Contributed by Guest Blogger of the Week, Saviana Stanescu.
Natalya Kalyada, co-director of the Free Theatre of Belarus was arrested today in the Independency Square (!) in Minsk “during a peaceful demonstration against the falsification of the Presidential Election” - read more about it.
The news is extremely troubling even as we know FTB’s history of fighting bravely against censorship and dictatorship through - yes – THEATRE. Mixed with smart and consistent activism, able to reach the international theatre communities and spread the word about the totalitarian regime in their country, a former Soviet republic still struggling to achieve normalcy and democracy. I must add: good and imaginative theatre, meant not only for subversive and educational purposes, but enhanced artistic bliss.
Some people familiar with the recent history of Eastern Europe know that most of the countries over there – including mine, Romania – still struggle with the transition towards democracy and stability, even if more than 20 years have passed since the fall of the Iron Curtain. Corruption, economical problems, violence, a gap between generations and mentalities, periodic political chaos, lack of (trust in) a solid legal system and reliable state institutions, etc are still present, in various degrees, in all Eastern European and Balkan countries. But people over there are still making vibrant, engaging, sophisticated, diverse theatre worth of a global audience.
Of course, extreme situations are generally the ones bringing that region (and others) to the world’s attention, in theatre and otherwise. That’s when we remember and invest in the word “solidarity”. And indeed international pressure DOES WORK. So please spread the word about Natalya being arrested, it’s crucial that the leaders of Belarus are being made aware of the fact that their actions can’t be hidden. They will be held responsible by the global consciousness/community, they can’t just play their brutal power game the way that other dictators did (still do?) when the Western eyes weren’t on them…
Yes, let’s abandon ourselves to SOLIDARITY. A beautiful concept. Our dear daily individualism can give some room to idealism and mutual trust. We care, we can make a difference. We can feel a little heroic caring for those heroes from afar. We can help. And that help won’t be a hidden act, it will be on lists, emails and maybe even make the news. Our generosity will be visible, our solidarity will achieve something.
Well, yes, we can’t care about ALL the people who live and work in difficult conditions, we can’t see all the everyday heroes on this planet of course. At least, we see those who are brave, talented, consistent, fighting political pressures and totalitarian regimes. We can’t oppose all the totalitarian regimes, we can’t fight all the dictators, we can’t eradicate poverty everywhere in the world, we can’t do everything. We do something.
I agree, we do, but these days when we talk about dictatorships and death, catastrophes and poverty, solidarity and charity, with a Cosmo cocktail at a Holiday Party, maybe we can just look around for a moment and see a colleague we haven’t talked with in a while because we don’t need anything from him/her, because we are busy looking over his/her shoulder and rush to the producer/boss/celebrity in the room… Maybe that “invisible” colleague is not that important, maybe s/he has just been laid off and we don’t want the boss to put our image in that company, maybe s/he has asked us for money or a promotion that we can’t offer even if we know they deserve it. But we gotta keep things light, it’s a Holiday Party after all. Yet we are still concerned with the problems of the world. “Oh, remember the Chilean miners? What a story. They are now on a tour in London, they’re so jovial and their public speaking is really good. They’re even flirting with the ladies!”
Cool people say those things while the “invisible” Chilean cleaning lady wipes the wine spilled in a corner of the floor… Then they take a cab to a charity event where millions are thrown in various directions (and who knows, maybe some cool dictators get the hold of them…) and the cab driver chatters annoyingly about a Dream Act for his children…
So my question is why the hero inside us is not automatically activated when we pass by homeless people, when we can help a poor neighbor, when we talk with a colleague lower in status than us, when some indie artists make a political piece in a small theatre on our block? Why don’t influential artistic directors and producers commission more diverse political works, why don’t they encourage artists from here and abroad to speak about global problems (reminder: abroad doesn’t mean only the UK…)? Why don’t they support immigrant artists - people who escaped oppressive political regimes and are here now? Or just people who escaped something and want to move on, to create beauty out of their traumatic memories? Why don’t they encourage young American artists to create more globally aware pieces? Why the same people are supported over and over again? Why didn’t Ruined move to Broadway? Why aren’t more “Under the Radar” festivals? Why don’t more producers dig under the radar to find the next big thing? No, not the one who brings more money, but the one who has something important to say to the world.
I know, I know, they are rhetorical questions. But maybe it’s worth throwing them in our IT party cocktail… Cheers!