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Belarus Free Theatre's

Minsk 2011,
A Reply to
Kathy Acker

January 30

February 3, 2013

Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare

A World’s Stage Production from Belarus

What is Minsk, 2011: A Reply to Kathy Acker?

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 even shorter.

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. were.

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.

The New York Times, June 2011

Belarus Free Theatre was founded in 2005 by husband-and-wife team Nicolai Khalezin and Natalia Kaliada, and joined shortly afterwards by Uladzimir Shcherban. Three of them together formed a unique aesthetics of the BFT. It uses theater as an artistic means to resist political censorship and pressure from the government in Europe’s last surviving dictatorship. Their Belarus performances are held secretly, in small private apartments, the location of which, due to the risk of persecution, must constantly be changed. Formed in Europe’s last surviving dictatorship, the members of BFT have suffered every form of intimidation and harassment.BFT is a collaborative company using the experience and expertise of all members as an artistic resource. Under impossible conditions BFT continues to produce great theatre that is recognised internationally; in 2011 it was nominated for the Unique Theatrical Experience Drama Desk Award for Being Harold Pinter and was awarded the prestigious off Broadway OBIE Award.

Belarus Free Theatre consists of twenty-five members and nine students. This is the only independent theater of its kind not only in Belarus but in Europe. With regard to their influence on a political process in Belarus, it is the only theater in the world that acts at such high political levels by working together with the greatest artists of the world. Two founding directors and its associate director, alongside one member of the company, are political refugees in the UK.

Every member of the company has, at one time or another, been imprisoned, threatened or mistreated by the authorities, or they live in fear for their safety. They have all lost their jobs. In retaliation, they defiantly produce, devise and perform plays that highlight repression in Belarus and educate others through their theater laboratory, Fortinbras. Their work diminishes discrimination and fear, incites resistance and encourages long-term political change. BFT targets EU and US politicians, high-profile international artists and the media to influence an improvement in international relations with Belarus. Their productions are devised to encourage global awareness of life under the Belarusian regime, to educate the Belarusian population, and to influence change in Belarusian policy.

BFT supports victims of human rights abuses through workshops, activities and projects. The company is a non-violent resistant group of human rights defenders, actors in cultural life, equality activists, political dissidents and supporters of indigenous and minority groups.

 

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