The “Free Theatre” Project is started on March 30, 2005 and will be ended when the situation in Belarus will be changed from dictatorial regime to democracy.
The project’s main organizational resource is the Civil Initiative “Free Theatre” and Public association “Guild of the Belarusian dramatists and scenarists”, which has been in existence since 2004. The Civil Initiative and Association was formed by the initiative group of the independent Belarusian dramatists and scenarists, experienced in the theatrical and cinematographic spheres. Founders of “Free Theatre”: Natalia Koliada and Nikolai Khalezin.
The project is supported by outstanding figures of the theatrical movement and respected public figures, and very respected theatre institutes: former president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel, Arthur Kopit, Tom Stoppard; Lark Development Center, Scotish Society of Playwrights, members of IETM, Writernet, and the Fence.
The “Free Theatre” activities include:
– implementation of educational master-classes by the leading theatrical figures of Europe, USA and Russia for the young Belarusian dramaturges and scenarists;
– organizing the International Contest of modern dramaturgy “Free Theatre” and publishing the almanac of laureate plays;
– underground performances of the Belarusian prohibited playwrights and best European and American plays that reflect modern life in all its aspects. The main aim of the performances is break through stereotypes of the Belarusian population that are imposed by the ideological system of Belarusian dictatorial regime.
– public readings of plays of the Belarusian dramatists in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine and the Baltic states, as well as at the leading European theatrical festivals;
– publishing of collection of the Contemporary Belarusian Dramaturgy;
– translating the plays of the young Belarusian dramatists into the foreign languages;
– participation in theatre festivals in Europe and the USA.
The current situation in the cultural sphere of Belarus is influenced by several factors that negatively impact both the training of new theatrical staff and also the evolution of the theatrical process in general. Meantime, the theatrical environment has the greatest influence over the formation of the country’s population progressive way of thinking.
All theatres are state-owned. All main directors and art managers are appointed by Ministry of Culture and approved by the head of state. Ministry of Culture issued a Law on Censorship. Two thirds of theatres repertoire is pirated ones.
Theatres fear to stage plays about the present-day situation in Belarus: over the past 7 years there was performed not a single such play. There is main demand among modern dramaturgy for the ideologically moderate historic dramaturgic texts and kids’ fairy-tales. Therefore, the majority of dramatists are writing “for future” harboring no illusions that their plays will be theatrically performed soon.
In Belarus there is no normal dramaturgic infrastructure: no web-sites about the Belarusian dramaturgy, no educational programs, no festivals of Belarusian dramaturgy, a miserable number of projects, aimed at finding the new plays. The Belarusian dramatists are stripped of an access to information, which is important to them. Also it negatively impacts the modern Belarusian dramaturgy that the foreign theatrical specialists are also deprived of information about the state of affairs in the Belarusian dramaturgy. De facto there are no translations of the Belarusian plays into other languages, which brings yet another isolation of the Belarusian drama within the framework of the undeveloped and hostile Belarusian market that is finding itself under ever increasing ideological pressure of the state.
It is namely the processes that occurred in the theatrical life of Czechoslovakia and Poland that have caused the start of the democratic transformational processes. The Polish play “Dzyady”, banned by the communist authorities back in 1968, provoked mass street protest of thousands of students, protesting against censorship and the regime’s control over the information flow. The spirit of those rallies and the positive example manifested by youths, have many years inspired the Polish fighters against the communist dictatorship.
The theatrical traditions of Czechoslovakia and unusual acts by the theatre’s personnel helped bring closer the time of the Kind “Velvet” Revolution and the triumph of democracy in this country. Following the expulsion from the main scene, actors Pavel Landovsky and Vera Khramostova, moving from one Prague flat to another, played in a “Makbet” play, staged by Pavel Kogout. It was this very fact that inspired the great British dramatist Tom Stoppard to write “The Real” play. That very play had brought about huge resonance in the theatrical world along with the “Professional trick” play, which Stoppard dedicated to the dramatist Vaclav Havel, who later became the President of the Czech Republic.
Such the examples moved Belarusian playwrights for organizing the “Free Theatre”.
The main positive changes are associated with a group of young playwrights that appeared in Belarus over the recent few years.
The first breakthrough to the Belarusian and Russian market after the collapse of the USSR was made by the plays of Andrei Kureichik.
In the year 2004 there appeared on scene new leaders of the dramaturgic movement of Belarus. Dramatist and political journalist Nikolai Khalezin became a laureate of several prestigious contests of modern dramaturgy, while his play “Here I come” was accepted for staging by the famous Chekhov’s MHAT Theatre.
Previously, Khalezin has been many times arrested and was sentenced to a short-term imprisonment for organizing and participating in the civil resistance rallies.
Plays of Nikolay Khalezin are prohibited for staging in Belarus. Nikolay Khalezin is the leader of civil initiative “Free Theatre”. Together with his wife, Natalia Koliada, who is co-leader of civil initiative “Free Theatre” they became organizers of the first theatre web-site www.dramaturg.org.
In the year 2005 there appeared two more names of absolutely young playwrights Konstantin Steshik and Pavel Priazhko who became laureates of the Russian prestigious contest “Euroasia-2005”.
Belarusian playwrights, directors, actors associate their main hopes for the change of situation to the better with the “Free Theatre” project, launched on March 15, 2005. This project includes underground flat performances and readings, the 1st International contest of modern dramaturgy, educational program for the Belarusian dramatists, publication of a regular periodical of the Belarusian dramaturgy and organizing the public readings of plays.
Brief reference on organizers of “FT” and some members of the contests’ jury:
Natalia Kolyada, the “Free Theatre” project’s director is a theatrical manager, journalist and dramatist. She has been numerously harassed and judicially tried and condemned for her professional journalistic activism.
Nikolai Khalezin, playwright and journalist has been numerously arrested by the police and was exposed to imprisonment for organizing civil resistance actions. Plays of Nikolai Khalezin are prohibited for performances in Belarus.
Irina Khalip, journalist is under permanent pressure of authorities. She was detent and passed up to dozens of trials.
Two non-profit performances “Frank Polaroid Snaps” and “Psychosis 4.48” by Vladimir Scherban are prohibited by the state-owned theatres.