Olympia Dukakis and Philip Seymour Hoffman Join Public's Being Harold Pinter Benefit

News   Olympia Dukakis and Philip Seymour Hoffman Join Public's Being Harold Pinter Benefit Olympia Dukakis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed have joined the list of artists who will participate in the Public Theater's Jan. 17 benefit presentation of the Belarus Free Theatre production of Being Harold Pinter.

As previously reported, Tony Award-winning playwrights Tom Stoppard and Tony Kushner will co-host the special 7 PM encore performance, which features Belarus Free Theatre members Pavel Garadnitski, Irene Iarochevitch, Mikalai Khalezin, Yana Rusakevich, Aleh Sidorchyk, Dzianis Tarasenka and Maryna Yurevich. Uladzimir Shcherban adapted and directs the play.

Being Harold Pinter incorporates Pinter's writings with transcripts from Belarusian political prisoners. The evening will also include the previously announced Mandy Patinkin, alongside a growing list of theatre artists who will offer readings.

Proceeds from the special encore will go to aid members of the Belarus Free Theatre, who are facing persecution in their homeland due to political unrest. The troupe made headlines in late December when several of its members were arrested after protesting the Dec. 19 re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power for 16 years. His opponents claim election fraud.

Belarus Free Theatre members went into hiding following the harsh government reaction to the protests, and the Public Theater made arrangements to quietly transport the performers from the Eastern European nation in time to participate in the Under the Radar Festival. The entire two-week run of Being Harold Pinter is sold-out.

"Artistic freedom has a new and powerful symbol: the Belarus Free Theatre," Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis said in a statement. "Their work is passionate, brilliant and immediate; their lives are outspoken and courageous: their theater is fighting for their country, and for all of us. They deserve our unstinting support and solidarity." Here's how the work is billed: "Being Harold Pinter incorporates transcripts from Belarusian political prisoners with excerpts from Harold Pinter’s lifetime of writings. Creating visually striking images with simple means and underscoring the fierceness of Pinter’s words with the intense physicality of the actors, Being Harold Pinter blurs the boundaries between art and reality, delivering a poignant contemporary commentary on violence, oppression, freedom and human dignity."

Additional events are also planned in support of the Belarus Free Theatre. Washington D.C.'s Theater J will offer a staged reading of Being Harold Pinter with local actors Jan. 17 at 7:30 PM; Belarus Free Theater members will join Tom Stoppard and other special guests for a Jan. 19 benefit at Le Poisson Rouge at 7 PM; and the Public Theater and Amnesty International USA will stage a peaceful demonstration outside the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Belarus to the United Nations Jan. 19 at 12 PM.

For tickets, ranging $50-$500, phone (212) 967-7555 or visit PublicTheater.

The Public Theater is located at 425 Lafayette Street in Manhattan.

A scene from <i>Being Harold Pinter</i>
A scene from Being Harold Pinter Aleksandr Paskannoi
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