Goodman is about to host the Belarus Free Theatre, a company of artists who at the moment cannot return to their country because the repressive regime in this former Soviet republic does not like what these artists’ works say about repressive regimes. Government agents have gone to the artists’ homes, interrogated their relatives, jailed some of their colleagues. A few weeks ago, before they started their current tour with an appearance at the Public Theatre’s Under The Radar Festival, the husband-and-wife leaders of Belarus Free Theater were arrested and roughed up during demonstrations against the government; Natalia was threatened with rape by the police.
That we will host them is wonderful. That this theatre would move quickly to give artistic refuge is one of the reasons why I am proud to work at Goodman.
Freedom of speech is a basic tenet of our society. Freedom of the expression is the right of every American and the mandate for every artist. But in this increasingly polarized society, is freedom of expression possible? When Mark Twain’s Huck Finn can be rewritten to make it more palatable to the squeamish, when government pressure forces the National Portrait Gallery, a gallery supported by my tax dollars, to remove an art work to assuage a politician, how do artists, artistic institutions and cultural collaborators like critics, make space for the debates that art should engender?