Pussy Riot
A&E

Preview: ‘Pussy Riot Theatre Presents: Revolution’ Comes to Rio Theatre

Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina on her theater project

One of Pussy Riot’s top hooligans brings her punk manifesto to the Rio in Santa Cruz as the music-theater-memoir ‘Revolution.’

In the Pussy Riot documentary A Punk Prayer, there’s a clip of Vladimir Putin railing against the utter disgrace that the band has brought on Russia. Why, just look at their name! It has the word “pussy” in it.

“These people made all of you say it out loud,” he intones creepily in Russian, sounding like he trained under the narrator for one of those old pot-panic flicks from the 1930s.

What’s funny is that he’s actually right. Pussy Riot did bring the word “pussy” to the people—when mainstream media outlets began reporting on the band in 2012, it was the first time it had been said on the evening news in reference to anything besides a cat.

Jump ahead four years, to news images of millions of women in bright pink pussy hats, marching on Washington D.C. and in cities around the world. It’s not hard to connect the dots—even the hats themselves resemble the bright pink knitted balaclavas that became so associated with the band that they were sold to raise money for their defense after two members were sentenced to two years in jail by a Russian court for “hooliganism” in August of 2012.

The balaclavas and the pussy hats will meet this week in Santa Cruz, as I hear fans are planning to wear both to the show at the Rio on Saturday, March 11, where Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina will bring music and her personal story for Pussy Riot Theatre Presents: Revolution. Alyokhina became one of the most visible members of Pussy Riot—which is a loose collective of a dozen or so women who began playing explosive punk songs like “Kill the Sexist!” in disguise at short impromptu concerts—when she served prison time, along with bandmate Nadia Tolokonnikova, on the “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” charges which stemmed from a Pussy Riot performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. They were released in 2014 under an amnesty bill passed by the Russian legislature.

Revolution is a music-and-theater piece based on Alyokhina’s memoirs as published in Pussy Riot! A Punk Prayer for Freedom. It would seem like a fine time to consider the impact Pussy Riot has had on protest culture, especially in light of the worldwide pink-hatted marches, but when I reach her by phone from Moscow, she laughs when I assert that there could not have been a pussy hat without Pussy Riot.

“Well, of course for me that was a dream that became real,” she says of the Women’s Marches. “It’s not only about me, all of us were very excited.”

Her only disappointment was that there were no such marches in Russia. “I think we will someday have this march as well,” she says. While that activist structure may not yet exist in Russia in the same way, I tell her that the anti-Trump marches remind me of the widespread Russian protests when Putin was returned to power in 2012.

“Yeah, the situation was very similar,” she says. “The protests which we had in the beginning of 2012 were really incredible and huge. We started Pussy Riot when [then-president Dmitry] Medvedev and Putin decided to change places. The show we are bringing starts at that moment.”

The parallels run deeper than just the marches, says Alyokhina. She knows all-too-well what it’s like to try to stand up to a cult-of-personality petty tyrant in a time of shrinking civil rights.

“The story is not about 2012. The situation in the United States looks really, really similar compared to our situation. What we’re going to say is that this is a story about now. We really want people to wake up and to do as much as they can,” she says.

Pussy Riot’s extreme style and music drew an equally extreme reaction, especially in Russia, leading many to assume it was orchestrated purely for shock value. But Alyokhina doesn’t agree. To her and her bandmates, she says, it was an organic process of expressing themselves.

“I don’t know how it looked from outside, but it was just a feeling of life, of freedom,” she says.

The band members were influenced by American riot grrrl bands like Bikini Kill, not only in their brutal sound and feminist lyrics, but also in their bright-colored, art-directed look and theatrical performances. In many ways, Revolution seems like a next logical step for Alyokhina; her collaborators on this project include Belarus Free Theatre’s Kiryl Kanstantsinau, experimental Russian “junk-punk” band Asian Women on the Telephone (AWOTT), director Yury Muravitsky and more.

“It’s a punk manifesto. It’s a mix of music and words and theater,” she says. “I’m a friend of experiment. I don’t want to be stuck in one form of art. Theater for me is a new form, which I really like. I hope everybody will like it, too. We should speak in all languages we have: Music, videos, theater, street protests, everything. We can just try to do and act.”


Pussy Riot Theatre will perform ‘Revolution’ at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 11 at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz. Tickets are $26.50, $40 gold circle, available at Streetlight Records and at pulseproductions.net.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Are you an earthling? Prove it with logic: *

To Top