Category Archives: Europe/USA/Canada

Gogol Centre in Moscow still under attack

While artistic director Kirill Serebrennikov is out of the line of fire, the former managing director of Gogol Center and former general producer of Gogol Centre’s The Seventh Studio, Aleksei Malobrodsky, was arrested on June 21. Also in jail while being investigated and tried is former bookkeeper Nina Maslyaeva. Former general director of the Seventh Studio, Yury Itin, is under house arrest while being investigated and tried.
Malobrodsky is charged with embezzling 2.3 million rubles (about $38,700) allocated for organization of the “Platforma” festival and the production “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Theater journals contain articles and reviews evidencing that the play was performed at “Platforma 2015” festival and has been in repertory at Gogol Center since 2012, playing in Paris at the Théâtre National de Chaillot and at the Baltic House festival. Teatral online calls the theatre commuity to resist against the absurd accusations (John Freedman has an English translation).

According to investigators, unidentified persons from management of the Seventh Studio, a stage company created by Serebrennikov on the basis of his acting and directing course in the Moscow Art Theatre School, embezzled 200 million rubles (about $3.5 million) allocated by the government for development and popularization of art in Russia from 2011 to 2014.

Source: Russian Legal Information Agency

Germany receives letter from UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression

On 1st June, David Kaye, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, has sent a letter to the German Government concerning a drafted social media bill (Netzdurchführungsgesetz). The bill is introduced as a measure to protect network users against hate speech and misinformation. The bill was approved by the Cabinet and is expected to be voted on in Parliament before the national elections in September 2017. Kaye sets up seven serious concerns an concludes: “The liability placed upon private companies to remove third party content absent a judicial oversight is not compatible with international human rights law.” Censorship measures should not be delegated to private entities ((A/HRC/17/31). Germany has 60 days to respond. The letter has been published at the website of the Special Rapporteur.

The German Cultural Council (Deutscher Kulturrat), Wikimedia Germany, Reporters sans frontières and other organizations in Germany have signed a “Declaration on Freedom of Expression” (“Deklaration für die Meinungsfreiheit“) as immediate reaction on the social media bill draft.

Police raid at Gogol Centre in Moscow

Police investigators raided the Gogol Centre in Moscow and took its renowned artistic director Kirill S. Serebrennikov in for questioning as part of a corruption investigation. Raids at the Gogol Center and Mr. Serebrennikov’s apartment took place on Tuesday 23rd of May, and he was released late that night after hours of questioning. For now, Serebrennikov is a witness and not longer a suspect in the case, which formally does not concern the Gogol Center. Many artists and theater and film directors feared the raids might signal a crackdown on artistic freedom and voiced their support of Serebrennikov in letters to President Putin.

Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Die Welt

27 May, Nörrköpping: ACAR-Seminar “Artistic Expression as Political Manifestation”

“Theatre as Resistance – artistic expression as political manifestation” is a public seminar, organized by Scensverige (former Teaterunionen) in the framework of the Swedish Biennial for Performing Arts 2017 in Norrköping.
In 2016, the number of offenses against artistes and crimes against artistic freedom around the world doubled according to a recent report. The seminar presents the facts surrounding this together with Jonatan Stanczak, The Freedom Theatre Jenin, Natalia Koliada, Belarus Free Theatre and Abduljaebbar Alsuhili, comedian, actor and activist from Yemen.
The seminar is arranged in collaboration with Kulturhuset Stadsteatern and ITI’s Action Committe for Artists Rights.
Date: Saturday May 27, 10:00-11:45. Place: Louis De Geer Konsert & Kongress, Nörrköping, Sweden.
Source and info at Scensverige

Germany refuses visa for Nigerian actors

The international festival for children and youth theatre “Starke Stücke” in Germany had invited the theatre group KiNiNso Koncepts from Lagos (Nigeria) with their play “Sandscapes”. The play was co-produced with the Goethe Institute Lagos, the German cultural institute which itself is founded by the German Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

The visa applications from 6 members of the group – Tolu Aina, Joy Akrah, Jubril Gbadamosi, Anifiok Inyang, Michael Ajimati, Abisoye Kadiku – were rejected by the German embassy on January 20th. To provide evidence of their family and economic rootings in Nigeria the artists delivered more than 10 different documents, among them bank statements of the company, Letter of reference, guarantee and assurance from a lawyer, invitation letters to the ASSITEJ world congress as well as from the British Council. Regardless of all appeals, no visa were permitted. “I wonder whether such cases are still bureaucracy or already lived everyday racism” commented Stefan Fischer-Fels, artistic director of Junges Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf and vice president of ASSITEJ international at his festival opening speech. “It is unacceptable that we build walls that even the artists can not overcome.”

“What thoughts and feelings did this visa incident invoke in you and your colleagues?” answers from Joshua Alabi,  Artistic & Creative Director KiNiNso-koncepts Productions, Lagos to German journalist Elena Philipp.

Source: KJTZ – Centre for children and youth theatre in Germany, Starke Stücke festival

Poland: “Enormous quantity of media violence and hate-speech”

Poland’s Roman Catholic church has slammed The Curse, directed by Croat Oliver Frljic, as being “blasphemous”. Polish prosecutors have begun investigations to examine whether the play, which opened to the public end of February at Warsaw’s Teatr Powszechny theatre, offends religious feeling and whether the play “incites the murder” of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party.  The Curse is an adaptation of famous Polish author Stanisław Wyspiański’s 1899 play of the same name. The performance received excellent reviews and standing ovations during every reprise.
wrote an open Letter to Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission. The letter refers to the enormous wave of verbal attacks and defamations that have happened after the Polish TV posted illegally taken video footage of excerpts from the performance. “If institutions and political representatives within Poland are not able to protect basic human rights and freedom of speech,” Frljic writes, ” it is imperative that we hear the voice of representatives from the EU. The absence of this voice is being interpreted as approval of the situation, and as support for those who launched and orchestrated this disgraceful campaign against the actors, authors and producers of the performance.”

Already in December 2013, a work by Frljic was cancelled at the National Stary Theatre in Kraków: Nie-Boska komedia. Szczątki  (The Un-Divine Comedy: Remains) an adaptation ofa classic of Polish Romanticism, Zygmunt Krasińki.

The Mladinsko Theatre (Slovenia), were the Goran Injac, dramaturg of The Curse, comes from, published a statement of solidarity: “We are asking the authorities of the city of Warsaw to protect the currently extremely important space of a dialogue, the Poswszechny Theatre. We are also calling on both to prevent the implementation of new mechanisms of conservative censorship which seriously endangers the freedom of arts.”

Sources: Mladinsko Theatre, Political Critique, The Journal, Backround: Polish Theatre Journal