Theater was made to push the boundaries, but what happens when your country wants to maintain those artificial limits? One theatre group in Belarus has made a commitment from allowing their home to silence their (powerful) voices.
Belarus Free Theatre is an underground theatre group that operates primarily in secret, holding unofficial rehearsals and free performances in small private apartments, cafes, or wooded areas. Seen as theatrical vigilantes at constant risk of persecution, they constantly change their venues and have no specific theatrical home. Members of the theatre have been attacked by the police and held for their participation in the Belarus Free Theatre activities. The stage director and other associates were fired from their jobs at state-run theatres for their involvement in the movement.
Being Harold Pinter at the mid-April 2007 conference Artist and Citizen: 50 Years of Performing Pinter, in England
The group was established in March 2005 by human rights activist, playwright and journalist, Nikolai Khalezin, and Natalia Koliada, a theatre producer and Khalezin’s wife. The group’s mission was to resist the overwhelming pressure and censorship of Belarus’ president, Alexander Lukashenka.
As the only modern theatre force in the country, the government is challenged by Belarus Free Theatre’s commitment to performing uncensored works. All other theatre is state-run, allowing the country to dictate the programming, resulting in a stale version of theatre which cannot appropriately discuss all aspects of contemporary life. The guerilla theatre group pushes for its creative freedom daily, risking their own security for the promise of truth in art.
Belarus Free Theatre in the short play by Jean-Pierre Thibaudat, one of the 12 featured in ‘Eurepica. Challenge.’
On 22 August 2007, during the Free Theatre’s première of Edward Bond’s theatrical piece Eleven Vests, Belarusian special forces stormed a performance in a private apartment in Minsk, and arrested actors, directors, and audience members. The founder, Khalezin, has now unfortunately become accustomed to these surprises, stating that the police would regularly burst into performances with machine guns in order to demonstrate power. At this point he does not fear for himself, but does notice that it is taking its toll on those who have never been arrested before. He’s afraid that these brave audience members won’t come back. Regardless of the pressure, the show resumed the next day in one of the private houses outside of Minsk. Police took video of the event from the forest.
The next few years were moderately less tumultuous but on December 19, 2010, fifty thousand citizens took to the streets to protest what they believed to be the rigged election of Alexander Lukashenko. More than a thousand of those were beaten and arrested, including Artistic Director Natalia Koliada, along with other artistic figures. At the Belarus Embassy in London, Ian McKellen and a number of leaders from the artistic community protested the arrests, bringing international attention to the issue. Natalia Koliada was released, while Nikolai Khalezin went into hiding, where he remains.
The turmoil has been worth it for those in the ensemble, almost all of whom have served time behind bars. Notable playwrights (Tom Stoppard, Harold Pinter, Václav Havel, and Arthur Kopit) have supported the Free Theatre, with Pinter himself so impressed by their biographical work [Being Harold Pinter] that he gave the troupe rights to perform any of his plays for free.
Image Sources: 1, 2
“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.”
In spirit of Valentine’s day, time to let kids tell it like it is. So honest, so profound. A group of 4 to 8 year-olds were asked the question, “What does love mean?” Below are their answers.
“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.” Rebecca- age 8
“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.” Billy – age 4
“Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.” Karl – age 5
“Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.” Chrissy – age 6
“Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.” Terri – age 4
“Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.” Danny – age 7
“Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss” Emily – age 8
“Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.” Bobby – age 7 (Wow!)
“If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate,” Nikka – age 6
(we need a few million more Nikka’s on this planet)
“Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday.” Noelle – age 7
“Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.” Tommy – age 6
“During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn’t scared anymore.” Cindy – age 8
“My mommy loves me more than anybody . You don’t see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.” Clare – age 6
“Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.” Elaine-age 5
“Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.” Chris – age 7
“Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.” Mary Ann – age 4
“I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.” Lauren – age 4
“When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.” (what an image) Karen – age 7
“Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn’t think it’s gross.” Mark – age 6
“You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” Jessica – age 8
And the final one — Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child. The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, “Nothing, I just helped him cry”
The mind delights in lofty pursuits –
Tête-a-têtes in bilingual prose
And dissections of unsatisfying denouements –
Just to prove it can.
But when words grow weary
And wits tire of the unending race,
May you learn to sing of your longing.
For the soul rejoices in hearing its song,
Strains of melody painting delicate truths,
All heart affirmed, all opposition abandoned
With no chance to be mistaken.
New York-based graphic designer Evan Robertson plucked out notable lines written by famous authors and transformed them into visual stories. Robertson would see a “little jewel of a sentence” and he’d underline it. Then, he would take those “snippets of text and ideas” and “let the words be a springboard for an illustration.”
Image Source: Obvious State
“Life is intrinsically, well, boring and dangerous at the same time. At any given moment the floor may open up. Of course, it almost never does; that’s what makes it so boring.” – Edward Gorey
Some claim that we’re coming to the end of an era tomorrow, and even if we’ve got a couple thousand more years on the planet, what better excuse to celebrate.
Time to inject a little life into your life:
Surrender your fear. Give it up. You’ve been hanging on to it as if it would somehow serve you to keep it close. The time to let go is now.
Break open that bottle “you’ve been saving for a special occasion.” We create our own memorable moments. What’s stopping you from letting your next one be sooner than you imagined?
Share love. Say it, show it, do anything that brings an extra iota of kindness into this world. Maybe start here.
High five 5 people on seemingly meaningless tasks. You changed the water filter? High five. You threw away a piece of garbage you saw laying out? High five for you. It’s the little things folks…
Donate a chunk of change, belongings or your time to a cause you can totally get behind. Even when you think you have nothing to give, you never know who may be astounded by what you have to offer.
Throw caution to the wind. Excuses will pile up and keep you from opening the door if you let them. Reassess what’s been blocking your path, then decide whether or not clinging to old obstacles is worth more to you that getting what you want out of life.
Speak your truths. Your voice is the only one like it in the entire world. To deprive yourself of self-expression means society loses out on your voice. And they will never get a crack at it, ever again. So put words onto your perspective and share your story.
Create your own calendar. If the Mayans can do it, so can you. Make up your own holidays and highlight the days that lit you up once upon a time. Then celebrate each and every day you get to cross off the year.
In addition to his renowned poetry, Cummings also dabbled in painting, writing, and playwriting. From a man who knows the joy of going against the grain:
“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”
– e. e. cummings
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Embrace the universe inside yourself that allows you to see the soul of all things.
Wisdom tucks itself behind boulders of adversity.
Judgment, a child’s dam, gives way to a surge of clarity.
Patience stretches its roots into newly watered terrain.
And magic, well that’s everywhere if you look.
A man awoke with a song in his mouth
He rounded his lips around the sounds
To find the words as they fell out one by one
He gathered them swiftly and laid them out
Saw familiar phrases but gave them new places
So that the pieces of melody might befriend them
And learn the shape of each others’ truth
The man went to sleep with a song in his heart
Humming a tune that pin-pricked his silence
A refrain half-familiar, a reminder of love
A great love for clean graphic design and bright inspiration has led me to fall in love with this little gem as of late. Striking Truths offers a manifesto a day using bright, memorable typography and words of wisdom from some of the best. Check out just a small sampling of their work below:
The heart is a muscle. It rips and tears, but always heals, often making the muscle stronger than before. Take a risk this weekend and chase down something that just might fill your heart to its brim.
“If you practice an art, be proud of it and make it proud of you. It may break your heart, but it will fill your heart before it breaks it; it will make you a person in your own right.”
– Maxwell Anderson
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