News / USA

Belarus Theater Group Performing in New York Festival

Belarus Free Theater performing
Belarus Free Theater performing

The Belarus Free Theater is performing a version of its play Being Harold Pinter at an international festival in New York called "Under the Radar". The troupe's 11 actors, directors and stage managers had to go under the radar themselves in order to make it to the New York.

Being Harold Pinter is based on a mixture of statements by political prisoners in Belarus and the writings of Pinter, the late English writer, actor and political activist who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005.

The play focuses on the abuses of power in Belarus, something members of the troupe know first hand. They were caught in the crackdown that followed the nation's disputed presidential election last month, and had to sneak out of the country.

Director, Natalia Kolyada, explains that acting and politics is one and the same in Belarus .

“…Because when you talk on contemporary issues in Belarus it becomes politics," said Natalia Kolyada. "When you make people to think it becomes politics.  But we talk only about the issues that worry us and it’s everything - it’s childhood, it’s suicide, it’s religion, it’s kidnappings, it’s political prisoners and it’s sexual minorities, all of it is in our performances.”

Which makes returning to Belarus problematic for Koyada and other members Belarus Free Theater. Her husband and co-director, Nikolai Khalezin:

“ If we go back now, we will just join the ranks of other people behind bars," said Nikolai Khalezin. "And there will be nobody left to coordinate our activities on the outside.  Our task now is to inform the international community. “

Festival director Mark Russell believes the New York audience will get the group's message.

”One reason I am bringing this group is for their art, not just for their political relevance and for their amazing story, which does help," said Mark Russell. "If any kind of theater is under the radar, it is the Belarus Free Theatre.”  

Belarus Free Theater performed Being Harold Pinter in London to high praise last year.  Kevin Spacey, the two-time Oscar winning actor and artistic director of London’s Old Vic Theater, flew to New York for this festival to support the troupe.

“What’s happening in Belarus has happened throughout history, where dictatorships close the theaters, they arrest the playwrights, they throw the actors in jail, they take the intellectuals and kill them in some cases," said Kevin Spacey. "Because theater can sometimes accomplish and say more and do more than politics can.”

The Under the Radar Festival runs through mid-January.  Then, on January 19, the Belarus troupe and supporters plan to picket the Belarus consulate.  

You May Like

Video Obama: Action on Climate Change 'Economic, Security Imperative'

President spoke to reporters on sidelines of UN Climate Summit outside Paris, where leaders are working to agree on binding measures

IMF Bets on China’s Resolve to Reform

IMF announcement already raising questions about just how much Beijing is committed to such reforms

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs