Amber Robinson is bringing back “New Drama” to Chicago

TUTA Theatre Chicago has announced three additional weeks of performances of its hit U.S. premiere of RADIO CULTURE. Following a brief hiatus, RADIO CULTURE will return January 11 – 27, 2019 to TUTA Theatre, where it has enjoyed sell-out performances since opening on October 17, 2018. This intimate depiction of one day in the life of a young Belorussian is written by Maxim Dosko and directed by Amber Robinson.

Russian Chicago caught up with Amber and asked her about the journey with RADIO CULTURE thus far.

How did you first hear about the play?

I’ve been interested in the Belarus Free Theatre (BFT) since I saw them perform at Chicago Shakespeare in 2016. Their work, and their existence, is heroic. Later that year I stumbled upon a collection of plays that the BFT published from their 2014 International Contest of Contemporary Drama. RADIO CULTURE was in that collection. It was fate!

What sparked your interest that you decided to bring it to life on Chicagoan stage?

When I first read the play, I felt moved, but couldn’t at first say what exactly I was responding to. That usually indicates that something complex and new is happening under the surface, and it requires me as an artist to put myself outside the boundaries of what I already know. It was an exciting challenge to explore.

I’ve come to believe the play looks deeply at the kind of cultures we exist in. It’s a question of freedom. If your life exists inside a culture of conformity, of repression, you survive by stifling your expression of self. You survive, but you can’t really live that way. Our protagonist discovers, by accident, some strange radio channel that makes him feel alive. But it’s also killing him, because it means he’s different in a culture that doesn’t tolerate difference. I deeply hope he’ll find his way someday, in the end. I hope we all will.

Have you heard about Maxim Dosko before?

I had not heard of Maxim before, no. Chicago’s theatre community is vibrant, willing to take risks and explore, and yet there can also be an isolation here, a disconnection from the global tapestry of the art form. It may be simple geography – being in the center of the continent with so much separating us from theatre outside America. The fact that I had no knowledge of Maxim or of the Belarus Free Theatre till just a few years ago makes me feel even more strongly about the importance of producing this here. It’s important to bring this “New Drama” to Chicago, to make it part of our dramaturgical diet.   

Have you ever been in touch with Maxim about the play?

Yes, the lead actor and I were able to speak with Maxim via skype (through a translator). Unfortunately our direct communication is somewhat limited by the language barrier, but I felt that when we all spoke we were able to establish a level of trust, that we would treat his work with real care and sincerity.

I don’t think Maxim were able to be in Chicago for the premiere, but, if there were an opportunity, would you be interested for him to see the play (over Skype, perhaps) and provide you with some feedback?

You’re correct, Maxim was not able to join us in Chicago for the premiere. I’m afraid it would be difficult for us to set up a live-feed during a run, because the design is very immersive, so the audience would all be aware of the screen.

We’re working on finding a time to film the production though, so that one way or another we can share the results with Maxim.

Reservations to RADIO CULTURE can be made here. Seating is extremely limited and reservations are highly recommended.

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