Robin Hood Meets Arsena Marabdeli....beginnings


 Hello out there. Welcome to our new Theater in Education website. The posts will focus on our current production, Robin Hood Meets Arsena Marabdeli, but before I get started, let me tell you how we got started.

 We are a group of English teachers living and working in Batumi, Georgia (the former Soviet country, not the American state). Our first production, Murtazi and Juliet, brought together Georgian English teachers and Americans working through the Teach and Learn with Georgia Program (TLG) and the English Language through Civic Education Program (ELCE), with a grant from the Norwegian people. Our semester culminated in a 40-minute production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, performed by students from schools No. 2 and No. 15 in Batumi, Georgia. Over 150 parents, officials, and students came to see our performance in one very, very hot theater at school No. 2. The project was fantastic because it formed a community of Georgians and Americans all working together to create something greater than themselves.

 Now we are back in Georgia ready for a new production. Our story initially developed from our love of Robin Hood. During our research, we found that Georgia has its own real-life folk hero, Arsena Marabdeli, who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor in early 19th-century Georgia. In the century after his death, Georgians have written stories, novels, poems, and folk songs about one of their great heroes. In our production we tell the stories of both characters, ending in a fictional meeting between the two. It is very exciting and we are all excited.

 The research part of the project involved resurrecting a 150-year old poem, “Arsena’s Leqsi”, from the crypt. After an exhaustive search in the Tbilisi and Batumi Public libraries, we finally found a single slim volume from 1936. One of our former actors, Gaga, (who played Benvolio in Murtazi and Juliet), translated the 30-page poem for us, so we could form scenes and a story. He should be very proud. This is the first time this story has made it into the English language and he translated it (from Old-Georgian, no less)!

 We also watched two Soviet era films of the Arsena story and dug up every piece of information on the internet. Very little of this man’s story exists in English and that is part of the fun in this project. Robin Hood, on the other hand, is much more familiar. Also, we need to stick more Georgia language into the play. In our last play we noticed that our audience was particularly fond of moments of relative violence and physical comedy. We have strived to include more swordfights in this play, but we also want our audiences to stay interested during the wordy parts. So the characters will sometimes speak Georgian, including foreigners speaking Georgian.

 Today was the first project meeting. We reworked the Facebook group from the Murtazi and Juliet project into the Batumi Theater Guild that we hope will survive us after we leave. We set a date for October 4th at 3pm. We arrived a little late to school #2, marveling at how fast Batumi is changing, but it was exciting being back. We found Keti and Medea, two Georgian teachers we had worked closely with back in the spring. Only three students showed up, but they were leaders from the previous project and can be counted on to spread the word. Two TLGS, Sarah and Jordan, also stopped by. They will be a very big help with stage management, budget, and props. They might even play characters in the play. We are trying to include new students in the project, some from other schools around Batumi. We are also interested in working with a few students from Keti’s access program, which targets disadvantaged students.

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