Our Special Guests for “Especially Now”

  • November 22, 2011 9:19 pm

We are pleased and privileged to announce our special guests for  

ESPECIALLY NOW: Create the World Together

December 11 at 7pm

UPDATE: Mike Farrell also joins with our Amnesty Action in Act 3!

MIKE FARRELL is an American actor, best known for his role as Captain B.J. Hunnicutt on the television series M*A*S*H. He was a producer of Patch Adams (1998) starring Robin Williams, and has starred on the television series Providence (1999–2002). He appeared as Milton Lang, the father of Victor Lang (John Slattery), husband of Gabrielle Solis (Eva Longoria) on Desperate Housewives (2007–2008). Mr. Farrell is an activist for many political and social causes. He has worked with Human Rights Watch, was on the Board of Advisors of the original Cult Awareness Network, and has been president of Death Penalty Focus for more than ten years, being the first person to be awarded their Human Rights Award, subsequently named after him, in 2006.


We welcome back the brilliant actor James Cromwell. He will stand with Amnesty International and all our participants for Act 3 of the evening. Thank you James!!!!

Born in Los Angeles but raised in Manhattan and educated at Middlebury College and Carnegie Tech, James Cromwell – the son of noted film director John Cromwell – studied acting at Carnegie-Mellon. He went into the theater (like both his parents) doing everything from Shakespeare to experimental plays. He started doing TV in 1974, gaining some notice in a recurring role as Archie Bunker’s buddy Stretch Cunningham in “All in the Family” (1968), made his film debut in 1976, and goes back to the stage periodically. Some of his more noted film roles have been in Revenge of the Nerds (1984) and the surprise hit about a charming pig, Babe (1995). He garnered some of the best reviews of his career – many of which said he should have received an Oscar – for his role as a corrupt, conniving police captain in L.A. Confidential (1997). IMDb Mini Biography By: M.S. Burton <suburton@u.washington.edu> 


Act Two: Panel Discussing the impact on civil rights and democracies when journalists suffer violent reprisal for reporting the truth 

KALAYA’AN MENDOZA has been an activist, organizer and mobilizer for various issues ranging from Queer rights to Tibetan independence to anti-racist organizing and beyond. He is currently serving as Amnesty International-USA’s Western Regional Field Organizer, coordinating with human rights activists in Southern California, Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming. Prior to working at Amnesty International-USA he was the Grassroots Coordinator for Students for a Free Tibet International during the Beijing 2008 Olympics campaign. In his role as Grassroots Coordinator Kalaya’an launched and coordinated numerous social network-based campaigns globally, utilizing social media platforms ranging from Facebook to Twitter to Youtube.



SANDY TOLAN is a journalist, teacher, and documentary radio producer. He is associate professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC.  He has reported in more than 30 countries, especially in the Middle East, Latin America, the Balkans and Eastern Europe. He has produced dozens of documentaries for National Public Radio and Public Radio International, and has written for more than 40 newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, and The Nation.  Much of his focus has been on land, water, natural resources, ethnic conflict and indigenous affairs. He has received more than 25 national and international honors, including two from the Overseas Press Club, the DuPont-Columbia Silver Baton, three Robert F. Kennedy awards for reporting on the disadvantaged, a Harry Chapin World Hunger Year award, and a United Nations Gold Medal award. He was a 1993 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and an I.F. Stone Fellow at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, where he taught international reporting. 
In 2006 his students won the prestigious George Polk Award for their public radio series on the early signs of climate change – the first time students have received a Polk Award.  Sandy is the author of The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East (Bloomsbury, 2006), based on his award-winning documentary for NPR’s Fresh Air about a Palestinian man, an Israeli woman, and their common bond: a stone home in the town of Ramla, between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The book was Booklist’s “Editor’s Choice” for best adult non-fiction book of the year. It was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and received the 2006 Christopher Award. His first book, Me and Hank (Free Press, 2000), which the New York Times called “a solid hit,” is an exploration of heroes and race relations in America through the experience of baseball slugger Hank Aaron.

More information on ESPECIALLY NOW: Create the World Together

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“This is the power of art” -Amnesty International

  • November 18, 2011 12:21 pm

Bari Hochwald, President & Artistic Director 

When the opportunity arose, in the support of the Belarus Free Theatre, for us to take our model of theatrical international engagement and apply it to essential issues such as human rights and free speech, I knew that I wanted to expand the experience by involving an organization that I have respected for years. I am thankful that they immediately understood and embraced what we were doing back in February.  And now, with our upcoming project, we have the opportunity to deepen and expand that relationship in a variety of ways all in one evening.  I am deeply grateful for this and feel sure that, as time goes forward, we will be creating innovative and exciting events together that are creatively, intellectually and spiritually provocative and that engage not only our artists but our audience into a participatory experience such as we will be doing in Association with Amnesty International on December 11th.
We asked Amnesty International Representative Jessica Farley to share why she’s involved with The GTP.
Amnesty International

JF: Amnesty International (AI) was founded 50 years ago to speak on behalf of prisoners of conscience, those who have spoken out and been detained, tortured or killed for their political or personal beliefs. Anna Politkovskaya was a heroic human rights defender and a prisoner of conscience. Her courageous investigative journalism in Russia and Chechnya did what AI activists all hope to do, be a voice for the voiceless and hold people accountable for human rights abuses. It is for this reason she won the 2001 Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism. The Global Theatre Project uses artistic expression to draw awareness to human rights issues around the world, now on behalf of Anna Politkovskaya, and those of us at AI supports this important work on behalf of human rights and are excited about our relationship with The Global Theatre Project. 

Amnesty has maintained a strong relationship with artists because it is easy to make the link between creative expression and freedom of expression. I grew up studying theatre and became a member of AI when I was 14 years old. I am an artist and a human rights activist. So, I know theatre has the potential to create an experience that provides us a deeper understanding of what it means to be human and live in the world. I love that The Global Theatre Project urges us to understand not only some of the darker human experiences that we must not forget, but also offers us the opportunity to be touched by the lives of incredibly courageous people.  

Q: How is Amnesty and The GTP’s work similar and how is it different?

JF: Amnesty and The GTP share underlying values. AI has over 3 million members in 150 countries. I believe most of our members consider themselves to be world citizens. Part of The GTP’s mission is to build and promote creative cross-cultural relationships. AI and The GTP advocate for human rights and global understanding with the participation of an international community. AI members and staff may spend more time writing letters and issuing reports whereas The GTP is primarily an artistic organization, but activism can take many different forms, though our vision for a more humane world is the same.

Q: Why is Anna Politkovskaya’s voice important to be heard?

JF: Amnesty International’s emblem is a glowing candle encased in barbed wire. This symbol represents those that shine a light for others in the darkness. Anna Politkovskaya was, and remains, a light for those in Russia and Chechnya. She sought the truth in the midst of a terrible war and then shared this truth with the world, knowingly risking her life. Human rights abuses are often justified by those who commit them, but Anna Politkovskaya reminds us that such abuses are never justifiable and should never be hidden. Her work is a stand for human dignity and reminds us to have the courage to speak out, even when governments or society would have us stay silent. Her voice reminds us that we are all responsible for each other and have a say in the kind of world we share.

Q: How did you feel after the first read-through of the script?

a theatrical memorandum on Anna Politkovskaya by Stefano Massini

JF: I felt both excited to be part of this project and saddened by the reality exposed. I have heard many stories about human rights abuses, often first-hand. It is never easy. The script is moving and evocative. It gives us a glimpse of what Anna Politkovskaya’s life was like, what she discovered and the challenges she faced. This is the power of art. It brings things to life. The script brings Anna Politkovskaya to life along with those who were victims in the war between Russia and Chechnya; this is difficult to experience, but I feel it makes us better people.

Q: What about the panel interests you the most?

JF: We live in strange times. Amnesty has worked on many human rights abuses in the USA and abroad. However, we have the freedom to host a panel on human rights, and not everyone does. I am interested in the expert voices on the panel and the diverse perspectives they will bring to this discussion about freedom. I am interested to hear the questions from the audience because I imagine everyone attending will be part of a community interested in expression and humanity. 

Q: Can you please describe an Amnesty Action?

JF: Amnesty members spend a lot of time writing to oppressive governments and authorities who are able to directly make a difference for those suffering human rights abuses. We write on behalf of specific individuals or groups advocating for human rights to be upheld. It might be hard to imagine that such action would have an impact, but it does. Prisoners are often released or we receive information that their treatment has improved. We keep in touch with many former prisoners of conscience and they tell us our support gave them hope when they were alone in a cell or that their interrogators specifically mentioned calls, letters and campaigns by Amnesty International before their release. Our work shows human rights abusers that the world is watching. 

Our Amnesty action on December 11th will be for Majid Tavakkoli. Majid was studying ship building in Iran when he was imprisoned for giving a speech at his university criticizing the Iranian government in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 presidential election. His charges included “participating in an illegal gathering” and “insulting officials”. He has been sentenced to serve more than eight years in prison. He is a prisoner of conscience who was jailed simply for expressing his opinion. Majid will be part of our Write for Rights Global Write-a-thon where we will join thousand of people around the world and call on the Iranian government to uphold human rights and free Majid Tavakkoli.

Our Inaugural Night

  • March 7, 2011 12:30 am

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.

Theatre In Protest and Community

  • February 6, 2011 2:47 am


[originally posted at www.culturalweekly.com]
As we watch the live feed from Cairo’s Tahrir Square, I am brought back to similar scenes last December, as the capital of Belarus erupted in protests against a presidential election that international observers said was falsified. Over 1000 people were beaten and thrown into jail. Among them were members of the Belarus Free Theatre, a theatre that began in 2005 during the second term of President Alexander Lukashenko as a way to protest the oppression and censorship of his Presidency.
Theatre producer Natalia Kolyada, her husband, playwright Nikolai Khalezin, and other members of the company staged their performances in secret to evade the state police. The Belarus Free Theatre was founded to give voice to non-government sanctioned playwrights, to reflect the modern day truths of Belarus and to connect with the international community through sharing contemporary Belarusian theatre. As a result they have been supported by such prominent figures as the late Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, Tony Kushner, Steven Spielberg, Ian McKellen, Vaclav Havel and Mick Jagger.
The Belarus Free Theatre is a “project” which will be ended when the situation in Belarus changes from dictatorial regime to democracy (as they say on their website). Having fled the country the theatre members arrived in NYC, where they performed at Under The Radar Festival. As a result of this action, and the voice they have been giving to their disappeared colleagues and friends as well as the current situation in their country, return would likely guarantee them a 15-year imprisonment. Currently they are being given time to assess the situation by having been offered performance opportunities in Chicago through the end of February. Their next steps are unsure, but what is sure is that this is a group of some of the most courageous artists in the world who love their country so deeply they have risked everything to save it from oppression. This love has left them without a home, albeit with a growing concern and involvement from the international community. It would be hard to separate the fact of their very public cry in New York, their meetings with Hillary Clinton, and the rallying of the international theatre community behind them, from the decision of last week for the US to put sanctions and restrictions on Belarus.
“Being artists, we have a hunger to produce and perform again, but we also have a duty to speak for our country,” Ms. Kolyada said in the New York Times. “As moral people, we need to scream, and we appeal to artists, governments and people of good will all over the world to join us and scream on our behalf.”
As Artistic Director of The Global Theatre Project, I feel compelled to join the hundreds of artists in this country and abroad who are raising awareness for the Belarus Free Theatre. So we are holding an event in February – you can reserve a ticket here. The event will begin with a few words from Amnesty International about the situation in Belarus and what can be done, and be followed by a staged reading of Being Harold Pinter with a cast headed by James Cromwell and Ed Harris with a reception following.
As an American I will never personally know the “scream” Natalia and her company members express through their work. I recognize that, no matter how difficult we feel our position as artists in this country is, the freedom to express ourselves without fear of retaliation also defines the texture of our work.So what is the “scream” I feel as an artist and an American? For me it is a clear obligation: to be as insistent and courageous as the members of the Belarus Free Theatre in the creation of my work, to participate in shifting the conversation in this country to a more informed definition of the value of art and to assure that my work expands its impact deep into the heart of the communities worldwide.The situation in Belarus is a horrendous one. As we engage with the Belarus Free Theatre, the conversation which should be explored must not stop at bringing awareness to the circumstances, which are atrocious, but expand to an exploration of how did these circumstances arise in the first place? How did a small band of performers find themselves on the world stage and in self-imposed exile from a country that feels threatened by their work?
My simple response is because art has power.
We have been complacent in this country with regards to our relationship to our art and culture. We have accepted the arts being delegated to a corner of our national conversation and pulled out only at times when there is a threat to the NEA or a need to defend the work of individual artists from social attack. We have no idea how strong our voices are as a collective group or who our community allies are because we, generally, have a tendency to feel isolated and separated as “artists” with no “power” or because we don’t, frankly, have enough knowledge and respect for the communities in which we do our work.
This brings me to the center of my personal work and that of The Global Theatre Project.Which is community engagement. As we move forward into a world that is shrinking and becoming more volatile facing economic challenges and power shifts, what artists offer their communities becomes even more essential. But the work cannot be created from the position of “my work”.. “my art”.. There must be a “we” embracing artist and community for the process of creation and sharing. Theatre has the opportunity, right now, to become even more relevant in an age where technology brings us together even as it diminishing our capacity for true intimacy. Theatre’s relevance depends on engaging and involving that community in the creative process. I am not talking about the old definition of community theatre; I am talking about community engagement.. Asking more of our audiences and giving more to them.
I can only feel connected to the Belarus Free Theatre, and to the protesters in Egypt, when I allow myself to feel a connection to the community we share at this exact moment. Then I can “scream” in my way, as we join together to support human dignity.