Handbook of Belarussian Contemporary Drama
Belarussian theatre is little known in the Czechia and Slovakia and mutual exchange is complicated, if not impossible, due to Lukashenko’s totalitarian regime. Last year, the oppression there intensified, putting a strain on free creative work and everyday life of Belarussian artists. We at NT Drama are concerned about the political situation abroad and feel especially close to the countries of the former Soviet bloc; indeed, the Prague Crossroads festival has focused on human rights since its beginning (the Free Belarussian Theatre performed at the festival’s launch).
This gave us an idea to offer Belarussian artists a scholarship in Prague. We announced an open call for a six-week residential stay in Prague for two Belarussian playwrights to allow them freedom to create. I do not use the word freedom lightly: the motivation letters and applications – we received 13 in total – clearly show that freedom of creation, and indeed freedom as such, is what the authors miss the most.
The jury, composed of Marta Ljubková, Ilona Smejkalová, Nina Jacques and Jan Tošovský (dramaturgs of the NT Drama); Daniela Pařízková (the manager of the Prague Crossroads festival), and Romana Štorková Maliti (translator and theatrologist), selected the applicants based on their motivation letters, extracts from their previous works and their CVs. We could only invite two applicants – at least this year –, and thus Aksana Hajko and Alena Ivaniushenka came to Prague in May. Unfortunately, the authors could not really meet the audience and participate in theatre and social life due to the pandemics and the ensuing restrictions. So, we tried to find another means for presenting their work in Czechia and Slovakia. Moreover, the applications showed that Belarussian playwriting is rich and deserves to find a wider audience.
That is how this Handbook was conceived. We asked the two authors, as well as other playwrights whose work we found interesting, to participate in this project. All gladly agreed and helped to select their plays.
The Handbook provides an overview of contemporary Belarussian playwriting: it contains brief profiles of seven authors and synopses of their plays. The playwrights come from different parts of Belarus and different backgrounds, and they represent different styles of writing. Common to them is that they have a strong link to Belarus, but simultaneously focus on general (and very human) topics, such as the meaningless communication in the modern world, the search for one’s place in life or a functioning relationship, family dramas, social problems, etc. We believe that the plays included in this Handbook are also relevant for the Czech audience and could become interesting pieces in your theatres’ dramaturgy.
This Handbook is not final as another call is announced which will certainly bring new contents, and the electronic version in fact allows infinite continuation and improvement.
If you are interested in any of the texts, please contact us and we will connect you with the authors.
Dear fellow dramaturgs, please remember how lucky we are to live in a free country, and how vital it is for us to guard and protect our freedom.
On behalf of the whole team
The Handbook of Belarussian Contemporary Drama is published in the framework of the residential stay announced by the NT Drama and Prague Crossroads festival in co-operation with the Embassy of Independent Belarusian Culture in the Czech Republic and the Centre for Experimental Theatre in spring 2021.