Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s World Stage Series presents Belarus Free Theatre’s MINSK, 2011: A REPLY TO KATHY ACKER. Minsk is the capital in the country of Belarus. Kathy Acker was a post-modern performing artist and author that focused on eroticism and misogynist tyranny. The Belarus Free Theatre was founded in 2005 to give voice and unity to artists speaking out against the political oppression of their homeland. In their current production, nine performers use spoken word, exotic dancing and an abstract self portrait to convey meaning. It’s engaging. It’s explicit. It’s evocative. And it’s exiting. MINSK, 2011: A REPLY TO KATHY ACKER has only six shows left.
The generation of rebellious Minsk art is here. Watching these performers in Chicago, Illinois in the United States, I realized how fortunate we are to live in a country committed to free speech. There was never a moment I feared the police would raid Chicago Shakes and arrest folks for lewd behavior or treasonous acts. This is not the case for these passionate actors in Minsk. Belarus Free Theatre has been raided. Company members have been arrested and even exiled from their country for expressing their discontent with the government.
The show starts with an actor then another actor then another actor… each trying to make a statement and being literally stopped and carried offstage. From these non-moments of public exclamation, I know I’m not in Chicago anymore. This is Minsk. The people are oppressed. The forecast is extended gloom. The ensemble performs a variety of vignettes in Russian. The English translation is projected on the screen in the background. I loved the use of the rapid-fire and harsh but poetic native tongue. My speed bump was as a writer, words are art. I was so engrossed with reading the lengthy passages of dialogue, I missed some of actor’s physical storytelling. Clearly, if the run was longer, I’d see this show twice to experience the full fusion.
Still, MINSK, 2011: A REPLY TO KATHY ACKER burned images and stories onto my soul. Two segments were especially gut-punching for me. A young woman stripping off her clothes while protesting her rights. She never lost her conviction as she is painted and papered over. Powerful! The other moment was the ending where each of the performers speaks of her/his love of the old country and view of the current climate. One of the actors is in exile away from his wife and his Alzheimer’s afflicted mother. I choked back a sob when he said, ‘she thinks I’m still there and of course, I am.’ Their dedication to a country that abuses them leaves me conflicted with patriotic envy. Dark beauty!
This is an important show to experience. Two of the six shows are already sold-out, BUY NOW!!!
Taking Minsk off our travel plans, Jen describes it with cool, creative and captivating.
Running Time: Eighty-five minutes with no intermission
At Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 E. Grand
Concept, directed and adapted by Vladimir Shcherban
Devised, written and performed by Belarus Free Theatre
Performed in Russian
Projected English translation
Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 7:30pm
Saturday and Sunday at 2pm
Thru February 3rd
Buy Tickets at www.chicagoshakes.com