Friday, November 25, 2016

Big Hope for My Small Country

I think each of us has an opinion on the contingency of events: someone thinks that the events occurring in the world around us do not depend on anything other than natural influences, and if a rock falls, it is only because there is gravity which has surpassed all the other forces applied to that rock in the moment before the start of its fall, and there is nothing more than this. No chance is involved. According to them, events taking place in the society are subject to certain social laws, and so on. But there are those among us to whom such explanation would not be enough. They try to look taller and dig deeper.

During the two latest performances on the stage of our Small Theatre, I thought a lot (or rather, my brain was working on a subconscious level) about what was happening on stage. No, I'm not talking about the actors’ play, lighting, change of scenery, and other attributes of modern performance. I'm talking about the Magic that occurs regularly on the stage of the Small Theatre. This is the Magic to which myself and the rest of the audience – from young to old – happily entrust our souls’ strings responsible for resonating certain feelings, like joy, pain, pride, admiration, sympathy. I cannot be 100% sure that this is exactly how it happens, but for some reason we are already used to the procedure of placement of spectators right before every performance, whose number always exceeds the number of seats. People come to the theater, and the Word about it – one step ahead of them!

I'm forty-five now, and I am surprised that, up to February this year, I was not aware of the Small Theater that had been operating for thirty-five years by that time, I did not know about the studio, which has been working for two decades already, and have not met in my life these wonderful, beautiful and bright talented people, half my age but without whom I cannot quite imagine myself as a regenerated man. What have kept me away from this meeting all these years? What is "It" knowing exactly when this should happen? What led me here?

I already lost count of each of the four performances I’ve seen that are played regularly at the Small Theatre, as well as lost count of the visits I paid to this little place in a small town in this small land. And all this happened (and, fortunately, continues to happen) this year. 2016 – the year when Brexit and Trump started, when Syria and Ukraine continued, and so many great artists of the global importance ended their lifetime – turned out to be a very happy one for me, I would say it was a wonderful year. Somewhere in the beginning of this year, I met someone, a stranger, just like that, on my way home. In the end of our short meeting, I was invited to visit the Small Theatre and watch a new show related to the worldwide commemoration of 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare (the 23rd of April date is uncertain; therefore, it has been fairly stretched across the whole year). And so, I came to the theater.

Was this meeting accidental, or was it going to happen exactly as it happened? I do not see the point in defining my position on this matter. Here is my story, here I am, carefully attending any (!) show the actors would play, here is the text I am writing after another visit. Writing about this is not easy, because I want to convey a lot of things, but "talking" about this does not work. You cannot dance about architecture, it is pointless to write a song, it is useless to describe the a masterpiece painting.

The performances that I have seen – they are wonderful. So different and deep, so beautiful and heartfelt. They are easy to watch, for they do not last more than an hour, they are accessible, aesthetic and dynamic.

During the 1-hour "SHAKE" – the first performance I’ve ever seen on this stage – we naturally reflect on Shakespearean characters, consider the intertwining of their fates, map the world classics onto the world day-to-day, finally – and that it is quite normal for Shakespeare – we do not find anything new in the revelations and still we wonder just "How could he know so much?". All this is accompanied by the enchanting music, soliloquies and dialogues, read by the famous actors (I would like to specially note that all audio materials are obtained in full compliance with international copyright laws). And finally – the actors!

Then, in February, I returned to public life and began to attend performances at different theaters. Again, Shakespear’s name in the title of another play staged on the scene of another theater, attracted me. I liked "that" show, too, I even went to see it twice. Once I dared to compare the physical fit of the actors (after I attended "SHAKE" for the second time, too). Well, “those” guys were all professional actors, and me – I still was missing something. But here I am attending “SHAKE” for the third time, the fourth, I bring my friends with me, I spread the word about my discovery, fifth, sixth .... It is not boring at all! I watch the show from the fourth row, then from the first row, from the right wing, from the left, from the back rows. Something is happening to me....

Then I had to get used to the idea that the Small Theater is not only about William Shakespeare, but Richard Bach as well. The first viewing of "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" shook me with the same impeccable characteristics, depth and ease of prescription of images and brilliant Director's findings. Only a few actors from "SHAKE" are involved in "Seagull", but apart from them – a dozen of energetic young boys and girls. Here is my second "Seagull", the third, the fourth.... What is happening to me?...

The third performance I was going to watch should have been "Pierrot" after the novel by Guy de Maupassant, beloved and highly acclaimed by many, but due to a force majeure situation we left without the show that evening after waiting outside for one hour and a half. Therefore, the next for me was the "Ne Me Quitte Pas" ("Do not leave me"), based on the famous song by Jacques Brel, translated into two dozen languages (including Armenian), and recorded in even more number of versions. Some of them – different in arrangement and performance, but with a common thematic core – inspired the Director to come up with various scenic solutions so sensitively traced and flawlessly performed by our beloved actors. What is it that is happening to me?!...

And here is the fourth of the performances played at the Small Theatre this year, the long-awaited "Pierrot". Again, a large troupe composed of young boys and girls, each of them being a standalone picture, bright (even if gray) identities with their characters, habits, mannerisms, pros and cons, be that human or animal. And if in "Shakespeare" we are enchanted by the scenes consonant with the visuals of Tarsem Singh and embellished with the music of Trent Reznor, Katie Melua and other famous musicians, in "Livingston" we feel ourselves being a part of the Truth, manifested in gulls’ minds and spoken by them, and in "Do not leave me" people sitting in rows are sobbing and wipe off their tears stealthily when they hear the words "leave "," love", "mother", "home", "family", in "Pierrot" we are laughing unrestrained most of the time, and only for a few minutes become silent, as if ruled by a magic wand, instantly realizing the depth of the tragedy, so naturally shown by these pure personalities – the actors of the Small Theatre. And we are crying. Again and again, even if we know by heart all the lines, spoken by actors.

So, that's what is happening to me! I shed tears. The tears of varying specificity. Tears of joy of realizing our greatness; bitter tears of knowing the mistakes – both our own and others'; tears of Love, leading us through darkening corridors of life; tears of laughter born out of subtle jokes and vivid images; tears of memories and losses; unexplained tears caused by vibrations of the soul strings, resonating with the music we've heard, sigh we've noticed, scene we've just seen.

All performances are so different, but they have a special common core: they are beautiful, and they go deep into the soul. And the performances are played by the actors. Or I’d rather said Artists? Or maybe... just people who love what they can do well, who see just how much their work is important to the viewer (I boldly go ahead and say "city", "country", "nation") and who are able to show feelings and invisibly play on the strings of our souls? And maybe all of the above? And we – the audience, continuing visiting those mental therapy sessions, giving standing ovations, looking at each other and seeing smiles on our tear-stained faces – we will no longer do anything wrong on this particular evening and by the end of this day! We won’t be able to, because our souls have already been healed during that evening by these wonderful young people who have just started their career, yet already play such an important role in the life of our society.

Each of us has definite priceless talent, but alas, not all of us feel them, and some of those who do know not how to use them. Sometimes so little is necessary to do – just to open a door and to invite to come in (like it happened in my case when I was invited to attend the performance). And there, inside, in this magical place called Theater, miracles begin to develop. Yes, hardly they will show up by themselves. There must be someone who knows what to do, and how. In the theater, such a man is called the Artistic Director, or Director.

It’s not only me who calls Vahan Badalyan "the magician." Many people agree with me, and, above all, they agree with themselves. After all, if you do not believe in something, then no matter how much you are told about the someone’s point of view – you are not going to accept it! Having felt the effect of what is happening on the stage to the matter of the soul we determine for ourselves the form which we will operate with when telling others about that. I, for example, chose to say "He is a Magician!". I like this option, because it seems to me the most authentic. How else can I call a person, not concentrating public’s attention on the shortcomings (both mental and physical) inherent to all, seeing the talent in the child, understanding how to summon it and to develop, how to bring into the group of many others like him or her, and to the miracle called "Theatre", how to learn to play such roles without affecting their psyche, gently explaining and developing such important concepts as "work", "love", "beauty", "friendship", "happiness". Happiness! Happiness of working and creating, of loving and being loved, of being beautiful in every respect, the most important of which is the spiritual beauty, happiness of being able to say "I have a friend," and to know the price of the friendship, happiness to consider oneself deserving to be happy? How to describe a person reaching the harmony by using "the material not intended for harmony", like our society often speaks about people with disabilities?! Magician – and that's it!

Too much words for today, I think…. The saying goes, "better to see something once than hear about it hundred times". So, trust His Majesty the Chance, select one of the performances of the Small Theatre and attend it. Sit down, listen, look, and maybe you will want to come back to that place. And again. And again. I think this theatre-studio will be the cradle of our common future to some extent. Those children are honoured to carry the charge of happiness and love with them and to illuminate the road not only for themselves, but also for all of us. The Director does not make any experiment. He once again proves that in every person there is a particle of the Light that can guide us through life and illuminate our path.

But is it necessary to prove that at all? Is not this a common truth? Proving, perhaps, not worth it, reminding about it from time to time you can. And since this is done in such a wonderful way, then, I believe, it is even necessary. At least, for me it was at the time when, by happy coincidence, by chance, an important meeting occasionally happened. Maybe I had to wait for this occasion all these years? Or maybe I needed to mature for this? And maybe this was not by chance at all? Then what is it? What is happening to me? Probably, this is a kind of Magic again...

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