March 19, 2023

20 Years for Rehearsing a Play?


20 Years for Rehearsing a Play?
Grigory Beresnev. Screenshot from Olga Savina-Zulaeva's short doc film, "Grigory Beresnev's Process." Youtube Screen Capture

Grigory Beresnev, 29, faces up to 20 years in prison for rehearsing a play.

A local actor and a teacher and directory at the Children's Theater in Tolyatti, Beresnev was taken by British playwright Rebecca Prichard's pathbreaking, award-winning 1998 play, Yard Girl, which takes a hard, in-your-face look at the reality of violence against young women and how little attention society pays to this.

After cutting from the play its strong language and references to the characters' sexual experiences, Beresnev began working with students to stage the play. Later, when those students' parents asked their kids what play they were staging, and then they looked it up, they were shocked – because they looked at the unedited play.

The upshot is that nine charges were filed against Beresnev for "knowing that the work was material of a pornographic character, he, with the assistance of underage minors, undertook actions that acquainted his students with the work. He also undertook the distribution, demonstration, and advertisement of material of a pornographic nature depicting minors."

Further, according to investigators, he “did all this with a sexual motive because of his attraction or causing excitement in minors.”

But here's the rub (or several of them).

An adaptation of Prichard's play ("Разбивая стекло") has been staged in Russia since 2000, including in Tolyatti.

The so-called expert called in to provide evidence that let to Beresnev's charges is nothing of the sort. His method of determining "pornographic content" amounts, apparently, to simply counting up the number of words in a work, and seeing what percent those words comprise of the entire work.

Beresnev is currently under house arrest, awaiting the first hearing in his trial, which will take place March 27, which also happens to be International Day of Theater. There has been support for Beresnov raised internationally, including statements from Prichard and the Western theatrical community. Playwright and linguist Olga Savina-Zulayeva has also started a Telegram channel in support of Beresnev, and has created a short documentary film about his case (embedded below).

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