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.

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.

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

brendan.mccall.norway@gmail.com

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