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Georgia on my mind – Tbilisi, 2006 – #2

October 16, 2016

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Tbilisi, Georgia – October 15, 2006, 1:37 AM

Someone just woke me up.  Probably another festival artist arriving. These crazy airline flights all arrive in the middle of the night!  I could hear the electronic lock spinning around and around until it arrived in the right position.  Then they took a shower. I could hear the water running.  As I tried to fall back to sleep, a number of things came to mind which I forgot to mention in my previous email.

Today the festival opens.  There’s a press conference at noon which I am expected to be a part of.  The newspapers will ask me questions about American politics, I’ve been told, and I will talk about the unity between our countries through the arts, the importance of freedom of expression, and I’ll say that as an artist I’m not political.

Paco Pena and his dance company will open the festival at the opera house tomorrow night (tonight), which I’m very excited about.  I LOVE flamenco.  Keti and Nina said he’s now the foremost flamenco guitarist in the world, and his dance company is the best.

On Tuesday, I will perform Lilia! in the same theatre where I saw (the first two acts of) The Cherry Orchard last night.  It’s a beautiful theatre with a couple of huge lobbies with art exhibits.  Beautiful art work.  I’m told this theatre, “M. Tumanishvili Film Actor’s Theatre” is the third most famous in Tbilisi.  It’s really lovely with red velvet seats.  It doesn’t have typical theatre style seats.  But very wide upholstered chairs with wooden arms and legs.  The style of the furniture here is unlike anything I’ve seen.  Lots of curvy lines of wood, velvet and brocade.

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There are thick velvet curtains on all the windows I’ve seen – in my hotel room (no problem with light leaking in), at the restaurant downstairs where I ate lunch, in the lobby of the theatre.  I commented about this to Nina and she said it’s the Russian Influence.  Russian windows are always covered with thick velvet curtains – especially in the Hermitage.

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She also explained that the style of acting in The Cherry Orchard is considered pure Stanislavsky.  She summarized it with: “I don’t believe you.” He was constantly questioning whether his actors were being truthful from the inside out, every moment.

Oh, and this was interesting.  Last night when Andro picked me up at the airport, he spoke English so well that I asked him whether he was an interpreter.  He said, “No, I’m head of the newspaper here.”  He was very young.  He said he was one of the organizers of the festival and that he’d been to New York a couple of years ago with Keti when she got a Fulbright to do her one-woman show there.  They had 3-month visas to stay in the United States, and when they returned to Georgia after two weeks, the officials asked them, “Why did you come back?”  Apparently, it’s unheard of to get a 3-month visa and only stay for 2 weeks.  People either stay for the full three months or else don’t come back at all.

I asked him if he knew Ronald Rand from last year.  He said, “No, I didn’t work at the Festival last year.  I was in the Peace Corps. Training began the day after I returned from the United States.” I asked where the Peace Corps had sent him, and he said he worked in the Georgian countryside.  I wish I’d asked him more specifics about that.

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Ylena and Nina explained that although Christianity is the national religion of Georgia, the surrounding countries are Muslim – Turkey, Azerbaijan and to the South – Iran and Iraq a couple of hundred miles away.  They said “Here in Tbilisi, we have in that direction a Mosque and in that direction a Synagogue.  So we are a multi-cultural country with many different peoples and religions.”

Okay, back to sleep I go — into the drafts folder this goes.

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I’m going to send this before breakfast.

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