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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

MINSK, Belarus — The security services rounded up scores of opposition leaders and their supporters on Monday, a day after antigovernment demonstrators tried to storm the government headquarters here in a futile effort to block the re-election of Belarus’s authoritarian president, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko.

Taken from the New York Times, December 20, 2010 11am.

Among those arrested and detained were members of the Belarus Free Theater including artistic directors Natalya Kolyada and Nikolai Khalezin. Both Kolyada and Khalezin have been released and have gone underground. Their manager Artsiom Zheleznyak is still detained. Over 600 people are still behind bars. 12/22/10.


Letter to
The President of the United States
As American theater artists and professionals, we wish to express our support of Free Theater Belarus. We demand the end of the constant harassment of this company and the many other journalists, activists and artists jailed in the wake of Belarus’ most recent elections. When any artist, in any country, is jailed for expressing herself freely, for making art, or for challenging a repressive state our entire field is diminished and we must, as they say, act.

Since 2006, Natalya and Nikolai have led a courageous group of underground theater artists in Minsk. Their work together includes producing original devised theater, and presenting the work of emerging and recognized writers from Belarus and many other countries. In Europe’s last dictatorship, this simple act has meant they and their families have been blacklisted, beaten, jailed, and censored. They have seen their friends disappear, their families fired from state jobs, and seen the bodies of their murdered colleagues turn up unexplained.

One of the most damaging things about a country in which individual expression, the freedom of press, art and public assembly are all curtailed unilaterally by the government, is that the truth is compromised at every level. It is impossible to know exactly how many have been jailed, what conditions they are being kept under, and when or if they will be released. As theater artists, a part of our worth rests on our ability to channel fundamentally truthful moments and craft them in such a way that they expand what we think is humanly possible and meaningful. When any of our colleagues is kept from doing this work, we are all responsible to help keep them free.

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