NEW YORK CITY: Playwright Tom Stoppard, actor Billy Crudup, novelist Don DeLillo and others are coming out to rally for support for the Belarus Free Theater, based in Minsky, some of whose members were arrested and others forced underground by an authoritarian regime, in four events, one organized by the Public Theater, another by Theater J, another by Amnesty International USA and another  organized by the PEN American Center.

"Being Harold Pinter" by Belarus Free Theater. Photo by Trent O'Donnell

On Monday, Jan. 17 at 7PM, the Public Theater and La MaMa E.T.C. are presenting an encore benefit performance of Being Harold Pinter at The Public Theater (425 Lafayette Street).  Hosted by Tom Stoppard and Tony Kushner, the evening will also feature readings by celebrity guests, including Mandy Patinkin. Tickets to this one-night-only benefit performance are $500 (include prime seating location, a backstage visit, and a post-show reception), $100 (include a post-show reception), and $50 and are on sale now at (212) 967-7555 or www.publictheater.org.

On Monday, January 17 at 7:30 PM in Washington, DC, there will be a staged reading of Being Harold Pinter at Theater J as a part of the Global Artistic Campaign in Solidarity “Free Belarus,” an initiative started by Belarus Free Theater and endorsed by playwrights Stoppard and Vaclav Havel, as well as notables Ian McClellan, Jude Law, and others. The reading will be done by local DC actors, not the Belarus company, and will include a talkback following the reading.

On Wednesday, January 19 at 12 PM., the Public Theater, in partnership with Amnesty International USA, will hold a peaceful public demonstration at the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Belarus to the United Nations (136 East 67th Street). The demonstration will invite theater artists in New York City to join in solidarity with the persecuted Belarus artists and activists. The peaceful protestors will speak out against the arrests that followed the disputed elections in Belarus on December 19, 2010 and call for an end to the government’s repressive actions against free speech and expression. Organizers asks those who will attend to TEXT the word “PROTEST” to 27138 to receive updates about exact meeting location. For more information, visit www.amnestyusa.org/eventcenter.

On Wednesday, January 19 at 7pm, the PEN American Center event, “Viva the Belarus Free Theater,” takes place at Le Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker Street in New York.  The evening is billed as a benefit reading and celebration of the Belarus Free Theater. It will feature an excerpt from the show as well as literature, music and cocktail conversation about the power of art and the future of Belarus. It takes place one month to the day after the crackdown that saw its theater members and more than 600 other writers, journalists and opposition activisits arrested following flawed elections in Belarus.

A scene from the Belarus Free Theater’s acclaimed production of Being Harold Pinter. Photo Credit: Aleksandr Paskannoi

This past December, the members of the Belarus Free Theater were either in jail or in hiding. Now, miraculously, they are performing their play Being Harold Pinter as part of the Under the Radar Festival in New York. Soon they will be back in Belarus, where they will continue to risk the wrath of President Aleksandr Lukashenko, the man known as “Europe’s last dictator.”

To read more about the plight of the Belarus Free Theater, please visit this link to my award-winning critical essay, entitled Fomenting a Denim Revolution, in which I detail my journey inside Minsk. 

The Belarus Free Theater is currently performing its powerful production of Being Harold Pinter at LaMaMa E.T.C., 74 East 4th Street in New York City.  —Randy Gener

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