Svetlana and Nadezhda

The Belarus Free Theatre and the Art of Resistance

A collaboration between a National Book Award–winning journalist and a prize-winning photographer on the queer-resistance theater troupe

“No matter what the laws of physics decree, there is untold and explosive energy in resistance. Or such is the evidence of the Belarus Free Theatre’s bruising exploration of the dynamics of resistance.” —The New York Times on Burning Doors

In the fall of 2017, the internationally acclaimed underground theater troupe Belarus Free Theatre took New York by storm for a production of their harrowing anti-torture, anti-Putin play Burning Doors. Joined by Maria Alyokhina, a member of Russian punk group Pussy Riot, the play met with enthusiastic acclaim from critics, with New York magazine praising it as a “smart, smoldering, physically brutal piece of the theater.”

In Svetlana and Nadezhda, award-winning documentary photographer Misha Friedman and New Yorker reporter Masha Gessen take us backstage, giving us an intimate look at this fiercely creative drama troupe that cannot officially perform in its homeland, which remains a dictatorship in all but name.

Svetlana and Nadezhda is not only an astonishing series of photos documenting the theater troupe’s recent production in New York, for Gessen and Friedman also visit Minsk to meet Svetlana Sugako and Nadezhda Brodskaya, the young lesbian couple who keep the place running. This book is a moving examination of what it is like to create art under a repressive government and a meditation on how queerness will always be a threat to autocracy.

Svetlana and Nadezhda was designed by Emerson, Wajdowicz Studios (EWS).