On February 25th we held an event in support of Belarus Free Theatre and a free belarus. However it was also an opportunity to invite those present to join the ‘movement’ which is The Global Theatre Project by becoming a Lifetime Member this first season or volunteering with us. The following is the speech which I gave.
Welcome to the inaugural event of The Global Theatre Project. My name is Bari Hochwald and I am President and Artistic Director. I am ecstatic to see you all here this evening. There is plenty of information about our organization and upcoming projects which you will find in your program. But in short it’s an organization dedicated to the concept of art as diplomacy.
We are living in extraordinary times. Egypt, Tunisia, Libya… tyrants are being brought down left, right and center. It’s happening for many reasons, but I’m in the camp that believes that communication has played a major role in this. Twitter and various social networking sites have made it possible for an auto mechanic in Egypt to communicate with a college student in Tunisia and a farmer in the American Southwest. Art of course is all about communication. It’s the very foundation of drama, going back to Aristotle’s “Poetics.” Fear and pity. Expressing our shared frustrations. Celebrating our shared joys. Understanding. Empathy.
I was lucky enough to live and create theatre abroad for a number of years at the Florence International Theatre Company. As an American expatriate, I had a unique perspective from which to observe fellow expatriates, American students, tourists and many representatives of the Italian and US government. During that time, I noticed something. Human beings currently live in a world of countless enemies and limited empathy. I became fascinated with the notion that by bringing together artists of differing nationalities, religions and life backgrounds, and providing them with creative opportunities to engage with each other, we can help create art that helps promote empathy. That promotes the idea that fuller understanding helps us, as global citizens, take informed action.
Nothing illustrates this idea better than the plight of the people of the Belarus Free Theatre.
Tonight we celebrate Belarus Free Theatre. We celebrate their courage, we celebrate their artistry, we celebrate what they are teaching us. Which I believe is to wake up. To pay attention. To move to action. To engage with our world in a conscious manner. To believe that theatre is an art form of enormous value which can create communities which span oceans as well as threaten dictatorships.
As for myself, what would I like to accomplish from this evening?
What I hope will come from this evening is that many of you will be inspired to stay connected to the work of The Global Theatre Project and hopefully become involved in something we do as we develop. Again, you can learn about our projects and initiatives listed in the back page of the program.
But please know you have already taken a first step by making a financial contribution, and by simply being here. Your presence opens the door for the development of a new collaborative work with Belarus Free Theatre involving American theatre artists and students and which will be brought back here to Los Angeles when it is completed. Our goal with this project is to help these artists create a vision which honors human expression and dignity. Both in Belarus and here at home.
I also hope that from this evening, and from the videos of support which we are creating throughout the weekend with the partnership of many of our local theatre organizations and the generosity of talent and time of Professor Blomquist and the students of Cal State Long Beach that we will make a difference by joining the international community and theatrical community in saying ‘free Belarus.’
And for those you who respond to what you see here tonight, please help us continue down this path. See me or any of our board members afterwards to make an additional contribution, or to volunteer your time.
This evening could not have happened without the enormous commitment of many people and the generosity of our supporters. I thank our wonderful Board of Directors, Alison Korman and Julia Long who coordinated our reception, Yassmin Sarmadi and Church and State Bistro, Gaby’s Mediterannean Restaurant, Paul Young Fine Wines and Jeff Welburn Selections for sponsoring our reception. I also must thank our incredible cast who so kindly gave of their time and talent toward the heart of this evening.
To speak more specifically about the situation in Belarus I am pleased to present Kala Mendoza, Regional Director of Amnesty International.