Sunday, October 5, 2008

Why Belarus?

Partly because I was invited to be a jury member of the Fifth International Theatre Festival "Teatralny Koufar" in Minsk in the former Soviet country of Belarus. Katsiaryna Saladukha, the festival's managing director, first invited the playwright Caridad Svich to be on the jury but she couldn't go. Caridad suggested me. Next thing you know, here I am in the Newark airport waiting to board on a plane to Warsaw where I will change over to Minsk.

Partly because Belarus is really a very difficult place to visit. Even my Eastern European friends are surprised that I am able to go. Compared to neighbors like Poland and Lithuania, Belarus is considered the most resistant to social change. The country's human rights record is spotty. It is considered to have Europe's worst freedom of the press.

Partly because Minsk has been subject to less Westernization than Moscow or Kiev. It is the capital city of the last dictatiorship in Europe.

Partly because theatre artists from Belarus have hounded me as the senior editor of American Theatre magazine. Several times, I have had to deal with proposals to cover the state of theatre in Belarus in the magazine. I saw a Belarussian show at Under the Radar Festival by a company that was touted by Tom Stoppard and Harold Pinter as a defender of artists' freedom. I then saw the same group of Belarus theatre artists while I was in Thessaloniki in northern Greece to attend the Europe Theatre Prize. Those Belarussians were given a special commendation by the this European Union-sponsored prize, based on a recommendation by Stoppard and Pinter.

Except now that I am in the airport, waiting to board, now I wish I were at home in my clean, safe apartment, perhaps in bed. Wish me luck.
Post a Comment