Oct 132009

I’ll never forget walking into our first rehearsal and feeling like I’d set foot in Bulgaria.  The room was full of beautiful traditional objects, alternately simple and intricate, all of them expertly crafted and entirely alluring.  From spindles to swap hooks, earthen jugs to hollow gourds, we one by one made our acquaintances in both English and Bulgarian – a language both exotic and intriguing, however initially impossible to understand. 

With Lilia Slavova’s expertise and grace guiding us along, and Ivan Dimitrov’s energetic and contagious gusto, we followed Julia Tsheva’s skilled hands as she made each object, one by one, come to life.  A spindle and a pair of wooden spoons became a mosquito.  A copper pan and woven apron became a cow. 

Julia Tasheva, with spoons, Alex Vernon, Sarah Olmstead Thomas, and Ben Gibson (far right)

Julia Tasheva, with spoons, Alex Vernon, Sarah Olmstead Thomas, and Ben Gibson (far right)

Back dropped by Antionio Petrov’s vibrant set, belted in colorful costumes, and stumbling over our first Bulgarian words, we began to create.  I felt so happy and charged in a way I haven’t felt in a long time.  This was much more than a standard first rehearsal.  It was a magical amalgamation of people, places, and ideas coming together to celebrate the folk lore and practices of an amazing culture.  All with the intention of gathering games, stories, and puppets to create a show for children, whether Bulgarian or not.  And truth be told, the excitement in the room among everyone – to share, to learn, and to play – made us all like children.  Uninhibited and unprejudiced, we went wild over the traditional games, we took fastidious notes on new words and songs, and we spent hours playing with the folk objects, discovering endless ways to bring them to life.  Like children, we were sponges – both the actors and the directors shared observations and learned similarities between the American and Bulgarian cultures that were thrilling in their freshness or fascinating in their familiarity.  And through it all, everyone had a lot of fun.

From the first day I felt deeply that this is more than a standard show.  It is what theatre is at its best – a moveable work of art that breathes and thrives upon those involved in its performance and those participating in its audience.  It’s a fantastic exchange of positive energies and open minds. I can’t imagine a better way to learn about a culture, or to connect with the world.