‘Propaganda: A Festival Celebrating Russian Voices’ Targets Anti-Gay Laws with Culture In NYC


Propaganda: A Festival Celebrating Russian Voices hopes to put pressure on that nation's anti-gay propaganda laws by hearing from leaders in various fields about the impact they have had. In particular, the festival's website notes that the series of staged readings and panel discussions, which will take place January 18th and 19th at Cooper Union in New York City, will focus on sports, performance, and Olympic and LGBT history in relation to the propaganda laws. With the 2014 Olympics in Sochi quickly approaching, these sorts of discussions are all the more important, particularly if the events of Propaganda can gain a large, engaged audience.

GessenThe festival has an intriguing and exciting line-up, detailed on its website:

On January 18th at 3pm in Cooper Union’s Rose Auditorium, Propaganda: A Festival Celebrating Russian Voices will feature the first ever presentation of Daria Wilke’s acclaimed 2013 LGBT Young Adult Novel The Jester’s Cap, in a new theatrical adaptation. On January 18th at 7pm, the first English translation of celebrated playwright Oleg Mikhailov’s drama Pelmeny, as well as a reading of Vladimir Nabakov’s seminal work on sport, Breitenstrater-Paolino, will be presentedBoth readings will be followed by panel discussions.

On January 19th at 5pm in Cooper Union’s Great HallTess Berry-Hart’s acclaimed docu-drama SOCHI 2014 will be presented for the first time in the US, and read simultaneously in cities around the globe. Following the reading, at 6:30pm, Masha Gessen (pictured), journalist and NY Times International Opinion contributor, will make her first public appearance since expatriating from Russia, speaking in a panel discussion (moderated by Towleroad's Ari Ezra Waldman). The online theater journal HowlRound will air a live stream of this panel on HowlRound TV, as well as publish a series of articles by and about Propaganda’s artists and participants in the week leading up to the festival.

All proceeds from Propaganda will benefit the Spectrum Human Rights Alliance. Spectrum is a leading international organization devoted to human rights advancement on behalf of people who experience discrimination or abuse on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression in Eastern Europe, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and former Soviet Union Countries.

Individual readings/panels have ticket prices of $20, an All-Access Pass can be purchased for $50, and varying levels of increased support/recognition are also available for higher prices.


  1. says

    I hope someone corrects the spelling of Nabokov’s name!

    (and personally, I wish he wasn’t included in a festival against the anti-gay laws: Nabokov’s father was against anti-gay laws, and Nabokov’s brother and 2 uncles were gay, but he himself was always a homophobe)

  2. WaltNYC says

    I’m not sure why Masha Gessen is being allowed to whine about Russia’s anti-gay propaganda laws. Traitors like her, who claim that gay marriage is a lie and gays are out to destroy the institution of marriage only add more fuel to the already raging inferno of anti-gay sentiment. Her words have been relentlessly quoted by right-wingers as proof that the LGBT community has an evil agenda.

  3. David says

    @WaltNYC It’s the same with many many lgbt people (including even on this site) that seem to want to wage a war with Christianity and bash it at every turn. They are only hurting our cause and hurting other lgbt people, I will never understand it.

  4. Victor says


    She did not claim that “gay marriage is a lie.” She was talking about lgbt (among others) lying and pretending that marriage has not changed. Her point is it has. She gave as an example her own family, where one kid was adopted from an orphanage, the second one was her biological child with her first wife, and the third one was born to the woman she is currently with (I can’t recall her exact words), but whose bio-father is Gessen’s brother. Meanwhile, all of the adults get along fine, so why shouldn’t she want the law to reflect in some way that reality. This was said in Australia at a book festival.

    If Russian newspapers wanted to publish something ridiculous, they will find how to paraphrase to make it sound ridiculous. So, whatever Gessen said, she is no traitor. Because if they are not quoting Gessen in Russian, they’ll find some American LGBT activist or ally to translate. And when Gessen was on TV, where she was asked about it, she clearly explained the situation with her kids and what she wanted to say.

    If you don’t want Russian papers to misquote or misparaphrase, you’ll have to keep quiet all the time. But even then, I wouldn’t bet they wouldn’t figure out how to twist your silence in some way.

  5. says

    Yes, Victor is right that the content makes Masha’s quotation very nuanced. Unfortunately that context is never given by the wingnuts on the right who quote only the sound bite.

    But Victor, it’s quoted in English and all over the world, not much by Russians, who are far from discussing the topic of marriage equality. No point talking about that when you’re considering reviving the ban on gay sex!