As Russian troops occupied the Republic of Georgia, DC’s Synetic Theater, headed by Georgian artists, was rehearsing their season opener The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Artistic Director Paata Tsikurishvili received a call, then turned on Georgian news to learn about the tragedy that was unfolding in his native country, affecting his family and the family of other company members. “Russian tanks and soldiers are running around in my small beautiful country…they are burning everything even forests, ranches, houses.”
In an emotional interview, Paata reacts to the occupation and remembers growing up in Georgia and friendships he held then and now. “I have Russian friends, Russian colleagues, Russian donors and supporters, and everyone has the same reaction I do – we all stand together and we all oppose it. We don’t want killing in the 21st century. We can all talk.”
What, then, Joel asked, is the artist’s role in the face of tragic world events?
Paata takes us behind the scenes as his anger turned to action and he decided to replace Dr. Caligari with a revival of Host and Guest, which Synetic created in 2002 as a response to the tragedy faced by his adopted country on Sept 11th. Backed by some exceptional music tracks from the production he tells us “It’s a Georgian play about old traditions, it’s about old hatred and friendship and love. We see the same tragic event still happening today.”
With a turnaround few companies could manage, Synetic has re-cast the play, bringing back some of its original performers, re-arranged the music and re-thought some of the play’s moments. This company, composed of Georgian, Russian, American, Bulgarian, Romanian and other Eastern European actors will be ready for opening night, with a Georgian play about peace and love. “We have enough voice as artists”, he said, “to reach the world…It’s time to stop killing each other.”
Paata ended the conversation with a message for his fellow artists in Georgia, delivered in both Georgian (Kartuli) and English: “God Bless You All, God Bless You Georgia, and we should stay united.”
Host and Guest opens at Rosslyn Spectrum Sept 26th. Ticket information and performance times are here.
Note: All music heard on this podcast was written by Georgian composers for Synetic productions. Underscoring the discussion of the Georgian crisis is an excerpt from Romeo and Juliet by Konstantine Lortkipanidze. You will hear two excerpts from Host and Guest by Vato Kakhidze in the concluding section.