The theatre “Ilkhom”, one of the first non-governmental professional theaters in the history of the former Soviet Union, was founded in 1976 by its director Mark Weil and a group of graduates of Tashkent Theatre and Art Institute. Initially the theater was formed as an ensemble consisting of freely improvising soloists who sensitively hear and understand each other.
The original name of the theater was ESTY “Ilkhom” (experimental studio of theater youth – actors, artists, musicians, theater critics).
The young theater became debut stage for young playwrights, namely for A. Vampilov, S. Zlotnikov, Sh. Bashbekov, Ch. Guseynov, L. Razumovskaya, who were later called as the “new wave” of drama. Meeting with the drama of their generation appeared to be the best and the most unique way for the actors to express themselves.
Years passed. Since 1985 a freedom has begun. By that time “Ilkhom” has gained its popularity. As a truly independent theater it was somewhere well in advance of its time, so it had already told the world a lot before the Perestroika and did not want to repeat. During the period of 1986 to 1990, “Ilkhom” stopped producing plays with words and got stuck into a long experimental work to produce silent plays. It was a period motion plays, visual metaphor theater and clownery. Actually, that time began the life of new “Ilkhom”. The actors who played such performances as “Ragtime for Clowns”, “Clomadeus”, and “Petrushka” brought a new energy, as well as a feeling of the modern theater to “Ilkhom”.
Since 1989, the year of establishment of its own School of Dramatic Art, the next, or it’s better to say the third stage of the theater “Ilkhom’s” life has begun. Graduation performance of the Studio I (1993) was the fantasy performance about Samarkand based on Carlo Gozzi’s comedy “The Happy Beggars.” This play united all generations of “Ilkhom” and became a kind of synthesis of comedy tradition dell’arte and Uzbek traditional folk comedy, called maskharaboz.
Repertoire of the theater of that period consisted mostly from the so-called “classical heritage”, however its representation was not traditional and therefore the reaction to the performances of “Ilkhom” was always unique, ranging from complete rejection and shock to a joyful delight.
The main value of the theater repertoire is its diversity. Diptych by Pushkin: a bright provocative play “Freestyle Romance” (the original name of “Eugene Onegin,” novel in verse) and multimedia mystery “Imitations of the Koran”. “The laboratory of Dr. Chekhov,” a play based on the early comedies of Anton Chekhov, “Art” by A. Reza, one of the most popular plays in the today’s world repertoire of the theater, and a psychological drama “Brothers and Lisa” by A. Kazantsev. Contemporary interpretation of classical plays, including “Oblom-off” by M. Ugarov, and “What happened at the zoo?” – a diptych, based on the bestseller plays of Edward Albee (“The Zoo Story” and “Three Tall Women”). “Flights of Mashrab” is a kind of game with the myths and texts, created by one of the most iconic Sufi poets in the history of Central Asia (a joint work with Vorhoelle Vienna) and “Pomegranate Ecstasy”, based on paintings by Alexander Nikolaev (Usto Mumin), one more phenomenon of Eurasian culture (a joint work with Doris Duke Fund for Dance of the National Dance Project), the tragedy of Aeschylus “Oresteia.”
The theatre “Ilkhom” always identified itself as the Tashkent theatre, the theater of the city, where everything and everyone was mixed long ago, where streets were alsways full of various dialects, and therefore, the plays were performed in a mixture of Russian and Uzbek languages. So in a long-term repertoire hit “The Happy Beggars” the characters speak at least four languages: Russian, Uzbek, Italian, and Yiddish.
The fourth stage of a creative life of the theater “Ilkhom” began after the tragic events of September 7, 2007 – the death of its founder and permanent leader – Mark Yakovlevich Weil. In memory of the perished leader of “Ilkhom” it was was renamed as “Ilkhom,” the theater of Mark Weil. An actor Boris Gafurov became the artistic director of the theater “Ilkhom”.
Today’s repertoire of the theater “Ilkhom” is very diverse, ranging from the plays of the world classics to the works of young authors from all over the world, and many of such plays were first presented to the audience nowhere else but in this theater.
Over the past 17 years the works of the theater “Ilkhom” were presented at more than 34 international theatrical festivals in 22 countries, including Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, Yugoslavia, the United States, Russia, Japan, France, Poland and others, and during 15 non-festival tour performances.