Bergman, John

Tilting at discrimination: Investigation into the audience response to "If You Can't See You Don't Know Me."

John Bergman

Nearly two years ago Marcel Costea and I created an original production based on Marcel's life as a Roma including some of the 500-year history of Romania's enslavement of the Roma and current discrimination against the Roma.  The first presentation was to the European Federation of Dramatherapy in Bucharest. Marcel then toured this production throughout Romania.  Since that time, Marcel and I have started to interview people from the audiences, especially Roma audience, to see what effect if any, especially this far out, the production may have had on attitudes and memories. This paper is a discussion of its findings.

Despite a ten-year focus by the European Union on ameliorating the lives of the Roma, their final report stated unequivocally that there continued to be high levels of discrimination. What is clear is that in most areas of Roma experience - access to employment, hate speech, healthcare, police harassment - the Roma still suffer greatly.

The production we created - If You Can’t See Me, You Don’t Know Me was sponsored by a Roma organization, and created extremely intense responses to its honesty- ranging from a Romanian lawyer who said she had "…never been told that the Roma were in servitude for 500 years", to a policeman who was profoundly moved by what he saw on stage.

This paper is both a justification for tilting at the windmill of racism and a reflection on memory through drama as change. We will present some of the investigative evidence about whether our intensive theatre as social therapy/sociodrama could affect both Roma and non-Roma, with a major focus on Roma. What did the production of this tough theatre piece do for the self-image of Roma, two years on?



John Bergman MA, RDT, MT, BCT   is a UK born drama therapist/theatre director with over 37 years’ experience with prisoners and prison officers, and men, women and young people in all types of criminal justice settings. He is the founder and Director of Geese Theatre Company USA, co-founder/teacher of Geese Company UK, and a Board member of Transcena in Romania, an arts-based company working in prisons and schools and with victims of domestic abuse.  He has presented internationally at over 500 professional conferences, treatment seminars, and conventions. He is the recipient of the 2005 Research Award from the National Association of Drama Therapists. John co-edited Current Perspectives & Applications in Neurobiology: Working with Young Persons who are Victims and Perpetrators of Sexual Abuse and was recently published in The Drama Therapy Review.

Presenter Photo

Recent Publications

Bergman, J. (2017) The roar of the 1960s and why we chose to work inside the system.

Presented at the European Federation of Drama Therapy in both 2017 and 2018. He is keynote speaker this year at the Polish Theatre in Prisons Conference in Warsaw.

Drama Therapy Review. vol 3, Issue 2. pp 321-326