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Russian Theatre Director, Kirill Serebrennikov, Detained … part of a strategy to stiffle artistic freedom

Russian Stage and Film Director, Theater Designer, and Artistic Director of the Gogol Center, Kirill Serebrennikov (b. 1969)

The detention yesterday of Russian Stage and Film Director, Kirill Semyonovich Serebrennikov, on dubious charges is part of a concerted campaign to silence dissenting voices in the arts in Russia.

Serebrennikov’s father was Jewish and a surgeon. His mother was from the Ukraine and taught Russian. Serebrennikov was graduated from Rostov State University in 1992. He was a physics major and had no formal theatre education prior to his 1994 debut as a stage director.

According to PEN America, Serebrennikov was detained on and will face trial on embezzlement. He is accused of embezzling 68 million rubles ($1.1 million) of state funding for a project called Platform, the purpose of which was to promote modern dance, theatre, and music to wider audiences. Investigators claimed that part of the project, a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, did not take place, despite having been staged at least fifteen times. Serebrennikov has turned to attendees on Facebook to prove that the play was staged, using the hashtag #ябылнаплатформе (I was at Platform.) If found guilty, he faces up to ten years’ imprisonment. In addition to PEN America, Civil society groups and prominent members of Russia’s and Europe’s artistic communities have called for Serebrennikov’s release.

The Gogol Center in Moscow is Russia’s leading avant-garde theater, a multi-use arts complex. It hosts movies, music concerts, a discussion club and performances by Russian and foreign directors on several stages. It is noted for its stagings of contemporary Russian Dramas and a lobby featuring neon-lit mirrors shaped like famous directors. 

The Center’s has recently hosted dance companies including SoundDrama and Studio Seven as part of an experimental artist in residence program specifically committed to art that “does not limit itself with any genre boundaries and constantly strives to reflect Modern Art in the most relevant way.”

Russian Playwright, Damaturge and Journalist, Valeriy Pecheykin (b. 29184)

The Center’s writer and dramaturge, Valeriy Pecheykin, is a regular contributor to Russian LGBT magazine Kvir, author of the plays My Moscow (2008), Net (2009), Lucifer (2008), Russia,Forward! (2011), A Little Hero (2014), screenplay co-author for Pavel Lungin’s The Conductor  (Russia, 2012). 

Kirill Serebrennikov, the artistic director of The Gogol Center is professor (of acting and direction) at the Moscow Art Theatre School. His productions were presented in Wiener Festwochen, and Avignon Theatre Festival. His films were screened at Cannes Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival, Rome Film Festival, and the Warsaw International Film Festival where his film Yuri’s Day received the Grand Prix.

Russian Ballet Dancer Rudolf Nureyev (1938-1993)

Serebrennikov, artistic director of the Gogol Center, is a prominent critic of the Kremlin, having spoken out against anti-LGBT measures and the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church in cultural affairs. PEN America has followed his case since May 2017, when his apartment and the Gogol Center were searched, and a bookkeeper and two other theater directors were arrested. In July 2017 the production of a ballet directed by Serebrennikov for the Bolshoi Theater about celebrated dancer Rudolf Nureyev, who was gay, was canceled after intervention by Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky.

“The detention on dubious charges of a prominent theater director who has spoken out against the government is another move to stifle free expression and the arts in Russia, ” said Polina Kovaleva, PEN America free expression programs manager for Eurasia. “We urge the Russian government to drop all charges and release Serebrennikov immediately, and to end its campaign against artistic freedom.”

This is not the first time that PEN America sounded the alarm on the shrinking space for free expression, particularly artistic expression in Russia where the government has taken “increasingly brazen steps to control information and stifle creative expression.”

FREEDOM OF ARTISTIC EXPRESSION AND CREATION is defined by the United Nations Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner as “the right of all persons to freely experience and contribute to artistic expressions and creations, through individual or joint practice, to have access to and enjoy the arts, and to disseminate their expressions and creations.”

It is important that we as poets and writers be aware of and supportive of the artists and arts in our own countries and elsewhere to – as PEN America says and does – “champion freedom to write” and to openly acknowledge the “power of the word to transform the world … [and] to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.”

PEN America “stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide.” 

Note: The August issue of The BeZine is entirely devoted to theatre.


The sources/content for this feature are largely courtesy of PEN America, the United Nations Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner, and Wikipedia.

Photo credits: Serebrennikov by Col. Hans Landa under CC BY-SA 3.0  license; Nureyev in his dressing room by Allan Warren under CC BY 3.0 license; Valeriy Pecheykin by Taktisch under CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

Mrs. G, a poem . . . and your Wednesday Writing Prompt

at sunrise with its schmears of
cream cheese clouds against
the quince-colored morning light,
Mrs. Goldberg is out of bed ~
a military tactician in war-time,
no dust-bunny is safe, every
grease spot is enzyme-bombed,
the wash thrashed by machine,
then hung or folded, put in place,
her windows wiped, her floors scrubbed
and woe betide wee crawling creatures,
so intent is Mrs. G on genocide

© 2016, poem, Jamie Dedes; the 1908 Good Housekeeping cover designed by American illustrator John Cecil Clay (1875-1930) is in the public domain



Mrs. Goldberg lived next door to me when I was first married a hundred years ago. She’s long gone but remains in heart and memory. Think of all the neighbors you’ve had over time, many loved and many who remained friends even when things changed and life and geography separated you. Tell us in prose or poem about a neighbor and his or her signature characteristic, one that you remember with special affection.


Cooking Carrots . . . responses to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt

Such a wonderful mini-anthology of poems in response to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt, August 20, A Puppet Dancing in the Dark. Featured today are three poets new to the weekly writing prompt. They are Iulia Gherghei, Kakali Das Ghosh and Reena Presad and, since they are new to this activity, their photos and bios are included. Also this week are the remarkably productive Paul Brookes, Sonja Benskin Mesher and Renee Espriu. These poets are all experienced, smart, talented and devoted to this art.  It’s fun to see how differently they spin the prompt, though clearly they share some values.  Enjoy! and please support and encourage our poets with likes and comments and visits to their blogs.

Spinning Endlessly

We are spinning endlessly
Around the sun
A sun who
From time to time is hiding under the moon
Probably he is bored too
History, a book of tales
Bible, a book of tales
Ideologies, some well sewn tales

Why do they feed us with tales
Are they responding to a need
Our need?
The need to fill the time between two blinks of the sun…

© 2017, Iulia Gherghei, (Sky Under Construction)

IULIA GHERGHEI is a Romanian poet writing in English. Her debut collection is Prisoners of the Cinema Paradiso.  In 2014, Iulia received the Poet of the Year title from Destiny Poets, run by Louis Kasatkin. In 2015 she won the Blackwater Poetry Group contest with her poem Lost in Blue Curtains. Her poetry is featured in many anthologies including The Significant Anthology (2015) edited by Dr. A.V. Koshy and Reena Prasad.

#The grave of darkness#

The brightest of lights is obscuring my vision ,
An aroma of darkness is permeating my vein,
Please – come as storm addicted to rain and thunderbolt,
I have kept my tears in a camouflaged hidden in dew drops over grassy lawns,
Craving the dumb show be arranged as a farewell through the last faraway train,
I’m waiting lonely for your storm in this dark station
Descrying a tormentor’s kick in an impoverished stomach,
My acoustics is shattered in lakhs* with a cramped girl’s cry,
And witnessing to a stabbed sanguineous boy
lying down on the railway line;
A demon of darkness is swallowing me wholly,
Is everyone born deaf, dumb and blind?
None has illuminated a flare,
Whistles of the trains reverberating through the night are no more greeted;
Perhaps one more corse**
or corpses would be waiting to be evacuated,
I’m scaring of the fair of sky burial
And eagerly waiting for your storm with celestial light and pearly raindrops,
As I’m encountering a gloomy grave frantic for drops of blood.

© 2017, Kakali Das Ghosh

* lakhs – rupees
** corse – corpse

Self-employed poet and writer, KAKALI DAS GHOSH was born in and lives in India. She did both her undergraduate and graduate work in Personnel Management. Kakali also works as a teacher.


The jungle crow is truthful. When he caws, he is the grandfather
and great grandfather too. The soul doesn’t differentiate between
male bodies charred at different times. The feminine rots to mute dust.

The rat snake and the cobra are slinky eyes
crawling over female forms-young, widowed or both
Fertile coconut palms brood over the misogynist terrain

The curry leaf plant recognizes friend from foe. The *Koovalam
disapproves of monthly spurts. The lemon tree withers away
upon female touch but is immune to bird eggs in its straggly, green shirt

The kitchen steps face south. I must not sit there, elbows on knees
or chin in hand. It is mourning that they fear here, more than death.

I will lie in the clearing, strangled by the vengeful biota
and the temple priest will chant mournful curses to free the trees

© 2017, Reena Prasad (Butterflies of Time, A Canvas of Poetry)

(*Koovalam = stone apple tree)

REENA PRASAD is a poet from India, currently living in Sharjah (United Arab Emirates). She is the co-editor with Dr. A.V. Koshy of The Significant Anthology (2015). She writes poems looking in awe at the world from the seventeenth floor of a high rise in the Arabian desert. Her poems have been published in several anthologies and journals including The Copperfield Review, First Literary Review-East, Angle Journal, Poetry Quarterly, York Literary Review, Lakeview International Journal, Duane’s PoeTree, and Mad Swirl. She is the Destiny Poets UK’s, Poet of the Year for 2014.  More recently her poem was adjudged second in the World Union Of Poet’s poetry competition, 2016. Reena’s passionate essay about the comforts of poetry – Sanctuary – is popular here at The Poet by Day and in The BeZine.

Stained Glass Windows

She embraced the rituals of worship
of which practicing seemed to bring calm
to a personal life bereft of its’ being

whereupon entering a sacred place of
stained glass windows and the statues
of holy saints long dead brought
daily tests to question her soul

she watched men cloaked in white robes
garnished with vestments hung about
their necks symbols of their holiness

where the incense they spread in the air
afflicted her senses but must be done
for it was said it purified & cleansed
raising up the prayers of the faithful

but nothing addressed her innocence to
enlighten her of past holy wars that spread
death to those who believed naught the same

so she entertained a communion white veil
to be replaced later by a robe of red as
she promised to put her belief in those
words written by nameless faces of others

she believed in it all until the day her
faith stood the ultimate test of the reaper
causing her heart to have a hope of its’ own

© 2017, Renee Espriu (Renee Just Turtle Flight and Haibun, ART & Haiku, Inspiration, Imagination & Creativity With Wings)

Red The Strong Says

“Belief is a ship
on the fish flecked sea,
close hauled and tacking,
against this Christian gust.

It has a dragon’s head,
and aft a crook, which turns up,
and ends in a dragon’s tail.

Gilded carved work on each side
of the stem and stern.
I call this ship “The Serpent”
Its hoisted sails are dragon’s wings.

I’m brought before me boss,
who offers me baptism.
“And,” says he, “I will not
take thy property from thee,

but rather be thy mate,
if thou wilt make thysen
worthy to be such.”

I exclaim with all me might
against his offer, say
“I’ll never believe in Christ,
and this so called God.”

Boss was wroth, and says “Thee
shall die worst of deaths.”

He orders I be bound
to a beam of wood, me face
uppermost, and round pin of wood
set between my teeth
to force me gob open.

Boss orders an adder
rammed down my gob,
but adder shrinks back
when I breathe against it.

A hollow branch of angelica root
is stuck in my gob; others say boss
put his horn into me mouth,
and forces adder in
holds a red-hot iron
before me open gob.
So adder creeps into it,
down me throat,
gnaws its way out me side.

My last breath is a ship
on the fish flecked sea,
close hauled and tacking,
against this Christian gust.”

© 2017, Paul Brookes (The Wombwell Rainbow)

A Bridge

anastomosis [ah-nas″to-mo´sis] (pl. anastomo´ses) (Gr.)

It is bin day. Sound of breaking glass.

A vein.

between places,
one person and another,

A Bridge

anastomosis [ah-nas″to-mo´sis] (pl. anastomo´ses) (Gr.)

It is bin day. Sound of breaking glass.

A vein.

between places,
one person and another,
you and your kids,
a busy crossing between beliefs.
from wick to ash.
full to empty.

Broken, blocked, under investigation.

No link, information dammed,
Adamant your side is right,
other side apostate.
Bloodied metal sends a message,
via media bridges.

Bins must be wheeled back to their places.

a busy crossing between beliefs.
from wick to ash.
full to empty.

Broken, blocked, under investigation.

No link, information dammed,
Adamant your side is right,
other side apostate.
Bloodied metal sends a message
via media bridges.

Bins must be wheeled back to their places.

© 2017, Paul Brookes (The Wombwell Rainbow)

A Toleration

So I says to our Vicky
” ‘ow come thas back so soon lass.”
Well she were in a right towing.
says “I were right with him, only he weren’t with me, the wazzock.”

Well, I like a strong fella, misen,
makes us all soft inside and tha feels cossetted, but when as they start, demanding tha do this or that.
It’s a right pisser.

That lad, Olly, asking to wed her,
says to her, ” I think it best love, as tha abandon this pagan stuff so we’ve a regular going on.”

Vicky says, “I’ll not abandon my faith,
and that of folk afore me.
I don’t want thee to abandon thy Christian doings, either.” Understanding his predicament, like.

Well, laddo, sloshes her int face
with his glove. Tosser.
Well, she slaps him back,
as you would, and
comes back home, quicksticks.

Tha can only tolerate so much.

© 2017, Paul Brookes (The Wombwell Rainbow)

“1712 we write of wool”

again, and weaving.

listen to the coventry carole,

little tiny child, fingers tapping

in time, the medieval, the membrance

of cathedral . walking up hill chanting.

repeatedly. they moved the stairs.

we hold the cotton, the wool

for comfort.

© 2017, Sonja Benskin Mesher (Sonja Benskin Mesher, RCA and Sonja’s Drawings)

white linen

.. cooking carrots, and thinking of belief ..

the other side of the mirror


it is a source of inspiration, and research. it is written, yet having writ. we use. imagination, add a dose of suggestion, slightly thinking this is fact we do not move on when perhaps we should. so moving on quickly……

cut them.

maybe we need to check our numbers at the end, see if one or more are missing. need to count them carefully, one side then the is all a pattern, that keeps us safely, leads us onward.

simmer them.

what about this list, to do it before you die, well as she said, you probably can’t do it after. some may disagree – another belief. we try not to judge, yet that bucket was not worth five pound,so

we paid two.

strain them.
ready for later.

© 2017, Sonja Benskin Mesher (Sonja Benskin Mesher, RCA and Sonja’s Drawings)

. magna carta .

is left behind with tiny writing. salisbury cathedral.

the back way. written in latin for those who matter.

those words and those words

an historian uttered sent me reeling outside.

where air is cleaner.

oh , by the way

left you both there too. were you trying to appease

the barons?

© 2017, Sonja Benskin Mesher (Sonja Benskin Mesher, RCA and Sonja’s Drawings )