By Adam Hetrick
Gail Papp, widow of late Public Theater founder Joe Papp, will join current artistic director Oskar Eustis, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage, and actors Linda Emond and Stephen Spinella in a Jan. 19 protest outside the Mission of the Republic of Belarus to the United Nations.
From noon-1 PM artists will gather to protest the persecution of artists and individuals following the contested elections in the Eastern European nation of Belarus. In addition to national political coverage, the country's unrest also garnered attention within the theatre community when members of the Belarus Free Theatre were imprisoned for protesting the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko.
According to the Public, protesters will wear gags "to show the horror of persecution and the injustice of suppressed speech." A petition from The Public Theater, Amnesty International USA and Belarus Free Theater will be delivered to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the oppression of individual and artistic rights in Belarus.
The rally will take place on the southwest corner of East 67th Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan, near the Mission of the Republic of Belarus to the United Nations.
The protests stem from the Public Theater's Under the Radar production of Being Harold Pinter, created and performed by the Belarus Free Theatre, who played a recent sold-out run in New York after fleeing their native country. The troupe will also stage the work at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago in February.
Award-winning actor Ian McKellen, playwrights Tom Stoppard, Martin Sherman, as well as West End actors Harriet Walter, Dan Stevens, Malcolm Sinclair, Samuel West and Catherine Kelly, gathered outside the Belarussian embassy in London Dec. 21 to protest the incarceration of Belarus Free Theatre members. You can view a photo of the protest here.
Information on the New York rally can be found by visiting ZoneofSilence.org.
The Belarus Free Theatre made headlines in late December 2010 when several of its members were arrested after protesting Lukashenko's Dec. 19 re-election. His opponents claimed election fraud. Belarus Free Theatre members went into hiding following the harsh government reaction to the protests, and the Public Theater made arrangements to quietly transport the performers from the Eastern European nation in time to participate in the Under the Radar Festival in early January. Critics praised the bold, political work.
Being Harold Pinter incorporates Pinter's writings with transcripts from Belarusian political prisoners. The cast includes Pavel Garadnitski, Irene Iarochevitch, Mikalai Khalezin, Yana Rusakevich, Aleh Sidorchyk, Dzianis Tarasenka and Maryna Yurevich. Uladzimir Shcherban adapted and directs the play.
Here's how the work is billed: "Being Harold Pinter incorporates transcripts from Belarusian political prisoners with excerpts from Harold Pinter's lifetime of writings. Creating visually striking images with simple means and underscoring the fierceness of Pinter's words with the intense physicality of the actors, Being Harold Pinter blurs the boundaries between art and reality, delivering a poignant contemporary commentary on violence, oppression, freedom and human dignity."