Open Telegram and keep up with the news. Rate this year in terms of its nineteenthirtysevenness. Take a look at it, at its wooden hands, At its iron cheeks, splotched with new partings. This is a theater being demolished, a theater in which there is neither audience nor actors. This is a theater being demolished, a theater in which there are only fishes and corpses. Take a look at it and set aside your New Year's fun. Rate the extent of this city's Stalingraditude. Wave to the harlequins, dragons, and princesses, And look at it, monitor the process without blinking. Hang on to it: it will be both lamentation and reward. Preserve its shadow if you like. On second thought, forget it.
Source: “A work by theater director Zhenya Berkovich about the Mariupol Drama Theater, which was first bombed with people inside, and now is being demolished by the occupiers,” Salidarnast, 23 December 2022. Thanks to Imaginary Island for the suggestion. The images, above, were part of the original article. Translated by the Russian Reader
Many have nearly forgotten the criminal case against the theater director Kirill Serebrennikov and his colleagues, who were tried several years ago. That affair was dubbed the Theater Case. Apparently, there will be another Theater Case in Russia: director Zhenya Berkovich (a former student of Serebrennikov’s, by the way) and playwright Svetlana Petriichuk have been detained in Moscow.
The criminal investigation is centered on the theatrical production Finist the Brave Falcon, which premiered in 2020. The play was staged as part of the theater project SOSO Daughters, which is run by Berkovich. It is based on the criminal trials of [Russian] women who married radical Islamists. They came to know the men online and, having never met them in person, went to live with them in Syria.
The Investigative Committee claims that the production “publicly justified terrorism,” which is a criminal offense per Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code and punishable by up to seven years in prison. The details of the case are still unknown. Berkovich and Petriichuk spent the entire day undergoing interrogation as witnesses in the case, and it had seemed that they might be released, but as of evening both were still in police custody.
Last year, Finist the Brave Falcon won two Golden Mask Awards—for best playwright and for best costumes. Costume designer Ksenia Sorokina handed over her award to Petersburg artist Sasha Skochilenko, who has been in jail since April 2022, charged with disseminating “fake news” about the Russian army. (Skochilenko is alleged to have replace price tags in a grocery store with information about the war.)
Zhenya Berkovich has also not made a secret of her anti-war views, including in her poetry. A collection of her poems was published in Israel earlier this month.
“Open Telegram and keep up with the news. / Rate this year in terms of its nineteen-thirty-seven-ness,” one of them begins.
According to Berkovich, her grandmother, the 88-year-old writer Nina Katerli, was worried about her granddaughter, even going so far as to tell her, “Zhenya, be quiet for a while.” Actually, the director explained that she had decided to stay in Russia, no matter what, because she had to take care of her sick grandmother.
“It is to a large extent a necessity, due to all sorts of family obligations,” Berkovich said in December. “If it were now a question of going to prison or taking care of my grandmother, then of course I would leave, because I wouldn’t be able to take care of my grandmother from prison. But right now this is not the choice I’m facing.”
This morning, the security forces searched Berkovich’s grandmother’s apartment. Berkovich and Petriichuk will spend the night at a temporary detention facility, and tomorrow a court will decide whether to remand them in custody or subject them to other restrictions.
Source: I Don’t Get It email newsletter (Mediazona), 4 May 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader