Banned at Home: Belarus Free Theatre Comes to REDCAT

by Lyle Zimskind

Banned in its own country, its participating artists imprisoned and removed from their jobs, the underground Belarus Free Theatre troupe challenges the repressive powers of "Europe's last dictatorship" with clandestine productions staged in private apartments, bars, and other inconspicuous locations around the nation's capital city of Minsk. On occasions when the Belarusian KGB has been tipped off to these performances, state police raids have culminated in the arrests of company members as well as those who just came to see the show.

No such threat will presumably face Los Angeles audiences who venture into Disney Hall's REDCAT theater at 8:30 p.m. over the next three evenings for the company's production of Discover Love, based on true stories of political intimidation and violence against dissidents in Belarus and around the globe.

Inspired by the darkly comic protest plays of Vaclav Havel, the Belarus Free Theatre's co-founder and artistic director Nikolai Halezin has described himself as a "freedom fighter." And in a recent New York Times interview, Tom Stoppard has observed that "there is always a background of apprehension" in the group's work, "a constant state of needing to draw on reserves of courage that we really don't know about and can't really imagine."

Tickets for the opportunity to bear witness to this uniquely theatrical brand of political courage are available via the REDCAT website or at the box office.



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