Belarus Free Theatre
Belarus Free Theatre was founded in March 2005 by Belarusian playwright and journalist Nikolai Khalezin and theatre producer Natalia Koliada. In May, 2005 the team was joined by stage director Vladimir Scherban, who has produced the majority of Free Theatre performances. Currently the theatre's staff consists of ten professional actors, one professional dramatist, four managers and two technical assistants: Denis Tarasenko, Pavel Rodak-Gorodnitski, Hanna Solomianskaia, Yana Rusakevich, Oleg Sidorchik, Marina Yurevich, Alexandr Gladki, Alexei Razmahov, Olga Shantsyna, Konstantin Steshik, Lavr Berjanin, Maryia Vavokhina, Oleg Shafranov, Yuri Vavokhin, Olga Tiashkevich, Irina Iaroshevich and Svetlana Sugako. Under the current political system the Free Theatre has no official registration, no premises, nor any other facilities. Rehearsals and performances (always free of charge for the public) are normally held secretly in small private apartments which, due to security and the risk of persecution, must constantly be changed. On several occasions, performances were given in street cafes and in the countryside, in the woods. Staff members have been repeatedly harassed by the authorities for their participation in the activities of the theatre. Thus, the stage director and all but one actor were sacked from their jobs at state-run theatres. Since May 2005 the Free Theatre has produced ten performances based on sixteen plays. During its first two years of existence, about 5,000 people attended performances in Belarus and more than 6,000 abroad. During the last two years the troupe has performed in 11 countries of the world: UK, USA, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, France, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia. Their first touring performance took place on the stage of the New Riga Theatre of Alvis Hermanis in November, 2005. The theatre is supported by outstanding figures of the international theatre movement and respected public figures such as Vaclav Havel, Mick Jagger, Arthur Kopit, Harold Pinter, Mark Ravenhill and Tom Stoppard. In April 2007, Free Theatre became a full member of the European Theatre Convention, and in May 2007 a member of the international network, Trans European Halls. In May 2007, Free Theatre received a special commendation and an invitation to perform at the ceremony for the Europe Theatre Prize (Premio Europa) for 2008. In December 2007, Free Theatre received the French Republic Human Rights Prize. It was the first time in the history of the Prize that it was given to a cultural institution. Free Theatre attracts other representatives of Belarusian underground culture in a variety of fields, such as independent music, art, photography and cinematography. Free Theatre's tours are often accompanied by concerts and exhibitions from their partners. For three years the Free Theatre has been host to the annual International Competition of Contemporary Drama. In this year's edition, 272 plays were submitted by 192 playwrights from sixteen countries. Sir Tom Stoppard established his Prize for the Brightest Debut especially for this event. Since May 2007, Christian Benedetti has provided the Free Theatre a one-month annual residency in his Theatre-Studio in Alfortville. The activities of the Free Theatre have been widely covered in major international mass media. Also, three documentaries were made by British, Irish and German film crews. All press coverage and further information can be found on Free Theatre's official website www.dramaturg.org. The website contains information in Russian, English and French.