Belarusian theatre workers, like many workers in other spheres, are forced to be slaves of their state: against their will, they play in ideologically correct performances, go to propaganda events, give interviews to state media. Those who disagree will no longer be able to work in the country. Actors have left before: many natives of Belarus work in Russia and Ukraine and achieve success on venues and theatre stages. After the 2020 elections, all those who are against the Lukashenka regime left Belarusian theatres. In February 2021, “Our House” helped ten actors from Grodno to move to Lithuania. The other day they opened their theatre here – the Theatre of August.
The idea was born after the participation of the acting group in the international theatre festival “Sankryza” in Druskininkai. They presented a performance based on the play “The Third Shift” by playwright Pavel Pryazhko and took second place. People liked the production and pushed them to the idea of creating a dream theatre: a place where there is no ideology, where actors can develop their professionalism, their qualities, where no one will dictate what to play and when to play. The name of the Belarusian theatre in exile was born by itself because August is the month that will go down in the history of Belarus as the month that changed everyone and everything. The registration process took two months.
The actress of the Theatre of August, Natella Belugina, confessed that it was a significant and joyful event. Actors have been waiting for the decision of registration for a very long time. She noted that “Our House” and Olga Karach took care of all legal issues. Now the Theatre of August will operate in Lithuania in the same way as all non-state theatres. And all conditions will be created to show plays banned in Belarus and please the Lithuanian audience (and Belarusian too) with new performances.
Each of the actors of the troupe has its drama associated with August 2020. For example, Vasily Minich raised a white-red-white flag over the theatre building on August 15, 2020. On October 31, 2020, he and five other artists were fired. His wife Veronika Minich left the theatre later – she was afraid for the children who could be taken away from the family because both parents do not work. She refused to agree with the new policy, contrary to her civic position, to the last. Sergey Kurylenko and Valentina Kharitonova were detained in the centre of Grodno on September 20, 2020 – in response to this, their colleagues stopped the performance. Among them was Natalia Leonova. Later, she wrote a statement about joining the strike on October 26, 2020, and was dismissed. Actor of the Grodno Puppet Theatre, Vitaly Leonov, left the theatre when an actor supporting the policy of Lukashenka was invited to his role. You can read the stories of all the actors on our website – we have posted a selection on our Telegram channel.
New faces also joined the Theatre of August. Some actors left Belarus because of the repressions. We are doubly happy that they are here, in safety. It means that we have made the right decision to create a place in Lithuania where theatrical figures will be working, developing, pleasing the audience, where there is no place for slavery, ideology and the need to praise the dictator. We hope that the troupe of the new theatre will expand, and we believe that we will soon see the first premieres from our Belarusian actors. And we will write about them on our website.