2019  N11-12(176-177)
Turkmenistan hosted the III International Theater Festival at the end of 2019, bringing together 14 theater companies from 12 countries. The best artistic forces of the Commonwealth of Independent States made up the bulk of the theater festival participants, and this is quite understandable given Turkmenistan's chairmanship of the CIS in 2019.
The venues of the international forum expressively titled "Theater Art of the Epoch of Happiness" offered a platform for development of the humanitarian dialogue that began at the XIV Forum of Creative and Scientific Intelligentsia of the CIS Member States. It should be recalled that the colorful musical play "Sounds of the Dutar" by the Main Drama Theater of Turkmenistan on the book "Music of the World, Music of Friendship and Brotherhood" by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov premiered on the eve of that forum. The play glorified the creative power of art.
Six months later, it was this power that brought together the votaries of Melpomene in the country's main drama theater. The five wonderful days of the festival featuring theater performances and live interaction were the great gift to the Turkmen people and artists themselves. An impressive opening ceremony was the overture to the festival.
A spectacular show took place in the Theater Square in the very center of Ashgabat. The artists playing the iconic characters of the Turkmen people, such as Oguzkhan, Gorkut Ata, Gerogly and Magtymguly greeted the guests, emphasizing the historical continuity of spiritual traditions that underpin the idea of holding an international theater festival.
An excursion into national traditions continued with the performances by professional and children's dance groups of the incendiary musical and choreographic composition "with Dutars" and ancient Turkmen dance "Kushtdepi", which is recognized as the cultural heritage of humankind.
This artistic message was echoed by all festival participants. Marching in the colorful procession in national costumes under the flags of their countries, they proceeded to the theater stage, from which they presented their artistic skills that together formed a multi-genre and style variety of the festival program, including drama and comedy, opera and musical, shadow and one actor theater, epic and fairy tales, puppet shows.
One of the best plays of the Main Drama Theater of Turkmenistan, "Dovlet Gushi" (Bluebird of Happiness), organically fitted into the festival program. Based on the work with the same name by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, it takes viewers to the years of war and presents pages of the CIS common history full of drama and heroism. This is especially relevant ahead of an important date - the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory.
The performances presented by the hosts of the festival included theater plays presenting daily realities of Turkmen life, unique folklore color, giving an idea of the values, mentality, national roots and customs of the Turkmen people, their aspirations and dreams. Turkmenistan currently accounts for 10 national theaters, including 6 in Ashgabat and 4 in the regions. The national theater art organically combines the best features of national and world culture.
Each festival day was used for exchanging experiences, ideas and plans through meetings and master classes in theaters and art universities of the Turkmen capital, heated discussions of festival performances, including acting, plots and stage techniques.
Art professionals understood each other without words. Their art spoke for itself and viewers enjoyed it in full. Their high appreciation was evidenced by the full houses for every theater performance. The theater connoisseurs complained that the festival program was so tight that they were not able to see all the performances.
Viewers were fascinated by Zhastar (Youth) theater from the capital of Kazakhstan. The theater is 12 years old. Over this period, it gained popularity far beyond the borders of its country. Zhastar is noted for versatility and innovation, bold experiments in creating colorful performances using the techniques of different types of art. In Ashgabat, Kazakh artists presented a modern and expressive interpretation of the Kazakh lyric-epic poem "Kyz-Zhibek", which is characterized by the organic combination of folk and modern vocals, choreography and plastics that is replete with original scenography tools.
The theme of eternal confrontation of love and treachery was clearly articulated in "Zhibek" musical performed by the Kazakh artists. The theater company of the Mollanepes Student Theater was also inspired by this theme. They presented a new original play based on the famous epic "Leyli and Medzhnun". In contrast to the canons, the play is based on the plastic interpretation of characters.
The State Satire Theater of the Republic of Uzbekistan presented the play "Padarkush" (Patricide). Written more than a hundred years ago, a simple plot of the tragedy shows the benefits of education. As was perfectly demonstrated by the artists of the Uzbek theater of satire, it remains relevant in our time. The spectacular satirical presentation of events and characters, which is inherent in this theater, is the first thing that catches the eye. This allows artists to improvise using gestures, facial expressions, plastic movements and musical solutions to convey the atmosphere of what is happening, explain the state of a character.
The State Puppet Theater was the most popular venue of the festival. It hosted a series of puppet performances for young and old viewers by theater companies from different countries. The forum participants explained this fact by the actively developing cooperation among puppet theaters of the CIS that have regularly performed at various international festivals in recent years.
The Bryansk Regional Puppet Theater and the Tatar State Puppet Theater "Ekiyat" (Russian Federation), the State Republican Puppet Theater of Tajikistan and the Kiev Academic Puppet Theater also participated in the Ashgabat theater forum.
"Our performances are designed for viewers of different ages, yet our chief audience are children, who, as is known, are our future. The leadership of Turkmenistan supports children's theaters in their creative search, which is an important indicator of the attitude to raising and educating children. We were amazed at their sensitivity, responsiveness, ability to listen, sense and empathize," the puppeteers said.
The Tatar Puppet Theater that celebrated its 85th anniversary this year presented one of its best plays, "The Goat and the Sheep", based on the tale by great Tatar poet Gabdulla Tukay. This is a children's puppet musical in which Good triumphs.
The play "The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish" was presented by the Bryansk Regional Puppet Theater. This production made the theater one of the winners of the festival "Slavic Theater Meetings", prize winner at the theater competition "Success" and prize winner in the nominations "Best Director's Work" and "Best Stage Design". The popular tale was interpreted in a totally new way. Characters from different works by Pushkin get along very well in the play. The familiar episodes of the tale blend naturally with the completely new ones. The audience remembered and loved the most interesting puppets, fairy-tale characters, including the main once - the Old Man and the Fish.
The Kiev Academic Puppet Theater brought with them the play "Geese and Swans" for young Turkmen theater-goers. The interactive form of the play engaged the audience in singing the Ukrainian songs and playing folk games, leaving no one behind.
The same energy was inherent in the play for adults "Who is to blame?" by the State Republican Puppet Theater of Tajikistan, one of the oldest theater groups in the country, prize winner of many prestigious international forums. The theater draws from the original traditional puppet art of ancient Tajiks (maskharabozov). Based on the work by Russian playwright Lev Kozhevnikov, the play "Who is to blame?" is full of vibrant scenes.
The play "Suite for a Sparrow with a Violin" presented in Ashgabat by the Independent St. Petersburg Shadow Theater is also designed for an adult audience. Despite the fact that this theater was established in the cultural capital of Russia just two years ago, it has already produced three expressive plays with an original dramatic conception of characters. The genre of "Suite for a Sparrow with a Violin" is a shadow fantasy on the pricelessness of life. There are no words in the play, but only the beautiful music by Vivaldi.
A trio of Petersburg female artists also demonstrated the specifics of their genre at the Turkmen State Institute of Culture, where an amateur "Theater of Shadows" is operating. A master class by professionals naturally aroused a great interest among students.
The play "Eternal Legends" by the State Puppet Theater of Turkmenistan premiered at the festival. Based on the stories from the works by the President of Turkmenistan, the play is full of national colors. Three stories - the legends about motherhood, the emergence of the Jamal Ad-Din mosque as well as courage, strength and ingenuity of the Turkmen Alabay dog - look disconnected at the first glance. However, they are united by the spiritual community that illuminates the whole architectonics of the play that organically combines the traditional ways of acting with puppets with wise and charming characters and various innovative techniques that captivate viewers with wonderful transformations and magical movements in time.
The play "Domrul", which is an updated version of the famous work by the Main Drama Theater of Turkmenistan on the epic "Gorkut Ata" was the final chord of the theatrical show. The value of human life is the semantic dominant of the play, as it gravitates to eternal topics understandable in any language, such as honor and duty, moral purity and dignity, search for the meaning of life.
The play is imbued with love and respect for the centuries-old traditions of the Turkmen people, leaving a lasting impression on numerous fans of Melpomene. It was highly rated by colleagues from around the world who noted highly professional directorial work and excellent acting.
According to the festival participants, such performances make it possible to talk about the flourishing of theatrical art in Turkmenistan. They held a working meeting immediately after "Domrul" play, summing up the theater festival and discussing the trends in development of the inter-theater dialogue.
"There were neither indifferent people no boring performances that would not reach out to the audience, and this means that a centuries-old living art, such as theater, is now gaining momentum," Head and Chief Director of the Main Drama Theater, People's Artist of Turkmenistan Kakadzhan Ashirov said in conclusion of the five-day theater marathon.
As a moderator of the concluding event of the forum, he gave the floor to all participants of the Ashgabat festival who commended the theater festival and noted the high level of the festival organization. Words of sincere gratitude were expressed to President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov who supports the development of culture and art in the country and their popularization in the international cultural circles.
The representatives of theatrical companies unanimously wished to continue the tradition of the intercultural dialogue established in Turkmenistan, meet more often to grow professionally, share experiences and enrich each other spiritually.
The Art Director and Chief Stage Director of Zhastar theater, Honored Worker of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nurkanat Zhakypbay noted that the current meeting of colleagues significantly expanded the scope of professional contacts of representatives of different cultures. The spirit of unity, the figurative language of art that was used to establish live communication of representatives of different cultures is the most valuable thing that the festival will be remembered for. "Interaction with the theater companies from many countries showed that we have more commonalities than differences."
Talking about the development of puppet theaters in Tatarstan that currently accounts for 19 such groups, Director of Ekiyat puppet theater Roza Yapparova quoted Gabdula Tukay who said "Theater is both a sight and a school for the people. Awakening the hearts of people - that is the nature of the theater."
"Our festival has a cool name," representative of the Bryansk Puppet Theater Yekaterina Vishnevskaya said in her emotional statement. "May the era of happiness never end!" she noted.
This message was also conveyed by the musical anthem of the III International Festival at the closing ceremony that took place at the Magtymguly National Music and Drama Theater. All participants were awarded cups, prizes and souvenirs. The Ashgabat Theater Forum, being one of the most prominent events of 2019 - the year of Turkmenistan's chairmanship of the Commonwealth of Independent States, once again demonstrated its willingness to develop the intercultural dialogue and promote the philosophy "The world of theater art is the world of good."