55 Shades of Gay: The Intersection of Theater and Rights in the Balkans

Theater has been an important platform through which generations of artists in the Balkans have reacted to political and social upheaval in the region. With a difficult legacy of war, cultural and artistic initiatives have encouraged much-needed connections between the countries in the Balkans, often shining a light on controversial social issues. 

In this deeply patriarchal society, the LGBTI community remains repressed, especially in rural areas, but artistic depictions of its struggles can reach a widespread audience, bridging traditional and modern parts of society. Open Society Foundations’ long-term support for LGBTI rights and arts and culture in the Balkans remains a crucial driver for progress and reconciliation in the region. 

55 Shades of Gay is a burlesque production about LGBTI politics in the Balkans. In the tradition of Balkan humor, it is often irreverent and satirical in tone as it looks at the LGBTI experience, systemic corruption, crippling unemployment, and crumbling infrastructure in Kosovo. The U.S. premiere of 55 Shades of Gay is supported by the Open Society Foundations and other funders including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Trust for Mutual Understanding. The production will be presented in the Ellen Stewart Theatre at La MaMa, March 7–17, 2019.

Playwright Jeton Neziraj, political analyst Veton Surroi, and Balkan human rights expert Tanya Domi join Open Society’s Beka Vučo for a conversation about this important production and the role of theater and arts—and the LGBTI experience—in Kosovo and the Balkans. 

A reception will follow the panel discussion. 


  • Jeton Neziraj is a playwright and the director of Qendra Multimedia, a cultural production company based in Kosovo’s capital city, Pristina.
  • Tanya L. Domi is an adjunct assistant professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and is an affiliate faculty member of the Harriman Institute.
  • Veton Surroi is a journalist, author, publisher, civil society activist and politician; he established Koha magazine and the national broadcaster Kohavision (KTV). 
  • Beka Vučo is regional manager for the Western Balkans for the Open Society Foundations.
Date: February 28, 2019
Time: 6:008:00 p.m.

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