Poets, Playwrights, and Musicians Grace PEN World Voices Festival

April 28, 2011 Updated: April 28, 2011

NEW YORK—The second day of the PEN World Voices Festival in New York included writers from an array of genres, and one virtuoso pianist.

"Solidarity with the Hungarian Theatre" and a mini-piano-concert-poetry reading were among the five events scheduled on Tuesday.

The discussion on the state of Hungarian theater and the performing arts industry at large featured Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó and Romanian-born Hungarian philosopher and essayist, G.M. Tamas. During the discussion, Mundruczó repeatedly stated that the funding for the Hungarian filmmaking industry, which used to be largely state-subsidized, has dried up.

"The funding [for arts] was broken not because of government, but because it was corrupt," said Mundruczó, who was speaking within the context of recent massive sweeping political changes in Hungary. The country signed a new constitution yesterday.

G.M. Tamas, who is known for his provocative positions on sensitive issues, added that on top of the new constitution, there is a controlling media law document that is over 200 pages long. He said it controls multiple aspects related to freedom of speech, from the dramatic arts to the media. Tamas warned that beyond that, there are also problems with the new constitution.

"There is an odd combination of fanfare, only the real substance of the constitution is unknown," stated Tamas, who added that the outside world needs to "commiserate" with Hungary and show "solidarity."

At another event in the evening Russian poets Igor Belov and Ksenia Shcherbino were joined by pianist Svetlana Smolina. Smolina performed selections from Russian composers—including some favorites from Rachmaninoff—in between poetry readings in Russian by Belov and Shcherbino.

Belov, who says his poetry is often labeled "jazz poetry," also said Russia is not exactly a bastion of free speech.

"Now, so-called extremism is an offense that comes with legal punishment," said Belov after sarcastically noting that Russian writers can say whatever they want because their political leaders never read.

The PEN World Voices Festival will continue through May 1. For more information visit www.pen.org .