I was exposed to yet another day of rarity in Tbilisi. First, we conducted day 2 of the 5-day workshop training therapists and psychiatrists in Georgi
a. Steven led an especially good Satir Anger Model piece, with support from me, Sasha, and Sophia. There are a little over 20 people in attendance, and the work is going very well. The Georgians and Ukrainians in attendance are very grateful for the work and eager to learn everything we can teach. With the recent events in Ukraine, and the fact that Georgia has spent a lot of time under Soviet occupation, there is a big theme of war and displacement that we have not yet scratched the surface of. Here is a picture of the statue outside the hotel where the workshop is held – it is St. George slaying the dragon.
In the evening we went to the Gabriadze Puppet Theater. It was an amazing performance. Yes, it is acted with marionettes. But you have to remove all your pre-conceived notions of marionettes, except for the strings, if you want to understand anything what it was like. The theater troupe travels around the globe doing performances, and it’s home theater is here in Tbilisi.
Rezo Gabriadze is the genius behind the show – he even designed the building, with a bizarre coo-coo clock tower the at noon and seven revolves the cycle of life (picture to the right). The performance we saw was Ramona. The story was absolutely ridiculous and wonderful. “Love is in pairs” launches the story of two train engines in love, that are separated. Ramona, the female engine, rescues a circus troupe that is trying to avoid being censored and imprisoned by the Soviet party. Both of the circus ringmasters fall in love with Ramona, and one of them saws his feet off in a magicians box to prove his love. She not only gets them to their next destination, but agrees to perform in the main tightrope attraction after the primary performer breaks her leg. There is a hilarious scene where the ringmaster gets a letter from his feet, and learns they have no interest in returning. While tightrope walking, Ramona is distracted by the white smoke of her engine-lover, Ermon, and falls and dies. The play ends with an old man telling Ermon “love is in pairs, and you and I are alone”. Ermon does not want to go on without her, and is dismantled by the puppeteer while an old black and white movie of a train plays in the background.
It was remarkable how this puppet production could be so ridiculous and remain so straight and true. It was no fair to see this performance when I’ve been away from my wife, Toni, for a week, for it captured the almighty importance of love and made me miss her terribly. It also showed me how a nation copes in a post-war era. It taught me Georgian humor. And it stretched my definition of creativity. Marvelous.
2 thoughts on “Meaningful Mature Puppet Theater in Tblisi”
Another delightful description, Josh.. I love the idea of two trains in love.. It made me see the image in my mind of the book ” the Little Engine that Could”.. It’s not hard for me to see life in polymorphous ways.. Maybe it’s from growing up with Walt Disney and Loony Tunes.. Dancing teacups and evil brooms set to the beautiful music of Fantasia..
But somehow I also felt the cultural ” Russianess” of the Puppet show.. Something strange and heavy in the fantasy. A deep desperation in the love story..when I think of these strong, cold Eastern European cultures I think of war and long years of living under the thumb of a very controlling government.. The fairy tales that come out of these cultures are about children that are lost or starving and tricked by their adult guardians.. A metaphor for the people andctheir ” parent” government?
At any rate, clearly I am inspired by your trip and experiences.. Do good work with those 20 people!
Yes, strange, heavy, deep desperation, love – all good words to use in reference to this play. We are continuing to do good work.