The Tbilisi International Festival of Theatre has been the highly anticipated event of every autumn for the past 15 years, as the festival never fails to bring an experience of light, imbued with a sense of celebration. We eagerly await its arrival, as it provides a unique opportunity to witness the latest developments in the world of theater. Moreover, it serves as a platform to showcase our country's rich culture and vibrant theater scene to a global audience.

A mere year ago, even the most imaginative and optimistic souls could not fathom an end to the coronavirus nightmare, nor the world resuming its regular rhythm. Yet, that time has arrived, and today, the world has embraced a semblance of normalcy once again. As for our cherished festival, it, too, has transcended the barriers of strict regulations, and while honoring its traditions, has gracefully transitioned into a new phase of existence. 

In an ideal world, where order and stability prevailed, our focus would solely revolve around positivity, joy, and the full enjoyment of peaceful activities and art. However, this serenity was shattered by Russia's unjust annexation of 20% of Georgia's territory and its ongoing occupation of our land. As if that weren't enough, Russia launched a large-scale attack on Ukraine, plunging the region into a brutal war that has persisted for a year and a half. This infernal conflict has claimed the lives of thousands, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake – decimating homes, cities, and villages. At the same time it gave birth to a heroic Ukrainian people, a heroic nation, whose bravery and dedication in the near future, one happy day, will definitely end with the unconditional victory of Ukraine.

And now, specifically in 2023, the festival offers an unprecedented lineup, boasting not only its traditional international program but also the annual "Showcase." Enthusiasts can revel in the opportunity to witness an astounding 54 performances from nearly all theaters in Georgia, representing a diverse array of directors, genres, forms, and styles. This unprecedented participation can be attributed to two key factors: Firstly, the festival's prestige and far-reaching influence have drawn theaters from across the country to showcase their artistry on this esteemed platform. The festival's previous impact and results have inspired theaters to vie for participation, eager to share their talents with a global audience. Secondly, the past post-pandemic season witnessed a surge in creativity within the Georgian theater community. As theaters emerged from the confines of lockdown, a multitude of performances were brought to life, born out of a collective longing for creative expression and a wealth of accumulated content waiting to be unveiled.

The “Showcase” proudly presents a captivating array of 54 performances, thoughtfully curated to encompass a diverse selection. Among them, 16 performances have received “recommendation”, while the rest, considered "non-recommended," are nevertheless presented with equal enthusiasm, adhering to the principle of free screening and audience choice. These theatrical gems draw inspiration from a rich tapestry of sources, including renowned classics, lesser-known masterpieces, and contemporary works, both Georgian and global, some ultra-modern plays written specifically for these performances . The themes explored in these shows earnestly reflect the realities and concerns of the 21st-century human, with particular emphasis on the younger generation. Each play serves as a poignant mirror, reflecting the multifaceted currents and pressing issues shaping our society today. The voices of these performances, diverse in their visions and attitudes, ingeniously provoke thought and contemplation, resonating deeply with the audiences.

In keeping with the cherished tradition of the Tbilisi International Festival of Theatre, this year's selection process has taken a fresh approach, focusing on a specific set of criteria. The primary emphasis was placed on productions from relatively new or independent theaters, helmed by a new generation of directors. The festival sought to showcase theatrical works that embrace novel forms, innovative artistic techniques, and performances staged in alternative spaces and platforms. Furthermore, the selection committee prioritized directors and theater troupes who are making their debut appearance in our festival or similar international events. The aim was to provide a platform for promising talents, offering a spotlight to those who have crafted remarkable and unique productions that are yet to be widely recognized. Additionally, the festival sought to support those artists who possess the talent and skill but might be constrained by limited resources or lack of opportunities to reach larger audiences.

An integral aspect of our tradition and program revolves around premieres, an eagerly anticipated direction for which theaters invest considerable effort. This year, as in the past, we can expect an exciting lineup of premieres from a multitude of experienced, state-funded, and economically independent troupes from Tbilisi and various cities across Georgia. In addition, both seasoned and emerging independent companies will be showcasing their latest creations at the festival.

A beloved and unchanged segment at the “Tbilisi IFoF” is the inclusion of performances from the puppet theater of the late Rezo Gabriadze. This year, this segment holds even more poignant significance, as it marks the first festival since the passing of Rezo Gabriadze, who was not only the theater's founder but also the pioneer of the puppet culture tradition in Georgia. In honor of his enduring legacy, his son, Leo Gabriadze, the new artistic director of the Marionette Theater, took on the responsibility of restoring and revitalizing the classic play ”Diamond of Marshal de Fantié”, a true gem of Georgian theater art. 

Another special addition comes in the form of a poignant musical drama titled "In Search of the Lost," presented by the Vaso Abashidze State New Theatre. This powerful production is the brainchild of Ukrainian director Vlad Troitsky, based on the play by Basa Janikashvili's evocative play. Through this artistic creation, the performance delves into the harrowing realities of wars in Ukraine, Abkhazia, Samachablo, and beyond, casting a profound spotlight on the abomination of war and the immense trials it imposes.

The relentless war of aggression waged by Russia in Ukraine continues, inflicting immeasurable devastation and leaving a heavy burden on our hearts. This ongoing conflict is a source of deep concern, disturbing the tranquility and peace, affecting the very fabric of society, the collective psyche, and our shared sense of hope and despair just like the global pandemic.

Despite Georgia facing its share of challenges and navigating through a complex and contradictory present, we must unite and find the strength to face the future with hope and care for the present. Life, with all its trials, continues, and so does our beloved festival. As banal as it may sound, we firmly believe that art is paramount, and it stands as the unwavering essential for connecting with the world and nourishing our spiritual resilience. This is the very reason we are holding, and will continue to hold, the Tbilisi International Festival of Theatre.

Lela Ochiauri



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