Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Belarus and Hungary and what you can do

Yeah, it's about time I came out of retirement, right? Well, here's a good reason. Never mind what you think of the Ho-Hum Theater's latest Arthur Miller revival, there are places in the world where theater really matters because it provides a hard-to-govern forum for social ferment. Which has attracted some serious attempts to repress it.

Probably you've heard about what's going on in Hungary these days, but matters in Belarus are no less dire. To bring attention to the plight of the Belarus Free Theater, cities nationally and internationally are co-presenting the event described in the press release below.

Portland's edition is this coming Monday, January 3. Please come if you can to show your support for freedom of expression everywhere and to hear this amazing Pinter piece read. The reading lasts about an hour, and if you like, you'll have the opportunity to sign an online petition. See you there.


Tim DuRoche: (503) 720-6171
Tracy Cameron Francis: (503) 318-4330



December 29, 2010- Portland, OR. In an act of support and solidarity for artistic freedom and international human rights, Portland theater artists will present Free Belarus–Portland, featuring a reading of Being Harold Pinter, a work by The Belarus Free Theater — a group that has been in hiding, following massive government crackdowns on democratic dissent and free expression in the republic of Belarus.

The reading will take place at on the Mezzanine of Portland Center Stage, 128 NW Eleventh Avenue, on Monday, January 3, from 6-7:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Being Harold Pinter is a piece that mixes transcribed statements by Belarusian political prisoners with writings by the award-winning playwright Pinter, who also was a friend and supporter of the troupe. The play blurs the boundaries between art and reality, delivering a poignant contemporary commentary on violence, oppression, freedom and human dignity.
The Portland installment of Free Belarus will feature local acting talents of Bobby Bermea, Chris Harder, Hannah Treuhaft, Dustin Rush, Haley Talbot and Noah Dunham.

The event is part of Global Artistic Campaign in Solidarity "Free Belarus," a coordinated effort by theaters and human rights activists around the country (in Portland, Washington DC, Minneapolis, and New York) and in the UK (including the passionate support of theater luminaries like Ian McKellen, Tom Stoppard, and Jude Law) to bring attention to the plight of artists and citizens in the former Soviet republic. Global Artistic Campaign in Solidarity "Free Belarus" is the U.S. extension of a campaign begun in the UK five years ago by Tom Stoppard and others.

Also that evening at Portland Center Stage, attendees will have the opportunity to hear a statement from co-artistic director Natalya Kolyada and to sign an online petition in support of BFT:

Aaron Landsman, a New York-based theater artist and one of the event’s national organizers, said: “Just keeping their cause visible can make a difference. Because while the Belarusian government is brutal they aren’t dumb. The more attention that is focused on specific individuals there, the less likely they are, frankly, to kill those individuals, and the more likely the country itself will advance . . . I was lucky enough to work with Free Theater in Minsk. I cannot quite describe to you what it feels like to see theater in a safe house in which are crammed 60 of the most eager, desperate people, who are all there to have their sanity restored, their country’s lies undone, their friends remembered.”

The Belarus Free Theater was scheduled to perform at New York’s Public Theater for the Under the Radar Festival, which begins early in January. But that appearance is now threatened, as both founders of the troupe are in hiding, and another member is in jail, as the result of a government crackdown on protests against a presidential election that human rights groups have described as rigged.

The arrests of the theater company members are part of a larger campaign of repression directed by the government of Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, who claims to have won 79 percent of the vote in the recent election. Since 1994 Mr. Lukashenko has run this former republic of the Soviet Union, leading what former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice once called “the last true remaining dictatorship in the heart of Europe.” Last week, Mr. Lukashenko announced that hundreds of “bandits and saboteurs,” including several of his opponents, had been arrested. Among those arrested and detained were members of the Belarus Free Theater including artistic directors Natalya Kolyada and Nikolai Khalezin. Both Kolyada and Khalezin have been released and have gone underground. Their manager Artsiom Zheleznyak is still detained. Over 600 people are still behind bars.

Organized and coordinated by Tracy Cameron Francis (Theatre Without Borders, Hybrid Theatre Works) and Aaron Landsman (Elevator Repair Service), in conjunction with Mark Russell, Artistic Director of Under the Radar Festival, and with the support of Michael Rohd, Sojourn Theater, Mead Hunter, and Tim DuRoche of the World Affairs Council of Oregon—with generous in-kind support from Portland Center Stage.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Xtra, Xtra

“If you can type, you can make movies” -- so goes the tagline for one of the hottest websites in the stratosphere these days, Xtranormal. This outfit provides free software that allows you to put your own dialogue into the mouths of prepared animated characters and then watch their conversation play out.

As such, it’s launched a veritable gold rush of snarky cartoons, sometimes giving voice to wish fulfillment conversations we’d like to have, others time reporting outrageous (and often recurrent) dialogue verbatim.

The first one I saw came to me from the my Cousin Tabitha (nhrn), who I have no doubt has had countless conversations very close to this one. (Warning: this piece contains some “language,” so don’t play it full blast whilst at work o whereva.)

Here’s another fave, created by one of Portland’s best actors, Tim True. If you’re a performer, I’ll bet you’ve had much the same conversation with somebody at some time.

And finally, one I especially love because it has been my lot in life, as a writer, editor and dramaturg, to perform the sort of work that many people believe they could do very well at any time if only they were ever in a mood someday to feel like it. If you’ve encountered analogous attitudes in your profession, whatever it may be, you’ll appreciate “So You Want To Write a Novel”: