Not Able to be Re-educated

  • December 8, 2011 9:57 pm

Playwright Stefano Massini

“Art is the strongest reason that man has to being on the planet.”

Stefano Massini, playwright of Act 1: A Stubborn Woman: a theatrical memorandum on Anna Politkovksaya sat down with Actress Carolina Gamini in Florence. Since the video is in Italian, Carolina & Bari translated it. For our Italian speakers, we’ll get you the video soon!


Q: What compelled you to write A Stubborn Woman?
SM: Simply, when I found out about her death, of which I knew absolutely nothing, the thing that struck me the most was that someone had decided to eliminated this
journalist’s voice so that nobody would hear about what she committed her life to
reporting. I thought, in my small way with my profession, that I would be able to
go against this plan by writing a theatrical piece that would increase the number
of people hearing the story and get to know the story of Anna Politkovskaya. As a
consequence I wrote this text to go against the plan of those that decided to silence and muffle her voice.

Q: Can you tell us something about some of your other works?
SM: Currently I am writing a text that is the story of a trio of women who are interpreted by the same actress and who changes her the role she is playing according to the light shifts. It is the story of three women: a Palestinian, an Israeli and a female soldier who find themselves living in the same situation, the same moment and who talk about one another. Other texts that have been on stage: an adaptation of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, the story of Van Gough when he was in the mental asylum, IL TRITTICO DELLE GABBIE which that takes place in a closed space allowing the audience to experience the internal life of three different inmates.


Florence performance last summer. Photo by Lucca Fontanella.

Q: How did you become involved with The Global Theatre Project?
SM: I became involved when I was a part of the organization of Festival della Creatività in Florence and was put in touch with Bari Hochwald, the Artistic Director, through a mutual friend. After a long exchange of emails with her, I sent her the text on Anna Politkovskaya which she read the text and was moved by. So much so that she decided to work on it. I had an experience of working with the students from the Theatre Immersion Project with Bari here in Florence and from this, the possibility to stage the play in Los Angeles arose.

Q: Can you tell us something about the experience from last summer?
SM: It was a very particular experience for me, as it always is every time this text is approached. Usually theatrical texts have written characters. But this text, on the other hand was written as a very open text with no characters. There are just a flow of words that can be interpreted either as a monologue by an individual actor or by a chorus. For example I remember that also here in Italy it was staged by two actors, a male and a female, directed by me and they shared the role of Anna Politkovksaya and at the same time there was also a great actress, Ottavia Piccolo, who did the performance as a monologue. She continues to perform it this way. In Brussels an additional performance has been done with 5 actors. In Bavaria there were two actors. In Teatre d’Europe it was represented with 25 actors. So there are various ways of staging this text. I was also intrigued to see the way that The Global Theatre Project approached it last summer using both singular and choral voices.

Q: Did you like this approach?
SM: It was very successful and interesting for me to see how it worked in English. Because English is a very theatrical language and was very interesting to hear how it sounded in the English language. And the actors were very good.

Q: Why did you leave the text open in this way for interpretation?
SM: I didn’t want to limit it but wanted it to be open and free for any theatre artist to perform and interpret. This text is different from my other work. With this play, I have never controlled the environment of the presentation or given the rights to some people and not to others to perform the show. I want this text to be presented in any way possible so that Anna’s voice can be heard and appreciated by everyone.

Q: What struck you the most about Anna’s story?
SM: Simply her courage. We live in a period where each one of us, due to our extreme individualism, look toward ourselves too much of the time. And we completely forget the situations outside ourselves. We have just come out of an era where it is 20 years since the fall of the Berlin wall. With that event ideologies have also fallen…. both the communist and anti-communist ideologies. Now we have entered into a moment with the collapse of the capitalist economy. It is very strong to see these people protesting in front of Wall Street. It is the collapse and breakdown of everything that had animated the 20th century ideologies. Ideologies that looked to taking care of what was not only individualist but collective. Including the working class, capitalism, economic growth, political and religious motivations and so on. Today we are witnessing a phenomenon which is completely opposite. We are witnessing the collapse of group ideologies and the rebirth of individual instinct. It is a selfish era that we are living in now.

While Anna Politkovskaya is exactly the opposite of all this. She lives for her cause in a post Soviet, post ideological

Florence last summer. Photo by Lucca Fontanella.

Russia. In a Russia that no longer has an ideology that unites it. But where the most anarchic, diverse tendencies are enacted (so much so that a war is needed for uniting the country). And her life demonstrates the value of living for a cause greater than herself. I find this something which is totally against the norm and holds great value in the sharing of it.

Q: Do you think that art has a power in the world?
SM: Yes, the strongest power that exists. In the sense that the human being differentiates itself from other animals because he is capable of creating art. Which doesn’t mean that the magnificent dams built by beavers and the beehives of bees aren’t extraordinarily artistic, but the Sistine Chapel or the Pergola Theatre, where we are now, are testimonies of the genius of man. Art doesn’t only have the possibility of communicating. Art is the strongest reason that man has to being on the planet. It is not politics, it is not economy, it is art that makes the difference.

I would like to also say something, which is that I have always been surprised by the translation of A Stubborn Woman, with the use of the word ‘stubborn’. The title is not exactly translated correctly. Because the title in Italian literally means ‘A woman not able to be re-educated’. But that doesn’t sound very good. That is what the title actually means, however.

Supporter Spotlight: The Italian Cultural Institute (IIC)

  • December 5, 2011 2:00 pm
Florentine Playwright Stefano Massini's play premieres this Sunday

Our supporters and partners are invaluable to the work of The Global Theatre Project and beyond. If we had a nickel for every wonderful deed or talent donated, there would be no need to fund-raise! From the very beginning, The Italian Cultural Institute offered their assistance, and we are grateful for the exposure to their…

Announcing the Cast for US Premiere

  • November 3, 2011 11:41 am

Photography by Lynzie Grey. Click on image to see more pictures & quotes from our first rehearsal.

 The GTP is thrilled to announce our dedicated ensemble, giving their time and talents to the US Premiere of our bilingual presentation:

as part of our end-of-year celebration 



CAROLINA GAMINI is a British trained actress who has been working in film and theatre since 2001. She studied Duo-Acting for six years with the London Guildhall School of Music and Drama and later moved to Florence, where she now lives, and continued to study both at film school and with individual Italian and American acting coaches until 2006. Her Italian-Argentine background and British schooling allow her to act in Spanish as well as English.

Among other lead roles Carolina played an Italian Juliet in Romeo e Giulietta in 2005, she was Agnes in 2007 in an English production of Agnes of God, in 2009 she combined “Commedia dell’Arte” with Stanislavski and her three languages to play all the female roles in a bilingual production of The Comedy of Errors. Recently she played Gus in a female production of The Dumb Waiter and last year debuted on her own on stage as Leslie in Her Big Chance, Talking Heads.
Her performance in the short film “Carlos y Anna” won her Best Lead Actress in the Cinema Libero Film Festival in Rome in 2009. In 2005 together with five other actors, she co-founded La Compagnia Del Giallo, a successful, interactive and improvisation-based theatre company, with which she continues to perform regularly all over Italy. 




 HENRI LUBATTI is a member of the Antaeus theater company in Los Angeles.His theater credits include work at the Mark Taper Forum, SouthCoast Repertory Theater, The Old Globe in San Diego, the Seattle Repertory Theater, and the Intiman Theater in Seattle. Henri starred in the Showtime drama series “Sleeper Cell.” He was last seen guest starring on the shows: “Grimm” and “Supernatural.”







 JUDITH SCARPONE: Credits include THEATRE (BROADWAY):The Twilight of the Golds (BOOTH THEATRE). Over 100 productions OFF-B’WAY and REGIONALLY: The Kennedy Center, The Hartman, Pasadena Playhouse, The Paramount, Walnut Street, Marines Memorial Theatre, Syracuse Stage, GeVa, Whole Theatre Co., Bergenstage etc., LOS ANGELES: Theatre @ Boston Court, The Odyssey, The Hayworth, The Court, The Coronet, The Canon, The Hudson, The Open Fist, The Road etc.

INTERNATIONALLY: Florence International Theatre Co.,The Global Theatre Project in Florence,Italy. TELEVISION: Co-Starred in several Movies for Television including “Rosanne:Portrait of a Domestic Goddess,” “A Case for Murder,” “A Match Made in Heaven,” “The Twilight of The Golds.” Guest Starred on Episodics such as “Hung,” “Law & Order,” “Lincoln Heights,” “ER,” “Dragnet,” “The Education of Max Bickford,” “Drew Carey,” “Ellen,” “One Life to Live” (recurring), “All My Children” (recurring). Series Regular on Showtime’s critically acclaimed “Bedtime”. RECENT FILMS: “Everybody Wants To Be Italian,” “Jesus,Mary,& Joey,” “Welcome Back Miss Mary,” “The Manual & Divorced White Male”. Member of The Open Fist Theatre Co., The Road Theatre Co. and Board Member of The Global Theatre Project.



LISA CIRINCIONE is thrilled to be working with The Global Theatre Project again after having been part of several inaugural productions back in Florence, Italy. Theatre credits include: The Jersey Shore House, A Dog in Space and Juliet in Doublets and Hose (a loose adaptation of Romeo and Juliet) directed by April Webster, all at The Blank Theatre. Also seen in the world premiere of Loyalties at Pacific Resident Theatre (108 performances including 2 sold-out extensions). With the Grand Guignolers in A Grand Guignol Kabarett and A Grand Guignol Children’s Show* not for children. FOR PACIFIC STAGES: Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero and Lee Blessing’s Great Falls with Alan Blumenfeld. EDINBURGH FRINGE FESTIVAL: Johnny Guitar and the award winning Star Wars Trilogy in Thirty Minutes. Neil Simon’s I Ought to be in Pictures at the Long Beach Playhouse, Douglas Carter Beane’s The Country Club, Lorca’s Blood Wedding, Anita in West Side Story and Adelaide in Guys and Dolls. Lisa is a graduate of the B.F.A acting program at U.S.C. and a proud member of Actors Equity. She currently studies with Diana Castle at The Imagined Life. Lisa is also the founder and president of English Language Universal, a L.A. based language institute, which teaches English to artists and diplomats from around the globe. Tanti Grazie a Bari e inboca a lupo. 

ALEXANDRA GOODMANCelebration, Cousin Bette, Arcadia, The After Dinner Joke,Camino Real (Antaeus); Arcadia (Sierra Madre Playhouse); Uncle Vanya, Rhinoceros, Freud Scenario (Wright Theatre), AntigoneMidsummer Night’s Dream,Steel Magnolias (City Theatre).  Films include “The Selling,” “Stik Men,” “Brain Dead” and “Fear Ever After,” and the hilarious webseries “Lien On Me.”  She is a proud member of the A2 Ensemble, Antaeus’ young company.



KATE MAHER has a BFA from University of Southern California.  While there, she was seen in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Mansfield Park, Playing with Fire, Barbarians and The Crucible.  She is also a proud member of Antaeus’ A2 Ensemble and New American Theatre Company (formerly known as Circus Theatricals).  Kate is honored to be working with The Global Theatre Project on such a worthy cause.



 STEVE MAZUREK Currently can be seen in Hollywood in Show At Barre’s concert series For The Record: Tarantino, Baz LuhrmannCoen Brothersand John Hughes, Also with Show At Barre: Rocky Horror (Brad), Hip Hipsteret,and Stoned Soul Picnic (The Music of Laura Nyro). Steve has travelled around North America as a featured solo artist with the Cincinnati Pops, Vancouver Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, and Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra.  LA THEATER: Les Miserables (Hollywood Bowl), Great Expectations (Odyssey Theater), REGIONAL: Yeast Nation (PCLO), The Irish Crossing (Pittsburgh City Theater) and As You Like It (Unseam’d Shakespeare). TV debut this summer in HawthoRNe on TNT. Steve is a graduate of The Interlochen Arts Academy and received his BFA in Acting from Carnegie Mellon University.




JASON THOMAS is a graduate of the Acting Program at the University of Northern Colorado.  Jason is an A2 Ensemble member at Antaeus.  Theater credits include Cato in Julius Caesar at Theatricum Botanicum, Henry Furley inEasy Virtue at Antaeus, Starveling in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Hermosa Beach Playhouse, Brad in A Devil Inside, Renfield in Dracula, Agamemnon inApollo and Cassandra, Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet, Grumio in Taming of the Shrew, Boulot in Paradise Hotel, among others.  Television credits include “Cold Case,” “12 Corozones,” and “Fed Up.”  Jason can spin flat items extremely well and make balloon animals.  Thank you for supporting the theater.




RANDOLPH THOMPSON: Favorite productions include Shortlived 2.0 (PianoFight L.A.), Monkey Madness (L.A. Theatre Ensemble), Dancing vs. The Rat Experiment (LaMama, E.T.C.), Schriebstück (U.S. & Canadian Premieres), Roberto Zucco (The Ohio Theater), Love’s Labour’s Lost (Baryshnikov Arts Center), and Twelfth Night (The Wild Project). Graduate of Tisch School of the Arts, NYU.



The Global Theatre Project

in association with Amnesty International

in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute



Create the World Together

December 11, 2011

at the Los Angeles Theatre  Center in historical downtown LA

Ticket information here


7.00pm Bilingual Performance | Act One includes the US premiere of ‘A Stubborn Woman, a theatrical memorandum on Anna Politkovskaya’ by Florentine playwright Stefano Massini.  Presented bilingually in English and Italian with supertitles. Directed by Bari Hochwald & Produced by Deirdre Murphy.

8:45pm Panel: Journalists’ Civil Rights | Act Two is a panel discussion which explores the impact on civil rights and democracies when journalists suffer violent reprisal for reporting truth in conflict zones, and why we in the states should care about this issue. Panel announced in November.

9:30pm Reception & Action | Act Three offers the choice of a cocktail with the event participants in the theatre or engaging in an human rights action in the lobby with members of Amnesty International.

Click here for more information or to buy tickets to the event | Save the Date Press Release




  • September 2, 2011 6:23 pm

In my last post I spoke about the challenges of Italian doors and the lessons they provide for that initial moment when we are facing the unknown of a new culture.  The step just after we must ‘observe the door’ in order to discover how to open it is, of course, to walk through the portal. 

However, in Italy you don’t simply enter another person’s space without saying a very important word: ‘Permesso.’  In other words you are asking permission.  Clearly stated, and expected. . . whether you are entering an office or a home.  You can not enter and be considered a respectable person without this word.  Whether the person is standing right in front of you, or you are slowly peeking around an open door and announcing your presence, that word must be said.

I have to admit it took me quite a long time to feel comfortable with this expectation.  And often times early on in my Italian experience I didn’t do it.  But in not doing it I was putting my discomfort and embarrassment (as well as my cultural habits) in front of what my hosts needed in order to believe I held respect for them.

It takes a great deal of courage to let go of our self-identity when entering other worlds.  It is, of course, the one thing we want to cling onto most (either consciously or unconsciously).  But that is why, as artists, The Global Theatre Project is positioned to bring a level of awareness and risk-taking to the collaborations and entries we make with our international colleagues, partners and audiences.  However, at times, we don’t always see that initial situation of  ‘permesso’ clearly enough in advance.

On the very first evening of our Global Voices project with University of Texas, we had a special dinner at a very ‘local’ type of restaurant.  Mixed among the 15 Texas students and 2 professors were 9 residents and artists of Florence.  The evening was going beautifully, everyone getting to know one another with the intention clearly focused on integrating the students and professors as quickly as possible into the world of the city. 

Close to the end of the meal one of the professors stood up and suggested the students sing the UT song for their new Florentine friends.  And, that before they sing, they should ‘hook ‘em.’  What she was referring to was making the hand sign of the Longhorns (UT sports team) and the sign looks like this:

The reaction of the residents and owner of the locale was immediate and very strong.  They were shocked at seeing 17 hands holding a sign that they interpreted as offensive.  Clearly they felt the need to educate the newcomers that what they were doing had a very different meaning to Italians and that they should never ‘hook ‘em’ in front of an Italian if they don’t want to be offensive, insensitive or disrespectful. 

The sign that the Italians thought they saw looks like this:

Too close for their comfort and close enough to see what they registered as a vulgarity.  But the energy of the room at that moment was quite ‘collegiate’ and over-rode the definitive clues that were being given by the locals.

It was a perfect, and of course in hindsight, humorous moment of culture clash.  But it was also an opportunity missed to realize that …. even as we enthusiastically want to share our pride of identity with our hosts, when they open the door we must ask ‘permesso’ and if we forget, or do something incorrect, when they try to guide us in a direction right for their comfort….we should pause, take a breath and realize we are in their home.  They actually are the perfect guides for us to take those first steps over their portal with confidence and openness. And with a sense of belonging.  We need to allow our hold on our sense of identity to loosen a bit.

The project ended wonderfully with many friends made because, as the sensitivity of the students grew and developed during their stay, many doors opened to them.  In their own ways each of them learned their level of asking permission. 

‘Permesso’ goes far.  In Italian or any language. 


Observe the Door

  • August 18, 2011 8:39 am

We just completed our 8 week collaboration with the University of Texas on our Global Voices project in Florence, Italy. 

For the work of The GTP, Italy could not be a more perfect entryway for honing and perfecting the processes and structures of our projects and initiatives.  Or a more perfect lesson for visiting students, professors and artists who either have never left the United States or have never created work abroad having to deal with a local ‘reality’ such as Florence offers.

Approaching a new culture, whether it is globally or within our own country, requires that we check our ego, our ideas of how things ‘should’ be, and our ideas of how we ‘want’ things to be at the door.  We need to let go, open our eyes, our ears… all our senses…. including our heart…. and allow the truth of where we are to enter in. 

In Italy, when you are standing in front of a door…. ANY door… it is unlikely there will be an obvious way that it will open.  Unlike in the US where, for the most part, we have a door knob which is situated at hip height to your right and one turn will give you access…. that is NOT how Italian doors work.  So what does that mean?

It means you have a choice.  You can either stare at that door and become terrified, angry, frustrated, confused, insist it be ‘the door you know’, or you can…. simply…. observe the door.  You know it is a door.  You know it opens.  You just don’t know (yet) HOW. 

And that is the key issue for entering a new culture.  And, most certainly, for creating something of any relevant value there.  Accept that you don’t know.  But trust that you will.  Italian doors are magnificent things.  Many of them are physically beautiful.  Some of them are huge old horse carriage doors.  Others are so small they are half the size of our own.  Some have opening mechanisms in the center, some to the left, to the right, some turn, some push, some lift.  Some open by looking away from the door to the wall on your right or left for a gold or black or copper or red button.  But the one thing that holds true…. it will open.

In order to truly enter a new culture.  You must ‘observe the door.’  There were so many moments with our group from Texas where this challenge was beautifully presented, both actually and metaphorically.  Healthy international engagement on a creative level… on any level …. requires a level of relaxation.  You must let go of the ideas you have of how things are done and, even, who you are in the doing of them.  The opportunity presented, in many ways, is for you to be brave enough to admit you don’t know.  Until you learn about where you are.  And who you are with.  Take a breath, let in that information, see the shiny copper button just at eye level waiting to be pushed, and then. . . walk through.

At that point, you can begin to collaborate.


Protecting the NEA: An Open Letter To Our Representatives

  • January 26, 2011 1:28 am

The following is my response to a call for action from Americans for the Arts.  You can do the same by going here:

Dear Representative,

As the State of the Union address ends tonight I am heartened with the hope that we will find a leadership which works across party lines to manifest the best future for our country.  However, I am concerned that the future the President mapped for us did not contain one mention of the arts or our culture. 

The NEA is a necessary aspect of the economic life of this country.  There is no argument against the fact that the arts are a major industry in our United States.  According to Americans for the Arts, the nonprofit arts industry generates $166.2 billion annually supplying 5.7 million full time jobs and $12.6 billion in federal income taxes

The current leadership of the NEA, Rocco Landesman, knows and understands the value of the arts and is innovatively reaching out to other federal agencies to create collaborative projects and programs with economic impact and social value.  The grants which the NEA provides are not frivolous.  They provide infrastructure and ensure broad access to the arts for all individuals from rural classrooms to major symphonies.

It is, for me, a simple truth that a nation with out a mandate for support of its artists is a nation without a soul.  The innovation which President Obama spoke of also applies to those of us in the arts industry.  We represent a vital aspect of the future and the NEA is an unquestionable necessity to continue to see it realized.

Cutting the NEA is a long-time agenda which will not solve our fiscal crisis and which will only add to the financial burden on this country.  Jobs will be lost, opportunities will fall.  The nation’s future will be negatively impacted.  We must rise above the concept that the arts are the enemy of a healthy economic system and accept the REALITY that support of the arts industry is aligned with the health of an economy.  One need only look to our abandoned downtowns and neighborhoods, such as found in Los Angeles, which have been revitalized through growth of local businesses flourishing around a central pulse of the artists who built studios and theatres in abandoned buildings and structures.  Where art thrives, the economy blossoms.

I spent 5 years in Florence, Italy.  The mayor of that city, Matteo Renzi, looks to the United States and its relationship and support of the arts as it encourages economic growth as an example of what is possible for Florence.  He recognizes that we have found a healthy balance in our cities and towns to support the arts industry and revitalize communities.  He sees our model as the Florentine future.

There is no good argument for the elimination of the NEA.  Not a social argument and, certainly and without any question, not an economic one.

I urge you to stand for the future of our country, and protect the NEA from any attacks on its survival.

With respect and thanks,

Bari Hochwald
President and Artistic Director
The Global Theatre Project

Theatre’s Outlying Elements

  • January 4, 2011 8:10 pm

The more I think about theatre, the more I find myself asking what theatre truly is.  I am more and more sure we will only know this when we understand the scope of what theatre, truly, can do.

Essentially, theatre must tell a story and that story, using as many senses of the human imagination as possible, must carry an audience into its depths and heights while, at the same time, reminding them that those depths and heights are within themselves as well.

So, with this in mind I ask: what is theatre?  Today, in 2011, what is the purpose of creating this type of work?  When I look at what most excites me about the projects we did in Florence and the work we strive to create under The GTP umbrella I realize that ‘theatre’ is both the final product AND the outlying elements which surround its development.  Equal in significance is the individual experiences that are formed in its creation as well as the stories and catharses, that are fashioned as a result of beginning the journey of artistic inquiry.  Theatre is so potent that, as mentioned in my previous post, it can be considered highly dangerous to political and social powers.  But it can also be a curative for what aches within us: expression of our own story-telling natures.  Whether that is the narrative of our life or the narrative of our emotional pain or joy we, all of us, must tell our stories.  Nowhere is this more apparent then in the use of theatre in prison rehabilitation.

In his story on NPR Bringing The Bard Behind Bars In South Africa, Anders Kelto reports on a program which uses theatre at The Bonnytoun House in Capetown as an effective outreach program.  Dennis Baker, the manager of that facility for 25 years says about the staff who work with these boys “You can almost see the light go on when they see that same boy, in a totally different light, with a tunic on, pretending to be some kind of warrior, you know? And they say, maybe this boy can change.”  What I believe is that not only can that boy change, but those around him as well.  The ‘outlying elements’ I mentioned above includes the correctional system which allows for the possibility that by including theatre there can be a shift in predictable outcomes. Those boys experience themselves as individual expressions.  And, as a result, are now seen as what they really are: individuals.  They are seen as individuals by individuals throughout the process and presentation of this story telling.  This, I believe, is a central aspect of what is theatre.

My colleague, Dominique Cieri, lead Teaching Artist and Playwright Fellow of New Jersey has developed many vital programs in this field.  Particularly what comes to mind is her work with the boys at Greene Correctional Facility in New Jersey.   She has worked with very violent, and ‘dangerous’ kids.  And it has not been a cakewalk for her each year as she entered the room with a new group of defensive, angry boys.  But weeks later she enters a room of ‘actors’ and ‘writers’ who not only are working together but are playing together.  Does she change the world?  If she guides one kid out of 30 to understand their full value then, yes, she does.

How does all this relate to The Global Theatre Project?

As I listened to the story on NPR I realized that it would be wrong of me to not take into account that there are thousands of American youth in jails and correctional facilities here in the states that are working with professional theatre artists such as Dominique.  Why not put them in collaboration with artists like The Independent Theatre Movement South Africa or Armando Punzo’s Teatrale nel Carcere di Volterra in Italy, and others abroad who are doing the same work with thousands of incarcerated individuals?

If we delve deeper into this aspect, with all the power of our professional lives, artistry, experiences and knowledge and create an international collaborative inquiry…. I wonder what type of theatre would result from exploring these ‘outlying elements’.  I wonder what kind of international relations would be developed.  And I hope, someday, to create a project that allows us to find out.

An Empty Space

  • December 20, 2010 7:58 pm

The theatre is the last forum where idealism is still an open question: many audiences all over the world will answer positively from their own experience that they have seen the face of the invisible through an experience on the stage that transcended their experience in life.
— Peter Brook, An Empty Space

When I was working in Florence one of my students from Egypt who was getting his PhD in International law asked ‘why do dictators and repressive governments imprison and/or kill the artists?’

This question came from an incredibly intelligent, sensitive individual who sincerely wanted to know the answer to something he couldn’t understand.  I thought of this encounter today because of an email I received from a colleague in Europe who wanted me to know that his friend and collaborator, Natalia Kolyada, Director of Belarus Free Theater, had been arrested and imprisoned along with others during a peaceful demonstration against a falsified re-election of the President.  They have no idea where she has been taken.

An empty space is full of potential.  It is within that space that we, as theatre artists, bring expansive opportunities for inquiry,  reflection, and inspiration.  Hopefully we bring our audience to moments of experiencing the ‘invisible’ as deeply felt as Peter Brook implies.  If we are capable of occasionally reaching these heights and depths then it is a logical and awesome conclusion that yes indeed we, as theatre artists, are truly powerful.  But it is a power that must be honored, celebrated and embraced by our cultures and societies.  Imprisoning Natalia only demonstrates the weakness of the government which fears her voice and the power of that voice reflected in her body of work.  Imprisoning her must be unacceptable to all of us who KNOW the intrinsic value of artistic contributions to society, whether they are easily digested or not.

I ask you to, please, read the following sent to me by Brendan McCall of Ensemble Free Theatre Norway and take a stand to spread this information to all theatre artists, practitioners, leaders, students and audiences around the world.

Because if we don’t make a stand it is possible that the work of Natalia Kolyada and the Belarus Free Theater will no longer have the choice to fill empty spaces.   You can learn more about them by clicking here.


Dear friends and colleagues,

On Sunday, 19 December 2010, several hundred men and women were arrested in Minsk during the violent dispersal of their peaceful protest against the latest presidential elections of Belarus, whose legitimacy is questionable at best.

Among those arrested was Natalya Koliada, Director of Belarus Free Theater, a theater community who has dedicated itself to upholding democracy and freedom of expression for the past 6 years.

Members of BFT, including Ms. Koliada, have been frequently arrested and threatened with death, and their performances have frequently been shut down by the KGB.  Audience members as well as the company´s actors, directors, producers, writers, and technicians have also been arrested.

I just learned that, earlier this morning, Ms. Koliada´s husband and fellow Director of Belarus Free Theater, Nikolai Khalezin, was arrested at his apartment this morning, 20 December 2010.

I have worked with this group a couple of times in the past year, both in Minsk (February) as well as here in Oslo (September).  During their latest visit in Norway, while performing Discover Love as part of an event with the Norwegian Helsinki Committee at Det Norske Teatret, Mr. Khalezin was threatened with death through emails and phonecalls.  The bitter irony is that their play dealt with true events based on fellow supporters of human rights and freedom of expression, who had disappeared.

Members of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee are working to help release Ms. Koliada and others who have been wrongfully imprisoned, both through petitions to the Norwegian government, as well as through NHC´s presence in Minsk currently.

I am writing to my colleagues within the theater community to sign a petition to state our support of Belarus Free Theater,  and to demand on the Belarussian government for their release.  I plan on sending this to various cultural leaders here within Norway, to help garner political pressure to help facilitate their swift release and immediate safety.  Based on previous conversations I have had with BFT in the past, the more visible these actions by the Belarussian government can become within the greater international community, the better.

Please send me your name and any associate title and/or country by WEDS 22 DECEMBER 2010 to:

I am going to be sending the signed petition out on Thursday morning to a number of people here in Norway.

***Please feel free to pass this message long to anyone that you think would be interested in signing it, and have them email me their name, title, country***

Thank you for your support
Brendan McCall
Director, Ensemble Free Theater Norway