International cast in musical theater

10 August 2004

VILNIUS, Lithuania — A multinational musical theatre troupe enjoyed a positive reception here this month during a two-week tour organized by the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Vilnius.

The Inspirit Performing Arts group, with members from 14 countries including Lithuania, presented three performances of a musical play, "Quest of the Spirit," to enthusiastic audiences in the Elfu Theater in Vilnius.

During the tour from 31 July to 13 August 2004, the 16-member cast performed songs, dances, and instrumental pieces in a production that depicted aspects of the world's religions. The show's theme was the path of a wayfarer in his search for spiritual truth.

Some of the cast also presented a show in a local cafe, as well as offering impromptu performances of dances and songs in outdoor venues.

Other activities included a public photographic exhibition held in a hall located near the city center. This well-attended display featured the work of Ineta Alvarado, a Baha'i from Vilnius. It included photographs of the Shrine of the Bab and the surrounding terraced gardens.

On six evenings, members of the troupe gave public talks on a variety of topics including Baha'u'llah's mission, the Baha'i Faith's relationship to other religions, and what it means to be a Baha'i. These talks were followed by discussions.

The activities of Inspirit sparked the interest of audience members in the Baha'i Faith and they have since begun attending Baha'i study circles, devotional meetings, youth and children's classes, and discussion meetings.

Inspirit is a performing arts group formed by volunteer staff at the Baha'i World Centre, in Haifa, Israel. Members come from Australia, Estonia, Canada, Germany, India, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Portugal, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

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The Inspirit troupe.

The self-funded troupe undertook the tour during the vacations of its members as a service to the people of Lithuania. They were assisted in their activities by Baha'is from Estonia and Latvia.

This was the second visit by Inspirit to Lithuania. The troupe originally traveled to Vilnius in 2002 and the reception was so enthusiastic that it made plans to return this year.

The reaction proved to be positive again. Among local youth attracted to the show were Lijana Juodzbalyte and Aidas Alionis, who subsequently attended many of Inspirit's activities including the morning devotional sessions.

At the conclusion of the project, the two were obviously touched by the performers and their message.

"This was the best summer of my life," Aidas said.

Lijana said the songs and dances looked very professional.

"It was great to see so many flags on the stage -- it was a show of unity, " she said.

"There were many kinds of art on the same stage at the same time, including singing, acting, dancing -- and beautiful photos shown on the screen."

Eugene Van Zanten of Ukmerge said that even though the cast members were from so many different countries and spoke almost as many languages, they were able to perform in complete unity.

At the tour's conclusion, Lijana summed up the reactions to the performances.

"Inspirit's activities," she said, "have touched the hearts of many Lithuanians."

(Kevin McLoughlin contributed to this report and provided photographs.)