fotografie: björn klein

18 LETTERS AND A FABLE FROM BELARUS by Maryna Mikhalchuk with texts from Camel Travel by Volha Hapeyeva

Chamber theater, foyer (Stuttgart)
April 23, 2022, 8 p.m., premiere

Further performances:
04/25 2022, 8 p.m
May 13, 2022, 8 p.m
05/24/2022, 8 p.m
05/29/2022, 8 p.m
05.06.2022, 8 p.m
07.06.2022, 8 p.m

Belarusian President Lukashenko claimed a landslide victory after the August 9, 2020 election, while the opposition candidate lost by surprise. The opposition around Svetlana Tichanovskaya then publicly described the events as election fraud, and numerous independent election observers also classified the results as fake. Women like Tichanovskaya, Maria Kalesnikava, as well as activists and supporters, quickly became symbolic figures of the Belarusian protest movement. In wedding dresses and with red flowers, they shaped media images in the West, but in their speeches they undermined the government's classically passive roles assigned to women. Scores of people associated with the protests were promptly forced out of the country or imprisoned in the fall of 2020.

With 18 Letters and a Fable from Belarus, Maryna Mikhalchuk blends documentary set pieces from the recent Belarusian past with Volha Hapeyeva's autobiographical novel Camel Travel. In her debut, published in 2021, the author describes growing up in (post-)Soviet Minsk in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Between braided hairstyles, rhythmic gymnastics and pelmeni, the author already indicates the path to her own politicization from a child's perspective - and gives references to the generation of Belarusians who took to the streets in August 2020 and today are sending letters from prison.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022 and the arrival of hundreds of refugees in Stuttgart also made the director reconsider the content of the material. In addition, Mikhalchuk, who was born in Belarus, invited refugees from Ukraine to be part of the production. The stories of imprisonment and democratic resistance are now interpreted by eight Ukrainian women – Khrystyna Dovbysh, Tetiana Humeniuk, Iryna Iusukhno, Hanna Krzheminska, Rimma Musiychuk, Iryna Scherbak, Maryna Vlasenko and Tetiana Ziubanova – giving the evening an additional direct documentary dimension level expanded.

DIRECTOR: Maryna Mikhalchuk
MUSIC: Natasha López, Guillermo González (from TRIO vis-à-vis)
STAGE: Hannah Zickert
LIGHT: Stefan Maria Schmidt
COSTUMES: Natalie Nazemi
DRAMATURGY: Lena Meyerhoff
ACTRESS: Therese Dorr

Theater Stuttgart