Georgia on my mind – Tbilisi, 2006 – #6
Tbilisi, Georgia – 10/18/06 2:07:26 AM
The performance of Lilia! went well last night. We ended up not using the subtitles. The other American artist thought it would ruin the performance because people would be laughing in two different places, and everyone had seemed to understand the Pinter play the night before without translation.
I’d asked Keti about the Georgian translation of the words “Christian Science,” since my grandmother references that in the play and Europeans often confuse it with Scientology. She said, “Of course everyone knows it’s Scientology.”
I said, “I want to make sure that it isn’t mistaken for Scientology.”
She said, ‘Of course, no, no.” (Another reason not to use the subtitles.)
After the performance, Keti said, “I’m so glad we didn’t use the subtitles. Everyone understood. You made me cry.”
The audience was filled with young people. There was even a little boy maybe 5 or 6. They laughed throughout. A very lively crowd.
Afterwards, two young Georgian actresses introduced themselves to me, and said they work in this theatre, and my show was a master class for them.
A young man said that even though he couldn’t understand every word, he understood everything because of the way it was played. One Georgian woman said she was laughing and crying at the same time.
The people were so warm. The instant the lights went down at the end, people were yelling Bravo in the darkness. They clapped, and their claps became united in one ryhthmic beat. I did one bow after another, after another. I even blew kisses. I tried to leave the stage, and Keti in the front row motioned for me to come back. So, I did, and they brought me another bouquet of dahlias.
I was very grateful and touched by the receptivity of the audience. Whenever I said something during the show like “Nothing is impossible,” or “Shoot for the stars, our capacities are limitless,” or “All things are possible to God,” I thought of these people and their longing hearts striving to move forward as a people and a country.
It changed the way the puppet theatre scene ended when I told my grandmother that I wouldn’t go. It wasn’t out of defeat, it was out of respect for a higher standard.
When Lilia turns down a million dollars for the 5-year television series contract, the audience cheered. That has happened maybe once during the hundred and sixty-odd performances I’ve done.
After my last performance, which was on Orcas Island, a woman said she felt the entire play was a prayer. That came very much to mind while I was on stage, since this is the first performance since.
Afterwards, the unanimous comments were, “What a wonderful grandmother.” “I love your grandmother so much.” “What a wonderful person.” Sometimes, I get the impression North Americans are put off by her toughness, but the Georgians understood it. They felt the love.
Today, when I went back to the theatre, the sound operator Ani, who knows a handful more English words than I know Georgian, told the interpreter to tell me that she thought Lilia! was “really great.” I asked the interpreter if Ani had been able to understand what was going on. The interpreter asked her and she said yes, she was able to understand all of the emotions and what was going on. Meanwhile Ani looked at me smiling and nodding enthusiastically.
Preparing for the Show:
The morning of my performance, I awoke at 4am unable to get back to sleep. A dark, heavy cloud hung over me, with a sense of alarm about all things “foreign,” which in those moments seemed synonymous with “horrifying.” I’m embarrassed to admit this, because the last thing in the world I would ever want is to be is closed-minded, suspiciously distrustful and afraid of the unfamiliar.
I thought of Jill Carroll, a journalist taken hostage by Sunni insurgents in Bagdad while on assignment for the Christian Science Monitor – 500 miles away from here. Her dramatic story was told in a multi-part series. When she was finally released after 82 days in captivity and returned to America, she swore she would never leave the country again. I so identified with that sentiment and couldn’t wait for this trip to be over. I kicked myself for elongating it to include Paris, London and Dresden. The words “divine adventure” were incomprehensible to me. Feeling trapped and panicked, searching for solace, this hymn came to me in desperation:
“Love now is dawning over every nation, showing true brotherhood, publishing salvation. Love bids all discord cease, conquering hate, enthroning peace. Love, love alone is power.”
Tears came with the thought that the Georgian nation is beloved, and I get to witness that firsthand. I sang comforting hymns for probably an hour and a half until the fear of “foreign” left me. I went back to sleep for a couple of hours, and awoke to go to the theatre for a tech rehearsal.