By Liza Tsitsishvili
I had the greatest pleasure to sit down for an interview with the director of the Tbilisi International Festival of Theatre and Kote Marjanishvili Theatre Eka Mazmishvili.
Eka graduated from the faculty of History and Theory of Art at Ivane Javakhishvili University; she received her PhD in Management of Art and Culture from the Academy of Management and Arts, Grenoble, France.
Since 2006 Eka manages Kote Marjanishvili Theater in Tbilisi, and since 2009 she is the director of the Tbilisi International Theatre Festival. She has also lectured on “Practices for Cultural Management and Arts” at Tbilisi State University and Georgia’s University. She managed the theatrical basement and was the coordinator-manager of Georgia’s “Open Community” fund programs.
“The only reason I’m in theatre is that I can be free” – said Eka Mazmishvili in one of her interviews.
“International festival is not only for creating the image of a theatre, but also that of the whole country. Other than broadening the esthetics of art, this is also the fastest and shortest way for popularizing the city: “During the festival, you not only present the country as a cultural space but also show what capabilities it has and how progressive your mindset is”.
The 11th international theatre will open on the 23rd of September and will host different theatre companies from around the world for one month. It will also present the best Georgian plays.
There will be 17 international plays, after which the Georgian showcase will start with premieres and interesting projects. This year the art bazaar has been added too, which will enable the producers to exchange ideas, plan coproduction and build new relationships. If we look at the program, we’ll see that this year most plays showcase contemporary techniques of theatre. There will be plays in which rhythm and performance are more important than the text.
If we look at the 11 years of your work, what has the International Festival brought to Tbilisi and Georgia in general?
Eka: The more time passes the more certain I am that the festival isn’t just theatre and art. In reality, it is politics, economics, social development. These are the things that come along with the festival and the more often it takes place the more creative our country becomes. This is an asset that cannot be created by anything other than festivals and international relationships. This is an advertisement for Tbilisi as the most European city in the region. In general, autumn in this city is unique and starts with a festival called “Autumn of Tbilisi”. Then we have the Festival of Tsinandali, the Music Festival of Eliso Virsaladze, and the International Film Festival.
How theatrical is Tbilisi?
Eka: Tbilisi is a very lively city that doesn’t sleep at all. Our contemporary theatre plays a huge role in this, and it’s been like this for the past few decades. Additionally, even today theatre is still an exclusive direction for which humans strive.
Does theater reflect politics?
Eka: Yes, but of course, with comparative intensity. I think it has never been apolitical. Theatre is always intense and has the same social direction.
Where do you take your special guests in Tbilisi?
Eka: Old Tbilisi, of course. They also research what to do and see in Tbilisi before they arrive too. I often go along with them, because I enjoy their company and sometimes I discover new things about the city myself. I take them to Leghvtakhevi, Sololaki, Mtatsminda and small streets of the city. Also up the mount Eli, the bazaar for old clothes and the food bazaar too. People say quite often that foreigners come to visit those Tbilisian yards that haven’t lost their identity yet. The community invites the tourists inside as well. It is of utmost importance to feel this country and the city, and that doesn’t happen much elsewhere.
Can you tell us the most memorable experience that the tourists have shared with you?
Eka: Most memorable was when some Europeans told me that this is the most European city that they’ve ever seen. As they said, it is a leader in post-soviet cities with its style and atmosphere. A lot is unnoticeable for them, for example, our economic problems.
Do you agree with them on Tbilisi being a European city?
Eka: I completely agree, with its soul and atmosphere Tbilisi is a very European city. The important thing is that no matter what happens, this city always evolves. For me, Europe means constant development. Years before, when we started the festival, there were only three hotels. Now the picture has changed a lot. For example, I need to book everything in advance. A lot of cultural things started to take place, for example, the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2018 where Georgia was the main guest. There are so many festivals and theatres on tour, people move around and these people are the biggest, liveliest advertisements. But they also always come back, since the country is so magical. You can do anything here. One day you may be on the sea, but on the same day, you can also visit the mountains.
Now what I want to ask is, what bothers you the most in your home city?
Eka: Chaotic constructions are already a popular topic. We can’t do anything about what’s already been built, but I believe that this will change and I’m always hopeful for it. I support every government, hoping that it will be better. For me, the main problem is the transportation and I don’t know how we can fix this.
Where is Georgia’s place in today’s world?
Eka: The future of this country is going to be very bright and I’m sure of this. Of course, we’re facing some difficulties, but the end looks still the same, there’s no other way. There is no other future for us. Georgia will bloom. The country has a lot of problems and there are too many emigrants, people don’t want to come back and that’s the main problem. For me, everything depends on the economy.
I want to ask again about the Georgian theatre…
Eka: Georgian theatre is exactly where it should be. This year, we have 100 people showcase and the interest is constantly peaking.
In your opinion, what is the country’s main potential?
Eka: Georgia is a cultural hub. We already have a very busy autumn calendar. In the cultural direction, we have no competitors except, probably, for Romania. I don’t know of any other strong competitors around us. Just so I don’t talk only about culture, a country that has more than three million population, also has the potential to evolve in regards to tourism and agriculture. We need to move forward and we can find ourselves inside big circles.
What does a country’s independence mean for you?
Eka: I believe that we’ll never lose our independence again because today’s generation will never allow it to happen. There will always be pressure from Russia, but we will win no matter what.
Translated by: Ana Mikatadze