A Little about Women … and Theatre

Issue #1 • 1842

Probably because of their more sensitive and receptive nature, because of their disposition towards sympathy, empathy and sharing stranger’s troubles and pleasures, the women turn out to be the major spectators and connoisseurs of theater. What attracts them in this almost least “fine” and straightforward art – theater? Why are the histories of happy or unhappy love, of faith and betrayal, of suffering so much responsive by the female heart, of human passions, vices and virtues? Female fates have been reconstructed on the Uzbek stage by remarkable actresses belonging to different generations. Archives of the Uzbek dramatic art keep quite a number of episodes of truly female, selfless devotion and love to the theater.

… Tashkent, 1921. The Western European classics – drama “Treachery and Love’ by F. Schiller – was for the first time staged in the Uzbek language. The first Uzbek actress Maksuma Karieva played the tragical role of Louisa who became the innocent victim of injustice. There were many women in the hall; paranjas and yashmaks made of the horsehair were hiding their faces. There were no paranjas of this type anywhere in the Muslim world.

However, how sentimental and receptive were the soles hidden under the coarse fabric! According to the words of that time critic, the fate of the heroine and the actress’s playing excited the spectators so deeply and caused such a strong feeling of sympathy and empathy that “many women started crying, and the most sensitive were losing their consciousness”.

Quite little time later, M.Karieva played the title role in the first Uzbek musical drama ‘Khalima’. With the same naive ingeniousness, unsophisticated spectators were experiencing the fate of her heroine, the similar victim of social conditions like her German companion in distress.

Surprising mutual understanding of the stage and audience will last for a long time. A remarkable feature of the Uzbek acting technique – rare organics of actresses in the proposed conditions – from the very beginning caused the spontaneous response of thankful and receptive spectators.

Only psychological peculiarities of the feminine character can explain the true belief of the female part of the hall in the absolute reality of everything happening on the stage.

The first Uzbek actresses came to theatre by different ways, so different were their fates. Sara Ishanturaeva, a very young girl that later on became an outstanding actress of the Uzbek theatre was first noticed in the amateur theatricals of the children’s home. Another notable actress, Maryam Yakubova, spent her childhood at court of Emir of Bukhara.

As it is known, until the 20th century Turkestan had no national theatres of the European type. And men played all feminine roles in the folk-lore theatre. With the appearance of a new type of the theatre, there emerged the necessity of training professional actors and actresses. A large group of the Uzbek girls received professional training at the theatrical studios in Moscow and Baku. Among them were Z. Khidoyatova, S. Ishanturaeva, T. Sultanova, M. Kuznetsova, Z. Sadrieva, N. Alieva, Kh. Nasyrova and many others – the whole galaxy of the first generation of actresses of the Uzbek theatre whose efforts have formed the school of Uzbek acting.

Tursunoi Saidazimova was among the first professional actresses educated at the Moscow theatrical studio in the middle of the 20s. Her talent was charming the pedagogues, colleagues on the stage and spectators. The nature was generous to her. She possessed a rarely beautiful voice, thanks to which she was called ‘the Uzbek nightingale’ and foretold the promising feature. However, the fate was different. Her husband who believed slandering of the relatives, religious fanatics, killed Tursunoi. On that fatal day in 1928, she became only eighteen years old.

Fortunately, the history of the Uzbek theatre has much less tragic episodes than joyful and light ones. Like the one that happened three years later with Sara Ishanturaeva, a stage-mate and coeval of Tursunoi. The young actress successfully played the role of a boy, Goga by the name, in one of the plays. The same year she gave birth to her firstling. The name Goga that she and her husband, the greatest Uzbek actor Abror Khidoyatov, decided to give to their son was not Uzbek. Later on Goga Khidoyatov turned into a famous scientist well known for his historical works. And Sara Ishanturaeva was successfully playing the leading roles of the world drama repertoire on the stage of the academic theatre named after Khamza – Juliet, Ofelia, Desdemona, Gonerillia in Shakespeare’s tragedies ‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘Hamlet’, ‘Othello’, ‘King Lear’ , Catharine in A. Ostrovsky’s ‘Thunderstorm’, and Iokasta in Sophocles’s tragedy ‘Oedipus Rex’….

The theme of a tragic feminine fate has always received warm response with the spectators of the Uzbek theatre. The Uzbek actresses like tragic roles and know how to play them. It is not accidental that even the simple dramatic characters turn to be tragically tinged in their performance. At the same time, the Uzbek actresses greatly succeed in playing comedian and everyday life characters.

They can portray on the stage a specific coloring of the way of life, peculiarities of the female national character, subtleness of women’s psychology with the unrepeatable charm and mastery. One can always notice impromptu abruptness and suddenness of the images taken from life. Life of an eastern woman is full of conventionalities, necessity to follow the established traditions and customs. Besides the ‘prejudices of the past’ in the comedian characters, the Uzbek actresses managed to elicit that component of conscious acting that makes up one of the most attractive features of the character of an Uzbek woman. For instance, indispensable recognition of male leadership is often getting a tinge of subtle slyness, slightly ironical and kindly indulgent towards ‘male leadership’.

Be it because of the natural masculine complex of fault to the woman or due to the inborn feminine charm, and most likely, thanks to the talent and intellect of our actresses, they have won the great and deserved respect.

The ‘good few’ of the Uzbek theatrical workers listens to them, and they can take any position – from a costumier to the Director of the theatre.

The situation in the Tashkent Institute of Arts preparing future directors, actors, actresses and art-critics has become a routine one – over a half of the students and teachers are represented by the weaker sex. Just enter a theatre, come to any performance, the majority of the audience are women. They still believe in theatrical ‘reality’ and like to turn life into theatre …

March is a special month for the women in our theatre. It is the International Women’s Day. It is the celebration of Nauruz. Even more – it is the international day of theatre worldwide celebrated on 27 March. It makes us happy to congratulate all women representing the Uzbek dramatic art.

Ildar Mukhtarov

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