DIALOGUE ON TIMELESS VALUES
The State Russian Drama Theater named after A.S. Pushkin in Ashgabat is a special phenomenon. The widespread modern trend to describe such theaters as centers of Russian culture or Russian theaters abroad would be least applicable in this case. The very notion of Russian culture becomes of special supranational significance in this theater, as it rather tends to the spiritual and enlightening tradition that is natural to the global Pushkin view of the humanitarian role and mission of art which is very important in the context of the name of the theater. And it has been always like this. One can say that it has been so since the theater birth in 1926.
Through its first play - "Crazy Money" by A.N. Ostrovsky - the Russian Drama Theater declared its ambition to stage meaningful plays with complex characters, seeing its task in developing the spiritual culture of the viewer.
In 1937, the theater was named after the Great Russian poet, playwright and prose writer in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the death of A.S. Pushkin. Residents of Ashgabat affectionately call their beloved theater the Pushkin Theater. The theater celebrated the ninetieth birthday last year. It happened that the theater has lived through two centuries, reflecting the ideological and aesthetic views of those years. The theater covered a long path in this period, complicated but full of events, ups and downs in art work, fostering an impressive galaxy of stage directors and actors whose names have glorified the Turkmen theater art.
Ninety years is the age of wisdom that deserves respect and honor. After all, this is the oldest theater in the country. However, there is another side of the coin in such mature age, namely the responsibility for the history of the theater and people who took part in its formation, for generations of devoted artists and spectators to whom it serves and without whom the theater life is unthinkable. The theater boasts full houses. Not only Ashgabat residents but people from the regions come to see the theater's new productions. The group tickets for children performances are booked long before the school holidays, and every evening, as a sure sign of the theater's popularity, people ask for the "last minute" ticket at the theater entrance.
In 2004, the State Russian Drama Theater moved to the new building in the avenue bearing the name of the great Turkmen poet, Magtymguly. It should be noted that the new building has already got used to the loud applause. In one small space, the theater experiences the variety of emotions and, most importantly, the emotion of non-indifference.
The theater holds true to traditions. The modern multinational theater company accounts for experienced stage masters and many talented and promising young artists, graduates of the acting school that operated here from 2006 to 2013. Graduates of the studio joined not only the Pushkin Theater company but also other theaters in Ashgabat and the regions. Many of them received recognition at the highest state level. And this is also a tribute to tradition. Born as the first stationary theater, the Russian Drama Theater immediately became a methodological center, a school for professional training of future national actors and stage directors. It gave birth to the first national drama studio that brought up a galaxy of remarkable artists. In 1929, the studio graduates formed the core of the Turkmen State Drama Theater. They were Aman Kulmamedov, Bazar Amanov, Klych Berdiev, Alty Karliev and many others.
In the years of the Great Patriotic War, the theater considered itself mobilized for the war with the fascists. The theater groups performed for the military reserve units and at hospitals. As actors recall, they always enjoyed full houses. Even in hard times, people were hungry for art. All money that the theater earned went to the defense fund. Groups of artist regularly visited the front troops. The mobile theater created by the People's Artist of the USSR, Mikhail Kirillov, having performed comedy plays in Moscow, was sent to the Karelian front for six months, where it gave concerts in forest glades, airfields and ships of the Northern Fleet beyond the Arctic Circle. 16 artists of the theater were awarded the honorary diplomas, 27 received medals "For Valiant Labor in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945."
Following the devastating Ashgabat earthquake of 1948 that claimed many human lives, when residents of Ashgabat needed support, including moral one, the Pushkin Theater resumed performances literally in few months. The theatrical season started with "Family of Allan" play by the Turkmen playwright Guseyn Mukhtarov. Performances were played on the only theater floor that escaped destruction. At the same time, the theater staff helped to rebuild the Turkmen capital together with others. After a while, a new theater building was built for another fifty years.
Over the years, the theater company was represented by dozens of talented artists. In different periods, talented stage directors served at the Pushkin Theater, such as Vasily Fedorov, a student of Vsevolod Meyerhold; Nikolay Tepper; Isidor Gromov; Vyacheslav Aksenov, a student of Konstantin Stanislavsky; Yakov Feldman. A significant and substantial part of the theater history is associated with the name of Renat Ismailov, the Honored Artist of Turkmenistan, winner of the State Award named after Magtymguly, student of the famous stage director Anatoly Efros. Under his direction, there were performed "Little Tragedies" by Pushkin, "A.N. Ostrovsky's Late Love", "The Bachelor" by I.S. Turgenev, "Forget Herostratus!" by Grigory Gorin and dozens of other remarkable plays.
All those stage directors belonged to different theatrical schools and directions. They differed in the manner of playing, approach to the actor, interpretation of roles, set up of the play. However, they remained devoted to art and their theater that they viewed as an integral part of the Turkmen history and culture. The plays by Pushkin, Chekhov, Griboyedov, Gogol, Ostrovsky, Gorky, Shakespeare, Schiller, and Turkmen playwrights were the great success. Actors of different nationalities worked and played in the theater.
Remaining a center of spirituality, performing an important function of familiarizing the viewer with the world culture, the Russian Drama Theater promotes the development of the intercultural dialogue. Today, the theater company actively participates in various art activities, touring the regions of the country, organizing charity performances, etc.
The Pushkin Theater continues staging a variety of plays, including Russian and world classics, modern dramaturgy, plays by Turkmen authors, as well as fairy tales for children. What remained unchanged to this day is the desire to convey the eternal and imperishable spiritual values to the viewer. Although the theater playbill offers no Pushkin drama, there is still the global international meaning of Pushkin's thought which is invisibly present in all theatrical productions.
The modern repertoire is vivid confirmation of this. The plays favored by the audience include "Mother's Field" by Kyrgyz writer and playwright Chingiz Aytmatov; "Arshin Mal Alan" by Azerbaijani author Uzeyir Hajibeyov; "Hanuma" by Georgian playwright Avksentiy Tsagareli; new play "Andro and Sandro" by Ossetian playwright Georgiy Khugaev; as well as staging of famous plays by Russian authors, such as "Old-Fashioned Comedy" by Alexei Arbuzov; "The Elder Son" by Alexander Vampilov; "Chic Man" by Sergei Belov; "Don't Go Away" by Nadezhda Ptushkina and others. A new production titled "Fake Fianc" on the play of Turkish writer and playwright Reshat Nuri Guntekin will be presented already in the current theatrical season.
The Russian classical works are represented by N.V.Gogol's "The Inspector General", which is seen as the pinnacle of the world drama. At the same time, the performances of Gogol's "Marriage" and A.P. Chekhov's "Evening Vaudeville" enjoyed great success until recently.
The classical works remain invariably interesting for the viewer, including "Intrigue and Love" by Schiller; "The Impostures of Scapin" by Moliere; "The Servant of Two Masters" by Goldoni; "Othello" by Shakespeare, etc. There are many performances for children in the theater playbill. They are the cheerful plays such as "Puss in Boots"; "The Kid and Karlsson"; "The Adventures of Pinocchio"; "Cinderella"; "The Snob Bunny"; new production of "The Bremen Town Musicians"; as well as plays full of scenes of daily life of Turkmens such as "The Crooked Crow" by Aymamed Ishankuliyev; "Bovenjik" and "Hudayberdi's Adventures" on the Turkmen folk tales.
The Pushkin Theater likes to stage plays on the works of domestic playwrights. They regularly perform "We Will Certainly Meet Again" on the story by Atadzhan Tagan; the modern play by Ashirmukhammet Rahmanov and Yelena Shcherbakova "Avaza - My Love"; "Call of Heavenly Love" by Govshutgeldy Danatarov and Irina Stolbunova; "Zohre and Tahir" by the Turkmen writer Bazar Amanov.
In this context, one should note the important role that the State Russian Drama Theater plays in promoting national culture abroad, mutual enrichment of cultures and bringing the peoples together. The theater's achievements in this noble work include its participation in international theater festivals and contest inside the country and abroad. One of the latest examples is the theater's performance of "We Will Certainly Meet Again" at the XXI International Theater Festival "Belaya Vezha" in the Republic of Belarus in 2016. It was staged by the head of the theater Ashirmuhammet Rakhmanov on the play "Perengli" by Govshutgeldy Danatarov and Serdar Nepesov. The audience and theater critics from different countries highly rated the national coloring of the performance that organically combined the customs and cultural traditions of the Turkmen people.
Nowadays, the State Russian Drama Theater named after Pushkin keeps abreast of the time. It is evolving and aspiring for perfection along with the progressive development of the country's theatrical art.
Experience and youth, relentless creative search for new forms of artistic comprehension of reality organically complement each other. And that is why the Pushkin Theater turns the lights on its stage every evening. They call for a general conversation, meditation, unity "in the shade of friendly Muses" in the name of the best and perfect.