Belarus Free Theatre returns to Chicago following its widely acclaimed 2011 production of Being Harold Pinter. Now, one of the world’s most provocative and inspiring companies presents a new work that laments for the city that has lost its way, pining for a beloved home that has turned ugly, and for a people who cannot express themselves within a sexually repressive society. Belarus Free Theatre was founded in 2005 in Europe’s last surviving dictatorship, and is one of the most outspoken critics of Belarus’ totaliarian regime. Despite the loss of jobs, freedom and home, the company continues to develop award-winning work with the support of artists and theater companies around the world.
Approximate Running Time: 85 minutes (no intermission)
Developed in residence at the Dartington Space with the support of the Dartington Hall Trust
Funded by Arts Council England
Programming in the Carl and Marilynn Thoma Theater Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare is made possible through generous support from Hyatt Hotels Corporation.
International programming at Chicago Shakespeare Theater
is supported, in part, by the Julius Frankel Foundation.
Minsk, 2011: A Reply to Kathy Acker is a companion piece to New York in 1979. The first part, New York in 1979, was presented underground in Belarus in May 2010. It is based on a text by Kathy Acker, an American punk writer, who in this work investigates sexual identity and the development of society through the prism of sexuality. Minsk is the capital city of Belarus. Belarus is situated between Poland and Russia. Minsk, 2011: A Reply to Kathy Acker is a creative exploration of sexuality and asexuality in Belarus today. A Gay Pride march in 2010 was broken up by police after only fifteen minutes, as well as being subjected to harassment by homophobic skinheads. All the gay clubs in Minsk have now been closed down.
“Minsk is a beautiful and very sexy city. Welcome to the sexiest city in the world.”
The show tells the story of sexual repression in Belarus, the last totalitarian state in Europe, an energetic, visually led show. Brutal, powerful, by turns very funny and extremely moving, Minsk 2011 shows Minsk as a “sexy city,” where irrepressible urges to perform, party, love, kiss, touch, look and celebrate human sexuality meets government repression, violence and bureaucracy. The show suggests our sexual identities are part of our social ones, and therefore they are inherently political.
Dzenis Tarasenka: Right rib, left rib, sternum and the rest of the ribs. In 1996, at a rally on Chernobyl Way, I was seized by riot policemen and brought to the KGB inner courtyard. I spent three hours being stretched wide open against the wall. Scars adorn a man. Many girls find it sexy. In this regard, Minsk is a beautiful and very sexy city. Welcome to Minsk! The sexiest city in the world!
Yana Rusakevich: In Minsk, you cannot look people straight in >the eyes for more than three seconds. After December 19, 2010, a look in Minsk became evenshorter.
Yuliya Shauchuk: My one and a half square metre home will be taken from me. I will be homeless. When this tour finishes, I will find myself again in Minsk where I have nothing.
Natalia Kaliada: Belarus is not sexy. The sexuality of a country is its oil, gas, diamonds, and access to sea and mountains. Belarus is the only country in Europe where is there is no sea and no mountains. Belarus is flat.
In Belarus, just being can prompt an arrest.
Iron-fisted authorities in Belarus have responded to a burst of creative modes of protest by young protesters with a rather surreal innovation of their own: a law that prohibits people from standing together and doing nothing.
Plain clothes police officers have detained nearly 2,000 people since the so-called clapping protests began in June, in many cases because they were seen clapping or standing near people who were.
Natalia Kaliada is the co-artistic director, producer and co-founder of Belarus Free Theatre alongside her husband Nicolai. Natalia has been detained three times for participation in peaceful political and theatrical activities. She was the first person to be detained at a street protest against enforced disappearances in Belarus. She was convicted for publishing the Monitoring of Human Rights on the Internet. Her father, Andrei Kaliada, was dismissed from the Academy of the Arts for cooperation with Belarus Free Theatre and was physically attacked as a result; the criminal investigation case on it was closed down. In 2010 her play They Saw Dreams played at the Soho Theatre, London. The play is based on documentary material and stories of the political prisoners Irina Krasovskaya, Svetlana Zavadskaya, Tatiana Klimova and Lyudmila Karpenko. Co-produced with Nicolai Khalezin all BFT productions, including the latest King Lear for the "Globe to Globe" festival for the Cultural Olympics in London, and Trash Cuisine.
Nicolai Khalezin is a playwright, director and journalist and co-founded Belarus Free Theatre alongside his wife Natalia Kaliada in March 2005. Nicolai was arrested four times for participation in peaceful political protest rallies and theatrical activities. He was taken to trial for organizing a peaceful political street rally. His plays are forbidden to be staged in Belarus. In summer 2010 he was attacked outside his house. The criminal investigation case on the attack was closed down. Nicolai is the author of eleven plays including, Generation Jeans and Here I Am , and has won numerous awards recognizing his contribution to humanitarian theater. Under Belarus Free Theatre he has presented his work at festivals in Riga, Helsinki, Moscow, Paris, Munich, Stockholm, St. Etienne and Warsaw. (See Natalia’s biography for co-productions under Belarus Free Theatre.) He directed and adapted Trash Cuisine, dedicated to the international issue of the death penalty, premiering at Stadsshouwburg, Amsterdam, on October 5, 2012.
Vladimir Scherban is the associate director of Belarus Free Theatre. He became a director at the Yanka Kupala National Academic Theatre in 1999 but was dismissed in 2006 for his activities establishing Belarus Free Theatre. Various performances by Shcherban in Belarus have been cancelled, and he has been detained for his professional activities. In 2008 together with Nicolai Khalezin and Natalia Kaliada, he helped found Fortinbras, the only underground arts school in Belarus. Productions directed for Belarus Free Theatre include: 4.48. Psychosis,We.Self-Identification, We.Belliwood, Technique ofBreezing in a Vacuum, Zone ofSilence, Being Harold Pinter,A Flower for Pina Bausch and New York ’79 , Minsk, 2011: A Reply to Kathy Acker, as well as King Lear for the "Globe to Globe" festival for the Cultural Olympics in London, premiering at The Globe Shakespeare's Theatre on May 17-18, 2012.
Yuri Kaliada is the executive director, international coordinator and a Belarus Free Theatre patron, providing monetary aid and coordinating financial support that led to the creation and operation of Belarus Free Theatre. He assisted Natalia Koliada and Nikolai Khalezin with research and preparation, analysis and selection, funding and monitoring of the Theatre’s original creative concepts and international projects. He is an associate member of the civil campaign “Free Belarus NOW!,” civil and human rights initiative “Charter’97,” civil movement “European Belarus,” and We Remember Foundation, with a primary focus to draw attention worldwide to politically motivated disappearances and killings in recent years in countries such as Belarus and around the world. In 2008 Yuri Kaliada, together with Belarus Free Theatre, joined the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED) adopted by the UN Human Rights Council.
Chris Thorpe is a writer and performer from Manchester. He devises work, and writes plays for the stage and radio. He is currently writing TwelveProposals... with Nicolai Khalezin for the West Yorkshire Playhouse. He is a core member of Unlimited Theatre, artistic associate of Third Angel, and also performs solo pieces.
Aleh Sidorchyk joined Belarus Free Theatre in 2005. He joined the Belarusian Army Theatre in 2004 and was dismissed in 2006 for his cooperation with Belarus Free Theatre. He was detained for his professional activities. Between 1985 and 2004 he worked at the Belarusian Young Spectator Theatre.
Dzanis Tarasenka joined Belarus Free Theatre in 2005. He was attacked during a peaceful political street rally and detained for his professional activities. He lost his job at the state theater due to his involvement with Belarus Free Theatre. In 2004 Dzenis formed the band RSP, who tour in Russia, Lithuania, Belarus and other European countries.
Maryna Yurevich joined Belarus Free Theatre in 2006. She was dismissed from the Belarusian Army Theatre in 2008 for cooperating with Belarus Free Theatre. She was ordered to pay $12,500 to the state for denying to work in a role dictated to her. The payment was cancelled after Belarus Free Theatre and actresses Diane Quick and Kim Cattrall launched the ‘Free the Actress from Slavery’ campaign.
Pavel Radak- H ARADNITSKI joined Belarus Free Theatre in 2005. He is unable to apply for jobs in Belarus because of his association with Belarus Free Theatre. He has been detained for his professional activities. He performs in the band RSP (vocals and flute).
Yana Rusakevich joined Belarus Free Theatre in 2005. She was dismissed from the Yanka Kupala National Academic Theatre for cooperation with Belarus Free Theatre and has been arrested two times for her professional activities and participation in peaceful political street rallies.
Yuliya Shauchuk studied directing at the Belarusian State University of Arts and Culture, graduating in 2007. From 2008 to June 2011 she worked at the National Theatre of Belarusian Drama but was fired for an interview in the “free news” called “non-free theater begins with a tower.”
Viktoriya Biran joined Belarus Free Theatre in 2010. She trained as a journalist at the Institute of Journalism BSU in Minsk and worked for the cultural website budzma.org before joining Belarus Free Theatre.
Siarhei Kvachonak studied at the Belarussian State Technological University. During his studies he was a member of the student theater company “Kolokol,” and in October 2010 he was accepted as a student of Fortinbras. This is his second show performing with Belarus Free Theatre.
Kiryl Kanstantsinau graduated from art school and from the College of Law of the Belarusian State University. For two years he studied in the theater studio Paradox. He came to the Belarus Free Theatre drama school/laboratory Fortinbras in 2012. In 20120 he was arrested along with the audience during a screening of the documentary film Europe’s Last Dictator at an underground location of the Belarus Free Theatre in Minsk.
Tom Cotterill read English at Goldsmiths, University of London. Production credits with Fuel include ElectricHotel, Love Letters Straightfrom Your Heart by Uninvited Guests and The Receipt by Will Adamsdale. Tom has international production experience with Hoipolloi, Kaos Theatre, Stan Won’t Dance, Theatre Alibi, The David Glass Ensemble, Cois Ceim and Frantic Assembly. He has supported individual artists such as Guy Dartnell, David Gale, Pete Edwards and Mat Fraser.
Svetlana Sugako joined Belarus Free Theatre in 2005 as an administrator and assistant director but also performs with them occasionally. She is also a musician and songwriter, formerly in band Tarpach. In 2006 she was jailed for 7 days for shouting the anti-state slogan ‘Long Live Belarus’ after the presidential election.
Nadia Brodskaya graduated from the Belarusian National Technical University in 2009 as a manager/economist. After she graduated she worked as a private tutor in the subject, and in September 2011 joined Belarus Free Theatre as stage manager and financial manager.