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2023  N11-12(225-226)
Turkmenistan hosted the IV International Festival “Theater Art of the Era of Happiness” that brought together the art teams from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkey.
The opening ceremony of the art forum, theater performances and a working meeting of theater experts was held in the format that is traditional for this event. The Ministry of Culture of Turkmenistan – organizer of the art forum – successfully achieved the goals of the concept of the theater festival, namely the further expansion of international humanitarian cooperation, professional contacts of cultural figures from different countries, as well as continuation of the best traditions of theater art.
The festival opening ceremony took place in the historical center of Ashgabat. Cultural figures and numerous Ashgabat residents attracted by the bright holiday gathered in this place early in the morning. The colorful clothes of the festival participants marching under the flags of their states, magnificent decoration of the theaters, national melodies and songs organically blended into the palette of colors of the sunny autumn morning.
History and modernity merged in the literary and musical composition. This mini-performance seemed to be woven with significant symbolic images emphasizing the Turkmens’ aspiration for universal peace and harmony. The excursion into the world of national art continued in a theater foyer that accommodated an exhibition featuring richly illustrated publications dedicated to the national culture, audio and video materials with recordings of performances by famous bakhshi musicians, individual performances, as well as works of fine art, scenery sketches for performances and theater costumes. The celebration concluded with a new song dedicated to the International Festival “Theater Art of the Era of Happiness” that became a kind of invitation to continue the celebration on the stages of Turkmen theaters.
The first of them was the State Drama Theater named after Aman Gulmammedov of the city of Arkadag, which opened the festival program with the play named “The Word of the Soul” dedicated to the life and work of the great Turkmen poet and thinker, Magtymguly Fraghi.
During his journey, the main character of the play became interested in a book that he saw in the hands of a literate young man. He wished to get it at all costs and learn to read. He traded the book for a camel, while his fellow villagers and his family did not see the point in this, and only rebuked him for his thoughtless act. However, the time is not far off when everyone will understand the power of words. Magtymguly’s poems were read out in the course of the play, complementing the storyline.
If one should define the general spirit of the fourth theater festival, it was undoubtedly marked by the high emotional level. It was this emotion, joyful and warm, deep and touching that not only united the forum participants but also became their guide to the audience, helping it to understand performances in different languages without translation.
Despite the differences in direction, genre and form of presentation, all productions aimed to reach the hearts of the audience. They were distinguished by sincerity, originality and commitment to eternal themes, such as honor, duty, love, friendship and search for the meaning of life.
All this was reflected in the play “Alien” by the Tatar State Academic Theater named after Galiaskar Kamal. It is based on the work by young playwright Syumbel Gaffarova, who told the real story of her relative who went missing during the Great Patriotic War. Soldier Nakip, afraid of returning from captivity to his homeland after the war, decided to start life from scratch. He married a girl named Joanna and set up a kind of Tatar village in the Canadian outback, where he grew potatoes and celebrated the Tatar Sabantuy instead of Halloween. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, he got the opportunity to return to his homeland and the main character had to make a serious choice. In the play, the past is closely intertwined with the present, which emphasizes the acuteness and relevance of the topic.
“The play premiered in November 2017, and the interest in it continues unabated for six years. Spectators leave the theater overwhelmed with emotions, and “Alien” tour of different countries of the world shows that this topic is close to the hearts of people of all ages and nationalities. People find something of their own in the play, thinking about their fate and history of their Motherland,” the artistic director of the Tatar State Academic Theater, Honored Artist of Russia and Tatarstan, laureate of the State Prize of the Republic of Tatarstan and the International Prize named after. K.S. Stanislavsky, Farid Bikchantaev said in an interview.
The play “A Night Far from the Motherland” by the Tajik State Youth Theater named after Mahmudzhon Vakhidov was a kind of continuation of the plot in which a person lives far from the Motherland by the will of fate. The play touches on the problem of lostness and loneliness that people face when they are forced to leave their native land and wander in foreign lands. The avant-garde nature of the production is combined with classical Tajik poetry. Director Nozim Melikov created it based on the works by Tajik poet Bozor Sobir, who emigrated from Tajikistan.
The drama “Fate of Defenseless” by the Taldykorgan Kazakh Drama Theater named after Biken Rimovoy based on the story of the same name by writer and playwright Mukhtar Auezov was warmly received by the audience and artist colleagues. The artists immersed the audience in the atmosphere of a Kazakh village of the last century, telling a story of one family, exposing the pain and suffering of poor, defenseless people. The play raises questions of morality, humanity, kindness, cruelty and compassion. And it is no coincidence that when leaving the hall, the spectators spoke about the emotional pain that they felt in their hearts.
The festival program organically combined theater plays about the tragic love of the main characters of the Oriental legends and tales. The eternal theme of struggle for one’s feelings despite difficult circumstances in life is reflected in the play “Shasenem and Gharib” by the Musical Drama Theater of the Khorezm region of the Republic of Uzbekistan, a frequent participant of various cultural events held in Turkmenistan.
The play is noted for an exciting theatrical style. It is filled with music and Uzbek traditions and customs. It thematically echoes the play “Love and Suffering” by the Turkmen National Music and Drama Theater named after Magtymguly about the sweethearts of the East, Leyla and Majnun. The artists managed to present very touching stories to the audience, showing that ancient legends have not lost their relevance in the modern world.
An equally tragic modern love story was told by the artists of the Shusha State Music and Drama Theater of the Republic of Azerbaijan. They presented lyrical-psychological drama “Edelweiss, or You are Always by My Side” about freedom and power of feeling that raises a person above all daily routine, based on the work by the people’s writer of Azerbaijan, Ilyas Efendiyev. The audience empathized with the plot that featured different human destinies and unhappy love stories. The conflict of interests, spiritual and moral component and dramatic background kept the audience in suspense throughout the entire play.
The genre of shadow theater was also present in the program of the festival. The play “Garagez and Hacivat” by the Turkish Shadow Theater was held on the stage of the Turkmen State Puppet Theater. Its heroes are the main characters of traditional Turkish shadow art, which is more than 500 years old. The Turks created it long before the advent of cinema and photography, using the power of light. Nowadays, this art that unites generations is appreciated in Turkey by people of all ages. The same could be said about the Turkmen spectators who were fascinated with the characters of the play – flat figures endowed with conflicting characters and enlivened by the play of light and hand of the Turkish actor-animator.
The Turkmen National Drama Theater named after Alp Arslan presented artist colleagues and spectators with the classical drama play “The White Steamer” based on the story with the same name by Chingiz Aitmatov. Turkmen artists dedicated it to the 95th anniversary of the birth of the outstanding writer, which is widely celebrated in his homeland – Kyrgyzstan. The play is extremely saturated with emotions and complex psychology of characters.
The play “Magtymguly Fraghi” by the Batken Regional Music and Drama Theater named after Appaz Zhainakov (Kyrgyzstan) on the stage of the State Drama Theater named after Aman Gulmammedov in the city of Arkadag became a kind of alaverdi for the festival hosts.
The Kyrgyz play about the life of the famous philosopher, thinker and poet of the East became the first foreign production as part of the celebration of the 300th anniversary of Magtymguly Fraghi organized under the auspices of TURKSOY, which declared 2024 the Year of the Classic of Turkmen Literature Magtymguly Fraghi. The theater production, which premiered in April 2023, was initiated by the Secretary General of the International Organization of Turkic Culture, Sultanbay Raev.
The festival program concluded with the play “Magtymguly – the Bird of Happiness” by the Main Academic Drama Theater of Turkmenistan based on the play by Turkmen playwright Govshutgeldy Danatarov. It symbolically connected the beginning and the end of the art forum. During the festival, its participants also had the opportunity to exchange professional experience and ideas, and discuss specific and topical problems of modern theater art.
The IV International Festival “Theater Art of the Era of Happiness” that became the most important event in the cultural life of Turkmenistan finished with a festive performance and a solemn ceremony, during which all participants of the art forum were awarded special diplomas and cups. And the most important gift for them was the friendly applause of the audience for which the bright celebration of theater art was devoted to.


©Turkmenistan Analytic magazine, 2005