All the World's Stage


The state of Georgian theatre is not as grave as might be suggested by the lackluster extent to which the Georgian Dramatic Society marked the Day of Georgian Theatre on 14 January. Events of this type are attended by people that have connections with theatre and their only compensation they receive for the anger they feel at thousands of lari from the budget having been spent on boring events is meeting one another at such events. For several years now we have been witnessing the decreasing involvement of the Georgian Dramatic Society (Ilia Chavchavadze was its first chairman, but it is now chaired by the actor-turned-parliamentarian Gogi Kavtaradze!) in the development of theatrical processes. The Dramatic Society generally reminds us of its existence by organizing evenings with this or that actor or hosting commemorative gatherings. Instead of active involvement, we often hear the names of its chair and several other members who have exchanged their theatrical life for a career in parliament. It is exactly about this theatrical reality that I want to say a few words.

Modern professional stage performances in Georgia are way inferior to the "performances" staged in real life, especially in terms of their topicality and degree of convincingness. One can recall numerous such examples whose storyline takes such an unexpected turn that any playwright would be envious. Politicians or religious servants find themselves in such comic situations that they are instantly perceived as personages and the interest of the (TV) audience towards their behavior naturally increases. This happens at the same time as modern theatre is lamenting its decreasing audience size.

The diversity of the genres in those "plays" performed in real life is also way broader than those performed on the real stage. Have you ever seen a play in any theatre that along with being grotesque is, at the same time, tragic-farce-phantasmagoric?! One no longer needs to shut their eyes to imagine as the most unimaginable things are taking place in reality. In such a situation, how can stage theatre compete with the reality that has turned into one huge, endless performance?!

What play staged in a modern Georgian theatre can show the level of Georgian society's (under)development with such expressiveness and grotesque as, for example, the use of social networks in which Georgians do not shun from displaying photos captioned the likes of "In Sameba Cathedral, with Father Davit," or "In Samtavro Monastery, with Father Gabriel," in which those Fathers are "tagged" in the photos.
The most comic episodes from reality are those associated with the distorted religiosity of society. Examples of that are the case of the singer who had the walnuts for the traditional New Years' dish, gozinaki, blessed; or those signs displayed outside catering facilities offering, apparently paradoxically, "fasting Shawarma" or "fasting Khachapuri," so on and so forth.
Judging by the level of "involvement" of society and the degree of interest towards the development of the storyline, the most popular of the stories performed in real life was the "vision of Nun Paraskeva," a performance distinguished for its interactive nature because thousands of Georgians participated in it. According to the revelation, the nun visualized Priest Gabriel who told her that he would fulfill two wishes for every person who visited his grave or the monastery named after him before Christmas. Nun Paraskeva later denied having the vision, but this denial came too late – both locations were inundated by hordes of people...
Until we have such a theatre that will not shy away from the most painful and topical issues, and one that is capable of attracting our interest with its diversity of genres and forms, with the expressiveness of narration, the power of persuasion, and the masterly performance of actors, audiences will continue to give preference to those performances played out in real life. The reality created by contemporary Georgian society is so paradoxical – or to be more precise, phantasmagorical – that, by using social networks or the mass media, it easily competes with theatre, which with its material and technical base, spectacular methods and creative skills is often out of step with the time we live in.
If life is a dream, then reality turns out to be a never-ending performance. Whether this performance has a larger audience in a theatre than in parliament or a monastery also depends on the artists involved.


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