On Monday, January 17th, DC area actors join actors in other cities in reading Being Harold Pinter, the newest work by Belarus Free Theatre. The play incorporates letters from Belarusian political prisoners with excerpts from Harold Pinter’s lifetime of writings, especially his 2005 Nobel Prize acceptance speech. Ben Brantley, writing for the NY Times, has called the play “a work of harrowing intensity and commitment … a testament to the power of a single playwright to inspire, illuminate and give articulate voice to powerlessness.”
The Washington, DC reading will feature local actors Leigh Jameson, Mark Krawczyk, Delaney Williams, Ian Armstrong, Rana Kay, Marni Penning, and Will Gartshore. The reading will be performed on the main stage at Theater J, 1529 16th Street NW, 7:30 p.m.. Space is limited. Tickets can be reserved by emailing: [email protected]
The Belarus Free Theatre, which turned in one of the standout performances in the 2008 Under the Radar Festival, is denied permission to perform in Belarus by the Lukashenko government. Nevertheless, the company continues to perform. A writer for the U.K’s Guardian attended a performance of the BFT in Minsk :
“The BFT has to perform in secret, at considerable risk: performances have been raided by police and multiple arrests made. Audience members are contacted by text message and told to meet at a secret location, from which they are taken to the show. At the moment the company uses a near-derelict house where two rooms have been knocked together; the audience, some of whom have travelled for hours to be there, squeeze on to benches at one end of the space and the play is performed at the other. The anticipation is palpable. At the end, the applause comes with a wave of relief, not just because the police didn’t storm the building. Many of the audience have seen nothing like this before; to hear the problems of their country spoken about honestly makes them feel a little braver and less alone.”
A January performance for Being Harold Pinter had been scheduled at La Mama in New York. On December 12, 2010, during a demonstration in Minsk , Natalia Kolyanda, one of the founders of BFT, was arrested. Released on bail, she and the rest of the company went underground. Mark Russell, artistic director of Under the Radar, worked with others to make travel arrangements for the company. “Their work is innovative, adventurous and moving, on a par with the best ensembles working in this field of independent theater,” and added “They are the bravest theater makers I know.”
Their efforts were successful and BFT is currently performing Being Harold Pinter at La Ma Ma in New York through January 16th. Members will then travel to Washington to attend the Theater J reading and be available for questions after.
There will be a simultaneous reading of Being Harold Pinter at Single Carrot Theatre, 120 W. North Ave, Baltimore, Maryland.