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Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kline Aid Besieged Belorussian Theater

Guest Readers
Stephen Spinella, Mandy Patinkin, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Kevin Kline, Linda Emond, Lily Rabe, Josh Hamilton, and Olympia Dukakis with the cast of the Belarus Free Theatre on Jan. 17, 2011 at the Public Theater in New York. The American performers read letters written by political prisoners in Belarus during a benefit performance of "Being Harold Pinter." Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kevin Kline, Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson convened yesterday in Manhattan for an evening of political theater as they read letters from imprisoned Belorussians.

The benefit at New York’s Public Theater was part of its acclaimed show “Being Harold Pinter,” which wrapped up a run at the Under the Radar Festival.

Amid protests in December in Minsk following a disputed presidential election, some members of the troupe were jailed and others went into hiding. They arrived in New York just in time for the run.

“Today we can’t move back, we’d get arrested,” said Nikolai Khalezin, co-founder of the company, at a reception featuring Polish dumplings and lemon poppy-seed cake.

Playwright Tony Kushner, who co-hosted the benefit, said the celebrity readers struck “exactly the right tone.”

“I was moved to tears the moment they changed hands with the theater troupe,” he said.

The gala raised $25,000 for Belarus Free Theatre.

Dzianis Tarasenka, an actor in the troupe, said that he enjoys the abundance of bodegas in New York and their soup offerings.

“It’s also great to be able to walk around without police watching us all the time,” he said.

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