Belyakova ’19 remembered for humor, talent

Kristina Belyakova 19’ passed away over summer, remembered by friends, faculty

Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Friends and faculty close to Kristina Belyakova ’19 remember them as a quietly humorous, intensely passionate and contradictory individual who avidly participated in theater productions around Brown and performed in a band.

Belyakova passed away unexpectedly in the middle of August 2017, just weeks before the start of their junior year, according to an email sent out by Dean of the College Maud Mandel and Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services Eric Estes.

Kristina grew up in Moscow and attended high school at Wycombe Abbey in England. At Brown, Belyakova acted in at least half a dozen plays, including many produced by the Shakespeare on the Green.

Noelle Austin ’18, who acted with Belyakova in several productions, praised their acting skills. On stage, “they could command the entire room by just standing still,” she said.

Austin also talked about Belyakova’s incredible character, especially when combined with their acting abilities. “It’s rare to me that you meet a person with that level of talent and also that depth of character and general selflessness,” she said.

“They were profoundly not afraid to put people first,” Austin said about Belyakova.

“It was truly exceptional that they were a dancer and an actor, but in general, they were — as a person — an artist,” she said.

Multiple friends of Belyakova interviewed by The Herald also mentioned their contradictory nature as especially striking.

For example, Austin recounted a production that she and Belyakova acted in together, in which Belyakova’s face was featured on the posters that were spread around campus. At first, “they were horrified and absolutely disgusted” at the idea that they were the one featured, said Austin.

However, after “I watched them look down at the box filled with posters of them, and sort of roll their eyes, pick one up, take it and leave.”

In another example, Austin described Belyakova as an “exceptional artist who hated art.”

Austin also remembered Belyakova as “extraordinarily stubborn,” but “stubborn usually on behalf of being good to other people,” she said.

Grant MacFaddin ’19, who worked on at least six Shakespeare on the Green shows with Belyakova, remembered their humor, which he described as “playful,” “darkly humorous” and “dry.”

Belyakova concentrated in Theatre Arts and Performance Studies and Classics.

William Monroe, a senior scholarly resources librarian and Belyakova’s first- and second-year adviser, described them as “just a delightful person,” who was “extremely intelligent, extremely talented, with such a wide range of interests,” he said.

As an example, Monroe listed the diverse set of subjects that Belyakova studied in their first semester: linear algebra, physics, Byzantine history and Japanese.

“I’ve never had an advisee before who was interested in so many things,” he said.

They were a “very smart, talented person who would have been very successful at anything they decided to do,” Monroe said. “It’s such a loss.”

One of Belyakova’s favorite and most impactful course in their time at Brown was an upper-level classics course in the spring of 2016 entitled “The Culture of Death in Ancient Rome,” said their friends. The course explored “the way that death and dying were perceived and managed in ancient Roman culture,” according to the course website, and was centered around small discussions since only Belyakova and one other student enrolled, said John Bodel, the professor who taught the course.

The course culminated with a final paper, in which Belyakova explored the use of satire in Roman death customs.

Bodel praised their work, saying even “without fully understanding the cultural context of the satire — because Kristina was not yet a fully formed classicist — they had put their finger on a very perceptive understanding.”

“The result was a very fine piece of writing and something that reflected, in a very profound way, on, unfortunately, a topic that was all too relevant: What is the reaction of the society to death of a member?” he said.

They were a “sheer force of nature,” finished Austin. “I’ve never met anyone like Kristina, and I don’t think I ever will again.”