Rezo Gabriadze, Who Created Magic Out of Puppetry, Dies at 84

Rezo Gabriadze, a playwright, screenwriter and director whose fanciful avant-garde stage works, many utilizing puppets, had been offered at the Lincoln Center Festival in New York and quite a few different retailers in addition to at the theater named for him in his residence nation, Georgia, died on Sunday in its capital, Tbilisi. He was 84.

The Rezo Gabriadze Theater in Tbilisi confirmed his demise. The trigger was not given.

Mr. Gabriadze was recognized for unconventional works that challenged the viewers’s creativeness. In his play “Forbidden Christmas, or the Doctor and the Patient,” for example, which was staged at Lincoln Center in 2004 and toured the United States, Mikhail Baryshnikov, branching out into performing, portrayed a person who thought he was a automobile.

More usually, although, Mr. Gabriadze’s stage works had been populated not by human performers however by puppets. Perhaps his best-known creation was “The Battle of Stalingrad,” a puppet play first staged in Dijon, France, in 1996. It examined that pivotal World War II battle, however obliquely, by means of particular person tales. Some concerned human characters, however there was additionally a love story between two horses, in addition to an ant with a dying daughter.

“Writ terribly small, with the delicacy of lacework,” Bruce Weber wrote in The New York Times, reviewing a manufacturing at the Kennedy Center in Washington in 2000, “‘The Battle of Stalingrad’ compels the audience to unusual concentration, lest the artistry be disturbed. And artistry it is, beautiful, poignant and lingering.”

Perhaps Mr. Gabriadze’s best-known creation was “The Battle of Stalingrad,” a puppet play seen right here at The Kennedy Center in 2000. It examined the pivotal World War II battle, however obliquely, by means of particular person tales.Credit…Mario del Curto/’The Battle of Stalingrad’Another scene from “The Battle of Stalingrad.” It “compels the audience to unusual concentration, lest the artistry be disturbed,” wrote a Times critic. “And artistry it is, beautiful, poignant and lingering.”Credit…Vladimir Meltser

“The Autumn of My Springtime,” first seen in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 2002, was a narrative a few chook that drew closely on Mr. Gabriadze’s recollections of his childhood. “Ramona,” seen at the Lincoln Center Festival in 2015, was a love story between two trains.

These and different works had been full of placing stage footage and cleverly made, adroitly maneuvered puppets designed by Mr. Gabriadze and his knowledgeable workforce.

“As characters either powerful or weak,” Mr. Weber wrote, “his puppets, long faced, with a clattery-boned droopiness, seemingly constructed from bird legs and seashell fragments held together with string, share a frailty that feels, well, human.”

Mr. Gabriadze, who early in his profession was a sculptor after which a screenwriter and movie director, was most at residence amongst his puppets.

“The puppet theater is the ideal place for me because you can draw, sculpt and truly create your characters,” he instructed The Post & Courier of Charleston, S.C., in 2017, when he introduced his two-trains-in-love story to the Spoleto Festival USA in that metropolis. “This is the maximum of freedom you can achieve in art. I make and do everything in my theater myself. I write the plays, choose the music — I am completely free in my decision-making.”

Revaz Gabriadze was born on June 29, 1936, in Kutaisi, in what was then Soviet Georgia. In a 2002 interview with The Times, he recalled having his creativeness opened up after World War II when American films started making their approach to Georgia.

“Our generation was ‘Tarzan-ized,’” he mentioned. “Tarzan, feminine women, men in tuxedos; this was the first time we saw these things, and it was one part of our spiritual nourishment.”

He was artistically inclined.

“In my father’s family, the men worked stone,” he instructed Le Monde in 2003. “They built churches or bridges. There are many delicate and ancient bridges in Georgia. Maybe that’s where my first vocation came from, sculpture.”

Those abilities would show helpful when he started carving and developing puppets. But different careers got here first.

After working for a time as a journalist, he gravitated to filmmaking, writing dozens of screenplays and directing a number of films. “I was making tragicomic films,” he mentioned. “I was always watched by the authorities, and I lacked diplomacy.”

Georgia was nonetheless below Soviet management, and it was the period of Socialist Realism in movie and different genres. Realism, Mr. Gabriadze mentioned, simply wasn’t his factor.

“I can understand the human urge to put things in order,” he instructed The Times. “But you can’t divide life between fiction and fact. ‘Tom Sawyer’ may be a novel, but it is also an encyclopedia of childhood.”

In Mr. Gabriadze’s play “Forbidden Christmas, or the Doctor and the Patient,” which was staged at Lincoln Center in 2004 and toured the United States, Mikhail Baryshnikov, heart, branched out into performing, portraying a person who thought he was a automobile.Credit…Michal Daniel

He opened his puppet theater in 1981. (In 2010 it unveiled a newly renovated area designed by Mr. Gabriadze and that includes a intentionally crooked clock tower.)

In the early 1990s, with Georgia embroiled in civil battle, Mr. Gabriadze relocated to Moscow for a number of years, working at the Obraztsov State Puppet Theater, the place he started to create “The Battle of Stalingrad.” The piece, he mentioned, was partly a response to the civil battle. But, like many of his works, it additionally drew on recollections from his childhood.

“I was 6 years old during the Battle of Stalingrad,” he mentioned. “I remember the word echoing through childhood.”

While taking his puppet productions everywhere in the world, Mr. Gabriadze continued to pursue his love of artwork. In 2012 the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow mounted an exhibition dedicated to his work, graphic works and sculpture.

Full info on his survivors was not accessible. A son, Levan, produced some of his exhibits and, in 2018, made a movie about his father’s life known as merely, “Rezo.”

In an interview with the journey weblog Intrepid Feet First, Levan talked about his father and his work.

“The thing about Rezo is that he lives in his own bubble,” he mentioned. “We all do. But Rezo brings you into his.”