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About This Issue

Ukrainian Drama and Theatre


This issue of Dispatches: Ukrainian Drama and Theater is the first I am putting together for Philip Arnoult and CITD. This space will differ from other Dispatches that CITD has hosted previously in that it will be something of my own personal diary of events taking place in the Worldwide Ukrainian Play Readings, a project that I have curated almost from the first days of the current war in Ukraine. CITD and its Ukrainian Hope Initiative have been a major part of this project, as you
will see when you read the initial entries in this series.

My point of view will be that of a participant and collaborator in many of the events I will write about. On occasion I will be a witness or even just a conduit, aiding other witnesses to tell their stories about their work with Ukrainian writers and texts. In all cases, however, I will attempt to bring information and insight to the incredible story of Ukrainian theater artists not only surviving in the time of a brutal war, but actually thriving, growing and effecting innovation in their field.

In the 18 months since Russia invaded Ukraine, the  Worldwide Ukrainian Play Readings, and CITD's Ukrainian Hope Initiative have combined to raise approximately $500,000 for Ukrainian charities. The writers working with us have given their permission to let their works be mounted in
one-off staged readings for free as long as fund-raising is an element of each event. The works of Natalka Vorozhbyt alone have accounted for over $60,000 in donations. Here are the project's basic statistics as of the end of August, 2023:

  1.   400 "events" (readings, installations, videos, movies, concerts, etc);

  2.   Some writers performed 90 times or more - Olena     Astasieva, Andriy Bondarenko;

  3.   30 participating countries, more to come;

  4.   20 languages, more to come;

  5.   Offering the works of 54 Ukrainian writers;

  6.   157 titles on offer, many more on the way;
  7.   A total of 300 texts, including translations, available on our database...

We would love you to join us in any way that you can, in any was that makes sense for you. Either by donating to CITD to support the work it does, and/or by organizing a reading or series of readings at a theater or university or college or community center near you. Our support for Ukraine will not waver. Your support will help us keep the work moving forward.

Rob Melrose & Paige Rogers

Our Reporter

John Freedman is an American writer and translator who lived in Russia from 1988 to 2018 when he relocated to the island of Crete in Greece. He was the theater critic and editor at The Moscow Times, an English-language daily newspaper, from 1992 to 2015, and the Supervisor of English at the Stanislavsky Electrotheater in Moscow from 2015 to 2022. He has worked closely with Philip Arnoult and CITD on numerous projects since the year 2000. Among them, he was the Russian director of CITD's New Russian Drama: Translation / Production / Conference (2007-2010) at Towson University, and  the director of New American Plays for Russia (2010-2015), a project bringing cutting edge American drama to Russia with the support of CITD and the U.S. embassy in Moscow under the auspices of the Bilateral Presidential Commission. He founded and curated the Insulted. Belarus Worldwide Readings (2020-present) and the Worldwide Ukrainian Play Readings (2022 to present) which, combined, have organized over 650 readings of contemporary Belarusian and Ukrainian texts in over 30 countries. The Ukrainian Play Readings have been organized in close collaboration with CITD and the Ukrainian Hope Initiative.

John has written three plays, one of which, “Dancing, Not Dead,” won The Internationalists' Global Playwright Contest in 2011, and another, “Five Funny Tales from the Heart of Buenos Aires,” which has been performed over 100 times in the U.S. and U.K. He has translated over 100 plays that have been performed in England, the U.S., Canada, Australia, South Africa, Hong Kong, Nigeria, Germany, Russia and Ukraine. He has written and/or edited 12 books on Ukrainian, Belarusian and Russian themes, the most recent of which, A Dictionary of Emotions in a Time of War: Plays by 20 Ukrainian Writers, was published in English by Laertes Press in the US in January 2023.

John Freedman

The Trust for Mutual Understanding

The Trust for Mutual Understanding, a long-time supporter of CITD, is a unique and important player in Russia and Eastern Europe.  Set up as a trust by a single anonymous donor in 1984, the focus was “to support direct person-to-person contact between American and Soviet professionals working in the field of art and environment.”  A second gift was made in 1991, continuing the dual focus of art and environment, and opening up to Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe; the Baltic States; Central Asia; Mongolia; and Russia. They are now celebrating their 30th year continuing this essential work. 





Published by
Philip Arnoult, founder & director

October 2023



 Roland Kelemen & Brandice Thompson

Our Thanks

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