Thursday, February 23, 2012

Randy Gener Publishes in "Out of Silence: Censorship in Theatre & Performance," New Book from Eyecorner Press

It began in a New Dramatists panel discussion. Then it became an award-winning article. Now it is in a book. The journey from public conversation to magazine article to book publishing has been long and and dramatic and amazing. Today the book was selected as "Editor's Choice" by Theater magazine, Yale University's journal of criticism, plays and reportage.

The independent publishing house Eyecorner Press has released Out of Silence: Censorship in Theatre & Performance, for which I contributed a chapter of the government censorship and the repression of artists in Belarus. Other contributors to the book are Chantal Bilodeau, Stephen Bottoms, Marvin Carlson, Tim Crouch, Stephen J. Duncombe, Rinde Eckert, Matthew Goulish, Baz Kershaw, Joanna Laurens, Carl Lavery, Christopher Shinn, and Aleks Sierz.

My contribution, "Fomenting a Denim Revolution," chronicles the young counterculture artists of Belarus based on my firsthand experiences in that country's capital of Minsk. I compare the experiences of Belarusian rock bands and Belarusian theater artists, describing how each of their struggles with the KGB police impact their ability to perform for audiences in Minsk. Young Belarusian musicians, for example, often send out posters and announcements that they are performing at a wedding or a birthday. But when people show up, the events are actually rock concerts. In the case of the Belarusian theater artists, they initially performed as bars. Unfortunately, their licenses of the bar owners are revoked by KGB and so the theater artists end up performing in secret in apartments outside of the perimeter of Minsk. Sometimes they perform in the woods.

The title of the book stems from a panel discussion, also called "Out of Silence," that the NoPassport theater alliance first organized at New Dramatists on April 11, 2006 in New York City. Moderated by Caridad Svich, the book's editor, the panel was subtitled "A Public Conversation on Writing, Access, Funding, Censorship, Silence and the Arts." The panel included critic Jonathan Kalb, director Marcy Arlin, myself, the late Glyn O'Malley (whose play Paradise became controversial play at the time), performer Thaddeus Phillips, and playwright Saviana Stanescu. The impetus for the 2006 panel was the controversy that surrounded My Name is Rachel Corrie, whose production was cancelled by New York Theater Workshop after local Jewish religious and community leaders voices their opposition. A similar fate befell Paradise in Cincinnati, Ohio, because it depicts Palestinian suicide bombers.

In that panel I spoke about the censorship issues that many Belarusian writers experienced and were reporting to me. Several writers said they were being blacklisted. I wrote about their plight here in the U.S. Those articles apparently backfired and caused more trouble for those who spoke up.

Several years later I traveled to Minsk, the capital city of Belarus, to investigate for myself the situation. The resulting article was "Fomenting a Denim Revolution," which also serves as the title of my essay in the book Out of Silence. The original and much shorter version of "Fomenting a Denim Revolution" was published in May 2009 in American Theatre magazine. That article won a 2010 Deadline Club Award for Best Arts Reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists, besting the New York Times and the Jewish Forward in its category. Playwright Tom Stoppard has praised "Fomenting a Denim Revolution": "It's a superb piece, the best and fullest account of the situation I have read. Everyone who cares about freedom in Belarus, and about the Free Theater in particular, has reason to thank you."  -- RG

New from Eyecorner Press:

OUT OF SILENCE: Censorship in Theatre & Performance
Caridad Svich, editor
ISBN: ISBN: 978-8792633149

This collection of essays on the subject of theatre and forms of censorship gathers in an original and stimulating manner the voices of academics, practitioners and artist-scholars, among them Chantal Bilodeau, Stephen Bottoms, Marvin Carlson, Tim Crouch, Stephen J. Duncombe, Rinde Eckert, Randy Gener, Matthew Goulish, Baz Kershaw, Joanna Laurens, Carl Lavery, Christopher Shinn, and Aleks Sierz. Edited by playwright, scholar and activist Caridad Svich, Out of Silence is an impassioned volume that focuses not only on governmental censorship, but also on the self-censorship of theatre artists in the process of theatre-making and performance.

“This insightful book should be read by theatre practitioners and administrators, and especially by those who guide the future generations of theatre artists who hopefully will be able to help create a vital theatre.” – Ted Shank

EYECORNER PRESS is an independent academic publishing house started as a collaboration between the universities of Roskilde and Aalborg in Denmark, Oulu in Finland, and Gainesville in Georgia, USA.

Eyecorner Press focuses on promoting academic writing with an edge. It gives priority to works that engage with rigorous thinking, but which are yet informed by a creative style, and irreverent approaches to literature, culture, philosophy, and visual art. The genres represented are academic interdisciplinary writing, poetry, aphorisms, fragments, and other borderline manifestations. The fiction manuscripts honor Raymond Federman's precepts for the writing of critifiction, the conflation of criticism with fiction. All manuscripts undergo peer review. Readers include academics from both sides of the Atlantic.

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