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Tom Stoppard, Don Delillo and Billy Crudup read to aid Belarus Free Theater

January 14, 2011 |  2:38 pm

Belarus

Playwright Tom Stoppard, novelists Don Delillo and E.L. Doctorow and actor Billy Crudup are among those who will read Jan. 19 in New York to benefit the Belarus Free Theater. Members of the theater will also participate; they've been in New York for the Under the Radar Festival and are about to return to Belarus.

Condoleezza Rice once called Belarus "the last remaining true dictatorship in the heart of Europe." Since 1994, it has been led by President Alexander Lukashenko. Belarus saw political unrest after a controversial election in December that again, questionably, ratified Lukashenko's position. Public protests were swiftly followed by a new crackdown, targeting advocates of civil rights and free speech. Authorities arrested more than 600 journalists and free speech advocates, including members of the Belarus Free Theater.

Since its founding in 2005, the Belarus Free Theater has been on the outs with authorities. The troupe  rehearses in unofficial spaces and performs its politically charged plays in cafes, apartments and even the woods.

Wednesday's benefit for the Belarus Free Theater, which promises to include special guests, will take place at Le Poisson Rouge in New York; doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $25.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: People protesting the arrest of free speech activists in Belarus hang a banner reading "Free the journalists" Dec. 27 at the Belarus Embassy in Moscow. Credit: Natalia Kolesnikova /AFP/Getty Images

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