Startling ‘Burning Doors’ by Belarus Free Theatre comes to Seattle’s On the Boards

In “Burning Doors” at On the Boards, Belarus Free Theatre stages harrowing and sometimes improbably funny parables about making art despite real-life political repression.

To say the artists had to “sneak” out of Belarus to perform in Seattle this weekend would be a slight overstatement — but the travel arrangements were delicate and potentially risky, to them and their families.

Natalia Kaliada, co-founding artistic director of Belarus Free Theatre, requested that The Seattle Times not share details about the company’s itinerary. Kaliada co-directed “Burning Doors,” an intense, impressionistic rendering of three real-life stories of artists living under political repression, which the group is currently performing at On The Boards.

Getting Belarus Free Theatre into the United States is not, she explained, the kind of situation where you can seat a dozen theater artists on a plane at once. “We can’t show to the authorities that this company is leaving,” she said, “because we are called ‘unstable elements,’ so we do it in a way that is not possible to track us down.” Both Kaliada and the C.I.A. describe Belarus, run by President Aleksandr Lukashenko for over two decades, as a “dictatorship.”

Theater review

Belarus Free Theatre: ‘Burning Doors’

Through Oct. 1, On the Boards, 100 W. Roy St., Seattle; $15-$30 (206-217-9886 or

Every performer in “Burning Doors,” Kaliada said, has been arrested (and some tortured) for political and artistic activity. “I was arrested only four times,” she added in a flatly factual, neither-martyr-nor-hero tone. Once, she said, she was forced to stand against a jail wall for 24 hours: no moving, no sitting, no using a bathroom, no food, no water. “Since that time, whenever I see water, I take some water.”

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Others suffered worse. She said her husband and co-artistic…

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