we did. We were friends from several classes, the others graduated in puppetry, I - directing for puppet theater ".
"It has to do with our first big tours. I started work in the beginning, still as a student, in a center for work with children, deprived of parental care. I saw the children, ideas were born, I wrote my first project, was funded by the Open Society. Georgi Bogdanov, who is now chairman of the National Network for Children, of which we are members, then he told me, that such a good experience should not go unnoticed and should be disseminated. Our first very big project was in 16 home in the country for children, deprived of parental care. We were a car with five people: we walked around, we gave performances, we did workshops, we taught them to do theater. They have remained in our hearts forever. We saw how many unhappy children there are, how they need love. Somehow we are unwilling – a doom in love happened. Continues to this day ".
I lead our conversation with a clear mind, that I know how difficult it is to carry out such a mission. Children can be "unlocked", to reach unsuspected heights. And the Flower Theater has been proving it in practice for so many years. Where is the secret to this unlock? Persistence, says Tsvete Yaneva.
What are you doing right now??
"Tomorrow I submit our next project – to work with socially disadvantaged children during the spring break. They will dramatize some of their teaching material in literature, we will dramatize it and show it to other children. I've been thinking about it for a long time. We will try to make summer camps for Roma children - to give them the opportunity to study literature, to imagine, that when they have an interest, when they make things right, when they work with a lot of desire and competence, results are being achieved ".
In the traditional work of the organization the children are usually from Sofia. Because every show, taken out, requires funds – for team travel, for other expenses. But when writing projects, they always strive to reach small and remote communities, to people and places, deprived of traditional access to culture. The project is currently being completed "Exercise your rights with knowledge and creativity", supported by the Active Citizens Fund. They work with young people from Zlataritsa, Sliven, Zlatograd, Chepelare and Plovdiv.
"With these children we created theater groups, with which we prepared forum-theatrical performances, which excite them. They presented them to their students. In this way the children, with whom we work, expand their worldview, knowledge of the world and of oneself. They achieve things, who did not suspect, that they could do, build self-confidence, responsibility to others. Teachers and parents say: "We can't know our children. They've grown so much. ".
How you practice the techniques of interactive theater? What does forum theater mean?
"We present an event on stage, which excites children – they are also creators, and spectators – in a problematic situation. We set the task for excited viewers to find an approach, to solve the problem or at least improve the outcome of the situation. They can go on stage and play with the actors, by making some changes in their behavior, to change the situation for the better. There is a presenter, they all discuss together whether they have achieved a result, looking for options. Everyone comes out with their personal experience, with this, which he knows, which he experienced. The conclusions unite their knowledge, their views, in something common, in common knowledge ".
According to this model before the covid crisis, The Flower Theater travels around the Mladost district in Sofia and in all schools makes forum-theatrical performances for violence prevention. The audience is very inspired, young people accept it as a participation in a reality show – come on stage, friends see them, they are proud, hand out autographs. The whole endeavor is for fun, meaning and lesson.
How do you deal with the responsibility for professional skills in working with children and young people?
"Sometimes we hire people with the right experience and qualifications. Our colleagues understand this responsibility very well. Three people graduated from the Artistic Psycho-Social Practices Program at the New Bulgarian University under David Yeroham. Violina Alexandrova from the team graduated as an art therapist, her mother was a deaf educator, Violina is now learning sign language, so that we can work with deaf children as well ".
"White scarf – red carnation ”is one of your last educational performances. How you make them, why?
Educational theater is something extremely interesting and useful, Unfortunately, no one in Bulgaria applies it, explains Tsvete Yaneva and there is a heavy bitterness in her voice. Applied theater is also an unfamiliar land and an unused technique for achieving experienced results. In Bulgaria, theater is still perceived as something, worthy only of a big stage. And applied theater and drama as a technique of self-knowledge and knowledge of the world have huge untapped potential.
However, all these endeavors cannot take place without sustainable funding. In the case of Bulgaria – without writing projects and trying hard to find potential supporters of the ideas. Tsvete Yaneva admits, that it is the main driver of the fight for funding. And that she already weighs a lot, that the whole administration and bureaucracy is very heavy. The main team of the organization consists of eight people, get to 14 on various projects, but seeking funding and defending ideas is her concern. Ask a question, for which I am almost certain of the negative answer. Anyway:
Are there enough funds and opportunities in Bulgaria to support your business today??
"Not. There is no view from the government about what they are missing. The lack of communication between the ministries of education is outrageous, culture and social care. I just do not know! Because these are our children. ".
What partnerships give you, NGO networks in this difficult situation?
"It simply came to our notice then. We respect the competencies very much, which every organization, in its own path of development acquires. And all the experience, which we acquire in communication with other organizations, such as the National Children's Network, where we are members, … Nice, every partnership is warm and enriching, which gives you confidence, hope, that things can have a good result. We also feel significant. Especially in the National Network for Children – we comment, we write opinions, we feel heard ".
Flower Theater is a member of International Drama Theater Association in Education IDEA. They will travel to Iceland this summer, to share experiences in the magic of drama theater, explains Tsvete Yaneva.
Decades of work with thousands of children and young people are changing destinies – definitely. I ask about the brightest examples of changed destinies.
„What we experienced together, remains forever. We made a theater for the prevention of trafficking in girls in Targovishte. One of the girls came to us, when we were already packing, to leave, and said, "Okay, that it was you – I will tear up all the documents! I just signed up to go to Greece to dance!The child had realized. It was enlightened to him. We have worked hard to prevent the trafficking of girls and women – as much as we have saved, every life is worth it! Because even in the most remote wilderness, and in the most brilliant cities, the tentacles of traffickers extend everywhere.
We did a show for the first time, in which there were hearing and non-hearing actors, under an international project of Creative Europe. Hearing and non-hearing actors portrayed one image. This was the first opportunity for families, in which there are also hearers, and deaf, at the same time, to experience the theater together. They cried, we cried a lot. This is an example, warmed my heart.
We worked with students in Braille. One cannot imagine how different the world of blind people is, how much it is damaged. And how much extra care is needed, so that they can get an equal start in life ".
Thousands of children and young people experience the Flower Theater. They have impressions for a lifetime. At the end of the conversation, Tsvete Yaneva returns to the beginning: to the first of those 16 homes for children, deprived of parental care, where the life of the Flower Theater began:
"He was in Lukovit. We went to play theater there, I understood, that it is a home for children, like everyone else. We went and suddenly children in prams started coming out of the building, children, worn on the hands, difficult to move… It turned out, that these are children with physical disabilities. We were scared. We were about to leave. All right, that they were principals and teachers, who told us: "Not, not, by no means leave! These children are like everyone else. We teach them that: they can handle anything, like all other people ". And we stayed with them. We worked there for five years. In their yard he wrote with chalk "Flower Theater", welcome forever!“. The rain was washing away the inscription, and they wrote it again. To this day in Sofia we have children from this home, with whom we visit and continue to keep in touch. These are the changed destinies, for which everything is worth it ".