Pussy Riot Launches Crowdfunding Campaign for Russian Prison Life "Experience" in London

Courtesy of Pussy Riot
Nadya Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot

The Russian punk group aims to raise $80,000 for an "immersive theater experience" in November.

Pussy Riot is teaming up with London theater company Les Enfants Terribles to stage an immersive "experience" of Russian prison life at a top London gallery in November as part of a number of events marking the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

The performance (at a venue to be announced later) will allow audiences to experience what Pussy Riot members went through when they were arrested for performing an anti-Vladimir Putin protest song in a Moscow Cathedral and sent to Russia's brutal prison colonies — which are little changed from the days of the Soviet Gulag — for two years.

The political punk group is launching a four-week Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign Monday that targets to raise 60,000 pounds ($78,000) to help fund the project. Two of its members — Nadya Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina — were imprisoned in August 2012 for their part in the anti-Putin "punk prayer."

As a "closed" funding call, money raised will be returned to funders if the target amount is not reached, meaning Pussy Riot would then need to turn to other sources to fund the project, Tolokonnikova said. The Kickstarter campaign runs through Aug. 18 with an early bird donation of 25 pounds ($32) the maiden bid on the site as it went live Monday morning.

The proposed project, which band members described as an "immersive theater project," is also designed to raise awareness of the plight of Russia's prison population.

Tolokonnikova would take part in a selection of the six-week run of shows, including the opening.

"This wild, immersive theatrical experience will allow the audience to become a participant, experiencing exactly what Pussy Riot went through during our imprisonment," Tolokonnikova says in an introduction to a Kickstarter video promoting the fundraising campaign. 

The play will re-create the original "punk prayer" performance, the court trial and prison cells, she adds. "We're going to re-create Russian courtrooms, a real Russian labor colony, solitary confinement cells, priests who shout about banning abortions and many more absurd, but real-life things that exist in Russia today. The audience will actually get a chance to relive each of these experiences themselves in London. Hopefully, this is a journey that you'll only have to make once in your life."

The money raised by the Kickstarter campaign will help fund the costs of staging the six-week run of the production, including set design, employing actors and staff, Tolokonnikova says.

The campaign has a range of perks to encourage donations, including Pussy Riot T-shirts for those donating more than 100 pounds ($130), signed prints for donors of 250 pounds ($330) and a personally guided "Kremlin Stooge" tour of "Alternative Moscow" hosted by Tolonnikova for those who give at least 8,000 pounds ($10,500). Other perks come with titles such as "Riot 101," "Down With the Patriarchy," "Straight Outta Vagina," "Kill the Sexist!" and "Punk Prayer."

"Vladimir Putin is afraid of powerful women who are not afraid to speak up," Tolokonnikova told The Hollywood Reporter. "We were immediately arrested and unfairly sentenced to two years imprisonment in a labor colony. This [show] is my chance to show you what it was like to be a victim of the Russian justice system: intolerable living conditions, violence by guards, solitary confinement and lack of legal or medical assistance."

Check out the video from the Kickstarter "Inside Pussy Riot" fundraising campaign below.

 

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