Theatres during and after lockdown

Salome Khazhomia

Pandemic changed the lifestyle of society around the world, but there were some spheres which got especially big losses.

During the covid-19 pandemic, all the spheres of culture were in difficult situations, but the theatres were first to close and last to open.

In Georgia after quarantine restaurants, cafes, bars, malls, gyms were open, but not theatres. Directors and actors of the theatre felt angry, because they could not imagine how people could follow regulations in a better way in bus and metro, than in theatre. The pandemic had a big effect on theatres, because some of them didn’t get finances from the government at all. Some of the actors were left without salary and what is the most important is that they were left without stage and viewers.

During lockdown, some private theatres suffered even more, their owners were questioning if the theatre could survive or not. The director of “Royal District Theatre” Data Tavadze says: “theatres, which are not big enough are in such a hard situation, that they can’t survive at all”. 

During the pandemic, Nodar Dumbadze Theatre was especially in a hard condition. The help from the government was received only by the people, who were in staff. 

It is very unusual that theatres were closed for a long time, because even during the Second World War theatres were not closed in Paris, which was occupied by Fascists. During the covid lockdown when curfew was stopped, the theatre was left isolated from its viewers. The culture had a big loss, not only financial, but psychological. 

Emergency situation started when it was the middle period of the theatrical season and the processes of preparing spectacles were stopped. But Rustaveli Theatre managed to offer the video translation of spectacle on Imedi TV after the third stage of released restrictions.

​Theatrical festivals were canceled also. The director of the festival “Gift”, Keti Dolidze, refused to hold the 2020 year’s festival and asked the Georgian government to transfer festival grants to the fund, which was created to defeat the pandemic. 

In other countries the situation was quite different. In Europe theatres were opened for some time. In Germany theatres have been open since August. They kept their distance, followed regulations, used masks and spectacles were not shown for more than one hour and half. 

The only alternative from the side of the government for theatres was online showing. The way to transfer theatrical shows under the open sky was the subject of skepticism from directors’ side. According to the director of “Liberty Theatre” and “Griboedov theatre”, Avtandil Varsimashvili, it was normal that the government received this decision, because it was done for people to be safe from pandemic, and not because to make them silent. 

“Actors were involved in the spectacles too much and suddenly everything was stopped. When you rest for a long time and need to start everything again, it is a bit hard.  It was strange that rehearsals were not held and also there was no date when it would be possible to go back to stage”,-Actor, Vasiko Odishvili said. 

After a one-year pause, from 1st April, theatres went back to the working process and tickets were sold out very fast. They continued working in a restricted way, following regulations. Using masks, measuring temperature and not sitting side by side are the most important rules in all theatres. Tickets for premieres were sold in several days. Rustaveli, Marjanishvili, Liberty, Nodar Dumbadze, Griboedov and Akhmeteli theatres are open. 

Special popularity was gained by Liberty theatre, where tickets for premiere were sold in one day. 

Because of curfew, spectacles are starting mostly at 4 and 6 o’ clock. The length of the spectacles are reduced. According to the curfew, all spectacles should be finished by 8 o’clock. 

After returning back to the stage, directors, actors and viewers are very happy. According to actors from Liberty Theatre, after one year, people have the possibility to be empty from the negative during this 1-2 hours spectacle. That’s the main reason why so many people decided to go to the theatre, because they miss such an active life. 

First premieres were already shown in different theatres and actors and its viewers managed to exchange emotions and feelings. For actors, living without theatre and scenery is a bit hard, so they had too much time to realize how much importance theatre has for them. 

“One-year pause is very hard for actors, because the psyche and abilities are used to scene, viewer, applause, but missing is so big, that we overcome all obstacles. Now, being on scene is connected to big agitation, I think it happens for the first time, it is connected to responsibility ”,-Tatuli Edisherashvili said. 

There are some theatres which have decided not to open. For some of them the reason is finances and others don’t accept regulations in theatre.

“We are not going to open yet, we don’t know the possible date when we are back to the scene. In that case, it isn’t because of finances, but we don’t want to have regulations in theatre and have spectacles, where people keep distance and sit far away from each other”,-Administration of “Royal District Theatre”. 

Also Theatre on Atoneli, Tbilisi State Puppet theatre, Music and drama theatre don’t plan to start the working process yet. 

But those who started to work worked very hard during rehearsal to proudly meet their audience after this long period. 

Despite the 1-year pause, directors and actors of many theatres are happy, because they felt that the audience missed them very much.