The "Tamada"

August 15, 2012

When Colin Hovde first arrived to the Republic of Georgia he immediately noticed the social differences compared to those of the United States.

“There was a visceral quality of living in the absolute moment,” recalls Colin. “In America, everything is so planned. We live in our planning of the future and reflections of the past. But in Georgia, there’s this feeling that you can do whatever you want.”

“When the Soviet Empire fell, Georgia’s entire infrastructure was lost. Paata, a Georgian friend I had grown very close to, asked me to imagine living in a country where everything has fallen apart; to suddenly have no police force, no electricity, and no job. Those events forced people to be in the moment; live in the now.”

Colin was in Georgia for 6 weeks to conduct play writing workshops and oversee a 24-hour play festival.

“The 24-hour festival brings together 4 to 5 seasoned playwrights and gives them the opportunity to write, rehearse, and perform a play in a 24-hour period. My piece was entitled Euphoria: Something Better is Coming and was performed in a type of promenade theatre—where the audience and theater are in the same space. There are no seats, so the audience and performers get to interact. The play festival took place at the National Theater of Georgia’s Roostaveli Theater.”

The 24-hour play festival drew crowds, news outlets, and the famous Georgian director Robert Sturua. But aside from the fanfare, Colin grew to admire the unbreakable spirit and tenacity of the Georgian people.

“One of the most beautiful aspects of Georgian culture is supra, or dinner,” says Colin. When they sit down to dinner they elect someone called a Tamada—the Toast Master. That person is to lead everyone through dinner with stories and merrymaking. Every 5 to 10 minutes the Tamada must have everyone regroup and give a toast. We toast to everything from life, to happiness, and love of one’s country.”

“Around the dinner table is how they’ve held on to their national identity. I had the pleasure of serving as Tamada one night—and though I was nervous—in that moment what I feel in my close friendships in America, I felt towards the Georgian people.”

By the end of the trip Colin had gained friends, experiences and a new perspective.

“It was a very challenging experience but what I gained was empowerment,” affirms Colin. I had the courage to direct a play festival in a foreign country in a foreign language. It’s a breath of optimism and proof that if you work for something anything is possible.”