The messenger logo

Kote Marjanishvili - Country of Liquid Sun

Thursday, April 30
Kote Marjanishvili was a great and erudite artist with a wide-range thinking. The plays he staged in Georgia, Russia, Ukraine and Lithuania show his talent and the artistic value of his creations.

Marjanishvili was born in 1872 in the village of Kvareli. His father, Aleksandre Marjanishvili, was the elder son of Andria Marjanishvili and Anna Bibilashvili. His mother, Solomon Chavchavadze's daughter Elisabed (Liza), was 22 years younger than his father. Together, they had nine children, three of whom died in childhood. Afterwards, four daughters were born to the Marjanishvili family: Nino, Mariam and Tamar. Tamar was Kote's best loved sister for the two of them looked very much alike as if "both halves of the same apple." Kote Marjanishvili was his parents' eighth child.

Aleksandre Marjanishvili fought in the Russian-Turkish War in 1876. During the attack on Batumi, he was wounded in the neck and throat. Ultimately, his injuries proved to be fatal with treatment unsuccessful. Kote Marjanishvil was only four years old when his father died. The widowed Elisabed, afraid of Lezghins' attacks, moved from Kvareli to Tbilisi where she took little Kote to the First Tbilisi Gymnasium for Princes. Public figures and prominent representatives of Georgian theatre-including Akaki Tsereteli, Aleksandre Kazbegi, Giorgi Tsereteli: Sergey, Kote, Efemia and Ivane Meskhi (the mother of famous Meskhi family, Magdalina, was Kote Marjanishvili's aunt), Ivane Machabeli, Dimitri Kipiani, Petre Umikashvili, Avksenty Tsagareli, Vaso Abashidze, Lado Aleksi-Meskhishvili, Mako Safarova-Abashidze and others-often visited the Marjanishvili family. Living in the city required big expenses from the family. Although the children, especially Kote, worshiped their tender, merciful and kind mother, Liza had to return to Kvareli, taking Mariam and Tamar with her and leaving Kote, Vladimir and Sopio in Tbilisi. According to information, Kote was accommodated at the boarding school of the Gymnasium whilst Liza rented a small apartment for her other children who stayed behind in Tbilisi.

Elisabed Chavchavadze died at the age of 36 in 1887 when Kote Marjanishvili was fifteen years old. Elisabed's elder sister, Ekaterine, and her husband, David Abdushelishvili, undertook to bring up the orphans. They managed to hide this misfortune from Kote for a long time but upon learning the news of his mother's death, he abandoned his studies and returned to Kvareli. He was so devastated by the loss that he even tried to commit a suicide aiming a gun at his heart, the weapon misfired and he survived but one of his fingers was permanently damaged.

In Kvareli, Kote occupied himself on the farm. He took care of the vineyards, made wine and distilled vodka. As he had subscriptions for books and magazines, he was able to self-study and self-educate In the evenings, he was often visited by famous families and discussed arts and literature with Kote expressing his idea to conducting performances. It was in Kvareli, in fact, in the enormous wine cellar inside Soloman Chavchavadze's house, that his first performances were staged with the participation of his brothers and sisters who would come for holidays, and his relatives. The audience comprised his cousins and people from the village.

As Marjanishvili recalled, food was abundantly served in the wine cellar and included dried figs, apples and churchkhela. Often, upon his demand, kvevris were opened and a jug of wine was taken around the rows and served to the peasants several times. Kote, himself the stage director, actor, decorator, property man and prompter, was always called out on the stage by all in attendance after the conclusion of the performance.

So it was that Kote Marjanishvili's wine cellar obtained a sacral function. Even at present, first-year students of Theatre and Cinema University take an oath at Marjanishvili's wine cellar in Kvareli that they will never betray their profession.

At the end of the season of 1894-1895, Marjanishvili, unsatisfied by working in the Georgian theatre, went to Russia to continue his studies and took drama courses at the Mascow School of Theatre. On his way to Moscow, he visited Lado Meskhishvili, in Kharkiv, who was in the city for medical treatment, who sent Marjanishvili to Nikolayev to see his friend who was an impresario as well as supporting actor. It was Meskhishvili's opinion that practice would be more useful for the beginner actor than a four -year programme of studies. Marjanishvili was not satisfied with working in Nikolayey and went to Moscow instead where he enrolled in lectures at the Drama School Following this, he was invited to Tbilisi troupe for leading roles.

The summer of 1895 was the last time for Marjanishvili in his native Kvareli as his estate, which had been mortgaged many times was sold on auction that year. He spent the proceedings, amounting to several thousand roubles, for the renovation of his wardrobe because fashionable dressing was considered to be very important for actors at the time. At the same time and with the help of his friends, Marjanishvili squandered a lot of money on parties and entertainment.

In 1896, Marjanishvili played the leading role in the famous play Samshoblo (Fatherland). In that same year, Nadezhda Zhivokina, who would be his future wife and who was invited to Tbilisi to join Shumilin's troupe after finishing Moscow Drama Courses and the Theatre School, came to Tbilisi. Marjanishvili's friends from Nikolayev, the Lepetiches, also acted in the Russian troupe and through them that Marjanishvili became acquainted with Zhivokina-who was also the granddaughter of V. Zhivokin, a famous actor at the Moscow Small Theatre-and soon married her. His relative, unsatisfied with his sudden decision, felt hurt, but Nadezhda soon established good contacts with his husband's relatives.

In 1897, Marjanishvili moved to Russia and lived there for 25 years. The cities, in whose theaters he staged his inimitable plays, were changing like a kaleidoscope. He was one of the first in the field to revive the plays of Anton Chekhov and Gorky. Together with Stanislavsky, Nemirovich-Danchenko, Mayerhold and Vakhtangov, he established the New Theatre. In 1910-1913, he staged Knut Hamsun's In the Claws of the Life and Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt at the Moscow Arts Theatre. The press often wrote about his Caucasian temperament which was transferred to the stage.

In 1913, Marjanishvili established the Free Theatre in Moscow. He wanted to create a Theatre-celebration which would be the realisation of his idea of a synthetic theatre. He wanted to bring up the actors who would work in opera, drama and pantomime with equal success. After having staged several plays in the Free Theatre and when he was so close to the realisation of his idea, it was disbanded. In the autumn of 1918, Marjanishvili was appointed as the Commissioner of Kiev Theatres with success after success following.

Marjanishvili came to Tbilisi in 1922. In 1928, he created a new theatre serving the cities of Kutaisi and Batumi and staged the plays Hopla, We Are Alive, Uriel Akosta and Kvarkvare Tutaberi.

In 1930, the second Georgian State Drama Theatre was opened and directed by Marjanishili. After his death, the theatre was renamed in his honour.

The year 1933 proved to be the last for Kote Marjanishvili. He was invited to the Moscow Small Theatre to stage Schiller's Don Carlos but he died before the premiere. After his death, Marjanishvili's ashes were brought to Tbilisi and buried in the garden of the Opera and Ballet Theatre. Afterwards in 1964, a grateful Georgia consigned the great Georgian patron of art to Mtatsminda for his eternal rest.