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The Theater Challenging One of the World’s Most Repressive Governments

Natalia Kaliada
Still image from “When Theater Is a Crime.” Despite being persecuted and harassed by one of the most oppressive governments in the world, the Belarus Free Theatre refuses to stop promoting artistic freedom, democracy, and human rights. Natalia Kaliada, one of the company’s cofounders, explains why the show must—and will—go on.

Since its founding in Minsk in 2005, the Belarus Free Theatre has been a monument to human rights, democracy, and artistic freedom. So much so, in fact, that after years of being persecuted and harassed by government officials, the company’s founders left Belarus in 2011, and now live in the United Kingdom as political exiles.

But if the Belarusian government (which has been called “Europe’s last dictatorship”) thought that would be the end of the Belarus Free Theatre, it was mistaken. Despite being the only theater company in Europe banned by its government for political reasons, the Belarus Free Theatre did not simply endure but prospered. Using Skype to rehearse between the UK and Belarus, the company now holds performances in empty spaces in Minsk more than 100 times per year.

In the video above, one of the company’s founders and artistic leaders, Natalia Kaliada, speaks about the Belarus Free Theatre: how it works, what it represents, and why its audiences have been considered among the bravest in the world.

The Belarus Free Theatre is a grantee of the Open Society Foundations. At Open Society is a video series highlighting the people and ideas that are inspiring our work—and changing the world.

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