In Belarus, which Condaleeza Rice described as "the last true remaining dictatorship in the heart of Europe," theater directors are still dangerous. A few weeks ago, the husband-and-wife leaders of Belarus Free Theater were arrested and roughed up during demonstrations against the government, and the wife was threatened with rape by the police (and you can click here to see a photo of the opposition candidate prone in the streets after an encounter with the police):
Earlier this month she joined a star-studded gathering at London's Old Vic to raise awareness of the Belarus Free Theatre, the independent performing arts group which she co-founded five years ago.
But Ms Koliada, 37, is also one of the most outspoken critics of the repressive regime which has led to her country being branded Europe's last dictatorship. Although the Free Theatre performs in a small house on the outskirts of Minsk, it has risen to international prominence for the quality of its performances and its fearless challenging of Mr Lukashenko's rule.
Now she has described how she was arrested, threatened with rape and tried without access to her lawyer after riot police broke up a 10,000-strong demonstration protesting at apparently rigged elections.
Belarus Free Theater is scheduled to appear at the Under the Radar festival in NYC, where I'll be headed tomorrow. (I'm going there to perform—irony of ironies! The critic onstage!—with my friends Tommy Smith and Reggie Watts in this thing.)
But Mark Russell (TBA in Portland, PS 122 in NYC, and now the Under the Radar Festival) isn't sure whether he can get them out of the country yet. More on that, and the whole situation in this NYT article.
To their credit, the leaders of Belarus Free Theater don't describe their project as "political theater"—just honest theater, and the government can't stand honesty. From BFT's Wikipedia page (which has all kinds of dramatic stories about them performing in forests, having their entire audience arrested, etc.):
The project is often referred to as 'political theatre'," Petz stresses that Khalezin himself "definitely does not consider his art political. He says that would be too boring and adds, 'We don't have a single classically political play in our repertoire.' For him, "uprightness" is more important than the classic political play. Such "uprightness", Petz cautions, "comes at a price in Belarus", as "Almost all the members of the ensemble have served time behind bars."
You can drop the government of Belarus a line and tell them what you think—like, maybe, they should stop harassing, arresting, and beating people for having different political ideas and performing Sarah Kane plays—at firstname.lastname@example.org, the email address of the press secretary of the prime minister, or at email@example.com.
Sending them an email would be a small thing—but a thing nonetheless. If there's one thing a weak dictator doesn't like, it's honest feedback. And dictator Aleksandr G. Lukashenko can't fire/arrest/send thugs out to beat you and your family to a pulp. So what have you got to lose?