The Sworn Virgin
Sworn virgins are Albanian women who decide to live like men. After making this irreversibile decision, they give up on sex and their lives as women and start living like men, thus benefitting some of the privileges that in that region are reserved for males only.
The Western research approach to the phenomenon of Albanian sworn virgins has mostly been exotic, like a look of the “civilized world” at the “uncivilized” one. Everyone, especially international media, but also researchers from the disciplines of Anthropology, Sociology, Ethnography, to name a few, has exploited this phenomenon. A sort of intimacy guaranteed to the sworn virgins by the very fact of becoming so, was, all of a sudden, exposed to the media and the wider audience — an exposure that brought no benefit to the sworn virgins but rather the contrary — in many cases they were portrayed in the light of primitivism and as ‘relics’ of an extremely patriarchal society. However, for many of these women, dressing like a man and becoming a sworn virgin was an act of emancipation. They associate this act with the idea of “freedom”. Dave King referred to the phenomenon as “gender migration,” comparing it to the geographical migration.
In The Sworn Virgin, during her visit in the Northern Albania, Edith, a British anthropologist meets Sose, one of the remaining Albanian sworn virgins. Later, together they travel to London for a series of public presentations at the London University. During this visit, Sose becomes part of a queer performance-in-the-making by Julian — a renowned drag queen from London. Encountering such a foreign culture becomes existential for Sose.
The Sworn Virgin speaks about the phenomenon of the sworn virgins, in light of the current debate on gender issues. It addresses the concept of freedom, respectively the lack of it in societies with different values, concepts and social constructs.
This is the first Albanian-language production of this play. Earlier, it was staged in German in Switzerland as a co-production of forever productions, Schlachthaus Theater Bern, Theater Winkelwiese Zürich, Kleintheater Luzern and Kellertheater Winterthur.
director Erson Zymberi
author Jeton Neziraj
actors Tringa Hasani, Semira Latifi, Kushtrim Qerimi
set design Bekim Korça
music Trimor Dhomi
choreography Gjergj Prevazi
costumes Yllka Brada
production manager Aurela Kadriu
light design Mursel Bekteshi
technical support Pajtim Krasniqi, Bujar Bekteshi
production assistant Flaka Rrustemi
video Ilir Gjocaj
production Qendra Multimedia
performance in Albanian with surtitles by Alessia Andreoli, Annalisa Betti, Ginevra Bianchin, Aurora Cacciatori, Federica Canino, Verdiana Crociani, Chiara Dalla Pozza, Michela Lavezzini, Alessia Martucci, Arianna Paradisi, Gianlorenzo Pastore, Adele Persegati, Marcella Puca, Elisa Pugi, Manjinder Thind, under the supervision of Prof.ssa Adele D’Arcangelo, Università di Bologna – Dipartimento di Interpretazione e Traduzione
Jeton Neziraj is a playwright and the Director of Qendra Multimedia. He has served as the Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Kosovo. Mr. Neziraj written over 20 plays that have been staged (over 50 productions), translated and published in more than 15 languages. As a playwright, he has worked with theatres and companies, including Volksbühne Berlin, La MaMa in New York, Piccolo Teatro di Milano, Volkstheater Vienna, Vidy Theater in Lausanne, National Theater of Kosovo, City Garage Theater in Los Angeles, National Theater of Montenegro, Turkish National Theater, etc. His plays have won numerous prizes and have been performed in theatre festivals throughout Europe.
«The plays [of Jeton Neziraj] are raucous, irreverent and absurdist.They invoke Ibsen, Molière and Kafka…» The “Guardian” wrote about his work. The German theatre magazine “Theater der Zeit” and the German Radio “Deutschlandfunk Kultur” have described him as Kafka of the Balkans, while the “Los Angeles Times” called him «a world- class playwright who challenges our complacency at every twist and turn». In 2020 he was awarded the Europe Culture Award.
Qendra Multimedia is a cultural organization based in Prishtina, Kosovo. Its main focus is in contemporary theater and literature. It is considered to be as one of the most interesting and provoking theatre companies in South Eastern Europe. Qendra was founded in 2002 by a group of young artists aiming to create an alternative form of art production to address political and social issues with clarity and imagination. Qendra produces and coproduces fresh and innovative theatre performances and other literature and cultural events, for local and international audiences. Artistic exchanges with international partners are crucial in the work of Qendra Multimedia. Since 2002, Qendra Multimedia has organized and facilitated more than 100 artistic projects in Kosovo, but as well as in other places in Europe. Qendra’s community of collaborating artists/experts create its own events and facilitate programming for others. Qendra’s productions have been touring to more than 100 international theaters and theater festivals across Europe, USA and Africa.