To the Performers in Grozny: There But For the Grace of God Go You

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GroznyPerhaps because we live in the U.S., there has been relatively little chatter on the Intertubes about a suicide bomber a few days ago in Grozny, Chechnya. According to the Times story, the bomber “detonated explosives outside a theater as a crowd gathered for a performance.” I’ve spent a fair amount of effort this evening searching for information about the theater — there were approximately 800 people inside, apparently, and the performance, naturally, was cancelled. Who is covering the theater scene in Chechnya? Is there one? We know from this PBS story that the performance spaces were devastated and left in ruins as a result of the ethnic conflict between Chechnya and mother Russia, so it’s possible this performance and this theater are part of a cultural rebuilding.

Take a look at this photo, below. This was Grozny’s renowned circus:

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Grozny2Yes, it’s an extraordinary photo. And it raises some questions that American artists, it seems to me, should be interested in answering. What was the play or performance scheduled to be seen when the suicide bomber detonated? What has the acting life (or dancing life or the life of musicians) been in the grinding years since the ethnic conflict began? Where were the performers when the bomb went off? What went through their mind? What can we, far off in America, do to stand in artistic and professional solidarity with those who clearly work in much more dangerous and threatening situations.

Somehow, it seems to me, thatwhen these brave people go to work each day, if at all, they’d be justified taking a long breath and saying a prayer: “There but for the grace of God go we.”