On March 1, 2002, a presentation of the State Abaza Republican Theater took place, announcing the premiere performance of the novel by Bemurza Tkhaytsukhov. For the anniversary of this date, the WAC web info portal prepared an essay on the formation and the path to the success of the young theater, its main productions and plans for the future.

Lyudmila Aysanova

In the 90s of the last century, the creative intelligentsia of the Abaza of the KChR, public organizations representing the interests of this small nation, actively appealed to the federal and regional government bodies about the need to create a state theater.

At that time, the Russian, Karachay and Circassian theaters functioned quite successfully in the Karachay-Cherkess Republic. So, on June 4, 2001, the Presidential Decree No. 48 was issued on the formation of the republican state institution “The State Republican Abaza Drama Theater”. Every Abaza apprehended this news with enthusiasm.

«Realized the importance of this undertaking for the people»

First of all, there were questions on staffing, arrangement of premises and creation of conditions for a new institution.

When considering candidates for the post of head of the theater, Umar Eradzhibovich Kishmakhov was unanimously chosen. A native of the Psyzh village (until 1925 - Dudarukovsky village - ed.), he received a degree in economics and arranging theatrical affairs at Lunacharsky GITIS in Moscow. Over the years, the future director of the Abaza Theater worked in the regional philharmonic society, was the director of the House of Culture of the RTI plant, deputy director of the regional drama theater.

“At that time, I began to successfully engage in business activities and did not think of switching to work at a budgetary organization,” recalls Kishmakhov. “But realizing how important this initiative is for my people, and feeling within me enough strength and inspiration for creativity, I still took matters into my own hands.”

Indeed, Umar Kishmakhov simply “caught on” the idea of making a real theater for his people, devoting all his time to it. I had to start from scratch. The absence at the time in the Republic of prepared professional personnel in the field of theatrical business did not become an obstacle. Umar Eradzhibovich traveled to all localities to search for talented young people with artistic inclinations, with creative potential and good knowledge of the Abaza literary language.

“Theater is, first of all, an actor,” says Umar Kishmakhov. “And [first of all] I invited the leading actors of the Abaza folk theater popular in the district (not professional, but amateur - ed.), who worked for decades at the House of Culture in the village of Inzhich-Chukun, to work.”

The more the merrier

Part of the actors of this group made up the main troupe of the theater - among them Inal Khubiev, Mukharbi and Rita Agachev, Koicheva Zurida, Amir Bidzhev.

“I understood that the preparation of new personnel who could soon become the backbone of the troupe, its “fresh blood”, should be the second important step, - Umar recalls. - And we made a decision to send for study 15 young people selected in Abaza villages”.

Despite the educational limits and the restriction of privileged places in educational institutions, we managed to reach an agreement with the rector of the North Caucasus Institute of Arts on the admission of all young people there. This was possible thanks to the efforts of the director of the theater, representatives of the active part of the public of the KChR and the leadership of the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic.

Together with the future actors, a teacher of the Abaza language and literature, the poet Larisa Shebzukhova, who had to work with Abaza students throughout the period, was sent to the school. They had an interesting and exciting study ahead of them in one of the leading theater schools, for them a curtain was opened in a special world of art - theater.

As for the actual theatrical work, at first the staff and artists of the Abaza Theater had to literally huddle in just a few classrooms. The rehearsal stage was shared with several national groups of state theaters. As they say, the more the merrier! After all, the main thing was the desire to create.

There was no doubt what to premiere

Now, looking back, Umar Kishmakhov is quite pleased with the results of the actions taken to prepare the future of the theater. Then work began on the productions, and the troupe began to prepare the first performance.

“I had no doubts about what we would stage, - Umar recalls. - In the period of growing national self-awareness of the people, searching for their roots, making the tragic pages of their history, the most popular work was the novel by the People’s Writer of the KChR, Bemurza Tkhaytsukhov’s “Handful of Land” (this novel of 1966 about the mass migration of the highlanders to the Ottoman Empire became extremely popular in the KChR and outside the Republic, as it raised the most important topic for the mountaineers - ed.). I decided to stage a play on this work entitled “In the footsteps of Mukhadzhirs”.”

Invaluable work on the preparation of the play was conducted by Kishmakhov’s colleagues: the head of the literary part of the theater, the famous poet in the North Caucasus and beyond, Mikael Chikatuev and the stage director Abrek-Zaur Gozhev. And most importantly: the author of the novel Bemurza Tkhaytsukhov directly participated in the preparation of the play.

“We were very lucky that Bemurza Tkhaytsukhov could personally coordinate the process, suggest something and guide us,” says Umar Kishmakhov. “After all, the author clearly understood that his bright literary creation would have a different, no less worthy, continuation, that new opportunities opened up for expanding the audience - and from that he was infinitely happy.”

The premiere of the play about the fate of the Abaza girl, who at the end of the XIX century, along with thousands of fellow tribesmen fell into a foreign land, became a real historical event not only for theater critics and representatives of the republican cultural environment, but also for all Abaza. It was a powerful incentive for the revival and further development of the ethnic culture of small people.

The play involved the leading roles of Amir Bidzhev, Aminat Kuzhova, Diana Kablakhova and other talented actors who brilliantly coped with their task and in one day became famous throughout the Republic.

“Few people believed that in such a short period of time it was possible to stage such a serious play. The premiere was grand, - Umar Kishmakhov recalls. - With 730 seats in the hall of the Republican Drama Theater, over a thousand and a half people gathered.”

Bright victories and popularly favorite performances

Over the past 17 years, more than three dozen plays of various genres have been staged and played in the theater. Many of them can rightly be attributed to the treasury of the theatrical art of the North Caucasus. Among the works especially loved by the viewer is “Goshegag”, a play staged after the play of the same name by Larisa Shebzukhova.

“Goshegag” - Abaza folklore tradition. Goshegag is the name of the girl, which means “the princess who made us cry”. The beautiful heroine glorified herself by “weeping” her own composition. The play is written on the basis of studies of the famous Abaza writers Kali Dzhegutanov and Kasei Batalov, who have no doubt that Goshegag is a prototype of the Abaza princess Aminat Biberdova, the daughter of the Abaza prince Shikh Biberdov.

The performance of this play was a smashing success. The secrets of this success were the great directorial work of Zurab Kopsergenov, the play of the actress Louise Sheremetova, who exactly got into the character, the costumes and decorations of Nazir Mukov, as well as the music of Vladimir Chikatuev, People’s Artist of the KChR and Honored Artist of the Republic of Abkhazia.

At the end of 2016, the theater presented to the audience another epic work by Larisa Shebzukhova - “Red Rock of Anadzar”. Anadzar - a kind of Prometheus, who extracts benefits for his people, only, unlike the ancient Greek prototype, he remains alive, reborn as a white eagle - a symbol of courage and freedom.

So, this play is also based on legends and traditions. However, it is presented in a completely different format. A young promising actor and director Eldar Agachev, a graduate of the Krasnodar Institute of Culture, decided to experiment, making a bet on music and choreography to express the feelings and emotions of the play's heroes. Interesting costumes, unusual special effects, modern methods of presenting the material made the performance one of the most interesting and successful works of the Abaza Theater. This success gave the team confidence and helped to focus on new creative work.

One of the recent striking victories of the theater was the production of the play “The Country of Ashuya”. The performance won the grant of the head of Karachay-Cherkessia with a prize fund of 500 thousand rubles. The play was written by the theater director Umar Kishmakhov in 2016.

“The basis of the play was the archaeological, scientific research of famous scientists about the creation of linear writing [by] the ancient Ashuys - the distant ancestors of modern Abkhaz, Abaza and Ubykhs,” says Umar Kishmakhov. “This is confirmed by studies of French scientists Edward Paul Dorm, Maurice Dunant, Austrian semitologist Anton Irk and Russian scientist Nikolai Veselovsky.” When creating the play, the scientific work of Georgy Turchaninov "The discovery and decoding of the most ancient writing of the Caucasus" was also used.

The performance was staged by the main director of the Balkar State Theater. Kuliev, Honored Art Worker of the KBR Magomed Atmurzayev. Events in the play develop several thousand years BC. The main role of Tsar Ptu was played by a popular actor Zurab Kopsergenov, and the young actress of the theater Diana Kablakhova played the role of Queen Gunda. According to experts, the actors managed to convey the atmosphere of the era to the specific vocabulary of the ancient language, to create vivid images of heroes with peculiar foundations and worldview.

Passionate director, cohesive theater

Speaking about the daily work of the theater today, Umar Kishmakhov again mentions the “Country of Ashuya”: in addition to the planned productions, now there are active rehearsals of this particular performance.

“In April (together with the play “Country of Ashuya”- ed.) we want to participate in the traditional theater festival “Our Caucasian Chalk Circle”, which will be held in the Republic of Adygea,” the theater director shares.

He is very sensitive to this play, considering it to be the main thing in his work, he wants to stage it together with the Abkhaz State Theater, and also to show it to the larger audience in Russia and abroad, in the countries of residence of his compatriots.

Honored cultural worker of the KChR Umar Kishmakhov is a versatile person and leader; he is always fascinated by new ideas and projects. In his immediate plans - the selection of another composition of talented young people to be sent to study. The director of the Abaza Theater plays on the stage himself, continues to write a lot. His talents are not limited to theater: he actively writes songs, many of which have become popular in the North Caucasus and beyond.

“Throughout the entire period of the theater’s existence, there were many successful works in various directions, but for me there wasn’t and isn’t anything more important than my people and its history, - Umar says. - The uniqueness and antiquity of our language and culture, pride of our involvement in its history, will continue to inspire me to new works and productions.”

As for the brainchild of Kishmakhov - a young, but quickly and successfully grown Abaza Theater, today it is considered to be one of the most interesting and sought-after groups in the North Caucasus. The troupe actively tours the regions of Russia, participates in republican and federal competitions. The theater stages famous classics of Russian and foreign literature in Russian, including fairy tales for young viewers. A few years ago, the theater artists were able to realize another interesting project - the creation of a puppet theater, which was a terrific event for Abaza children and teenagers.

Unfortunately, at the moment the building of the Republican Drama Theater is recognized as an emergency, and the Abaza Theater, like other national companies, has temporary difficulties. However, I think, they will be overcome soon.

A cohesive team dedicated to their work - in the search for new creative ideas. Umar Kishmakhov is convinced that theater is a single organism. The main goal of each of the troupe, in addition to self-realization, is the desire to remain interesting for its audience for a long time and to bring to the masses the unique culture of its people. Therefore, there is a common goal that will be achieved by common efforts.