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Theater and Creativity Underground

PEN America World Voices Festival

Natalia Kaliada of Belarus Free Theatre, Varvara Faer of Moscow’s Teatr.doc,  Tunisian playwright Meriam Bousselmi, and the moderator Jessica Litwak of The H.E.A.T. Collective.

On Saturday, April 21st, ARC organized the event “Theater and Creativity Underground” as part of the 2018 PEN America World Voices Festival.

Jessica Litwak of The H.E.AT. Collective moderated a dynamic conversation on art and politics, where Varvara Faer, co-founder of Moscow’s Teatr.doc, and Tunisian playwright Meriam Bousselmi explained how they challenge the status quo through their work and how they continuously navigate threats of censorship and political repression.

Due to visa issues, Natalia Kaliada, founding co-artistic director and CEO of Belarus Free Theatre was unable to attend. Rather than stay silent on the obstacles for artist to travel, she sent a short note that was read at the beginning of the event by Polina Kovaleva, PEN America’s Free Expression Programs Manager for Eurasia.

Dear All, those who know us and those who don’t,

We are terribly sad not to be at the World Voices Festival organizer by our friends by PEN and ARC. The reason of our absence in New York tonight is a simple one. My husband and me are political refugees in the U.K. We were smuggled out of Belarus in 2010. To be a refugee is to be a nobody. Every day you need to find yourself. It’s difficult to find yourself as you know your movements are controlled by the system and you depend on a piece of paper.

Nevertheless, the main thing is not to complain but understand that we are able to overcome physical borders. We are at Belarus Free Theatre prove it for a dozen of years. Every single day our incredibly talented and same time courageous ensemble works underground in Belarus overcoming physical borders imposed by the Dictator in Belarus.

Stories of people who we tell in our Banned shows are much stronger than any corrupted power.

We artists are stronger than dictators. We have three tools: creativity, morality and our bodies. That mixture put dictators into a panic mode.

We are not heroes; we are not victims, we are human beings who want to tell stories of life.

Thank you,

Natalia Kaliada and Nicolai Khalezin

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