(Palko Karasz’s article appeared in The New York Times, 12/13; via Pam Green.)

With new rules on funding, the government has taken a further step in controlling arts in the country, prompting an outcry in Budapest.

BUDAPEST — The applause was still going strong after an evening performance at Jozsef Katona Theater in Budapest this week when one of the actors, his shirt and face covered in stage blood, turned to the audience with a request. He asked the theatergoers to gather and pose for a photograph with the cast, hands held up in protest.

The demonstration was an act of defiance against moves by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government to tighten its control over the performing arts by changing the way theaters receive state funding, a significant source of income.

Although the measures, enacted by Parliament on Wednesday, did not hand as much direct control to the government as documents leaked to the news media last week had suggested, the move sent a chill through the Hungarian arts scene. Shows of discontent similar to that at the Katona Theater took place in other playhouses around Budapest, the capital.

“When we defend the freedom of theaters today, we defend the city’s freedom,” Budapest’s mayor, Gergely Karacsony, an environmentalist who is backed by an opposition alliance, said on Monday at a rally against the law.

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Photo Credit: Bea Szokodi

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