Staging of Tartuffe by the Mayakovsky Theatre in Dushanbe

“I want our theatre to be the new face of Tajik theatre”: Khurshed Mustafoev on the future of Dushanbe’s Russian theatre

In early 2021, Khurshed Mustafoev became artistic director of the Mayakovsky Theatre in Dushanbe. The actor, director and set designer has been working with the theatre company – the only Russian-language troupe in Tajikistan’s capital – for the past 20 years. He told Novastan about his plans for his new role.  

This article was originally published on Novastan’s French website on 8 March 2021.

It’s an important nomination for Tajikistan’s theatre scene. In early February 2021, Khurshed Mustafoev became the artistic director of the Mayakovsky Theatre in Dushanbe, the city’s only Russian-language theatre company. Since the demolition of its historic building in 2016, the company has been sharing premises with the Lokhuti Drama Theatre, also in Dushanbe.

Mustafoev has been part of the company since playing the title role in a 2001 production of Albert Camus’s Caligula. Since then, he has worked as an actor, director and set designer.

Novastan: Did you start your career as an actor, or were you both actor and director from the very beginning?

Khurshed Mustafoev: In 1995, after finishing school, I enrolled in the Tajik State Institute of Arts. I started working as an actor after getting my diploma. I started my career as a director a little later.

At first it was just an interest, I tried to realise my fantasies, then it became a real passion, and now it is a profession. Although I am not trained as a director.

Do you also design the sets for your productions?

I’ve always loved drawing. Before I started directing, I started trying my hand as an artist in productions. I would invent costumes and sets for shows. When I started directing my own productions, always made a point of doing the set design as well.

What are your goals for the Mayakovsky Theatre?

I have one goal: to find the type of theatre that is right for me. Although I have already formed my own style, which I am working on, I want to explore others, focus on one and take things farther in that direction, taking the theatre team with me. I want our theatre to be the new face of Tajik theatre!

The Mayakovsky Theatre’s latest productions are very modern, like its staging of Hamlet, for example.  This kind of staging is a new direction for Tajik theatre, do you think you will continue with this modern approach?

I love classical theater, but it is essential for me to work with it in a modern style. I like to mix classical and modern. And I think I will continue in this direction.

A photo from the Mayakovsky Theatre's staging of Hamlet
Hamlet at the Mayakovsky Theatre

Your Hamlet toured in Russia. Do you think you will do other tours in Russian-speaking countries?

I think every creative person likes to go on tour. I want more countries to see our theatrical creations, I want them to get to know our country, our people, our culture. And I want to build relationships with artists from other countries. So we will tour with great pleasure. Of course, it doesn’t depend only on us. I hope we will be supported and travel more often. I would like to show our performances not only in Russian-speaking countries, but also in European and Asian countries, through tours or taking part in festivals.

An extract from the Mayakovsky Theatre’s Hamlet

Are you planning on alternating between productions in Russian and Persian?

I’ve done shows in several languages at once, with actors speaking two or three languages in the same production. Sometimes I have staged the same play in Russian and Persian at the same time. I like that. I think I will still stage shows in several languages. However, most productions will be in Russian, since the theatre is a Russian-language theatre. I like to create our eastern stories in Russian, it is both very poetic and unusual.

What authors and genres appeal to you most?

I like plays that touch me, the author is not important. The main thing is that the work is interesting. I really like it when I can project myself into plays, or feel a connection with them, then I am motivated to work on them.

Poster for "Night at the Theatre", a staging of Chekhov's works at the Mayakovsky Theatre.

You are currently putting on a play for children. What role will you give to children’s theatre?

It is not easy to direct shows for children. However, I love children and I often put on plays for them, with great care. Children cannot be fooled and they are difficult to convince.

I like colourful tales for children. In addition to theatre, I still work in schools, do theatre workshops with them, and it’s simply wonderful to work with children.

A children's play directed by Mustafoev

The Mayakovsky Theatre building was demolished in 2016. Will moving into new premises allow actors to work in better conditions?

In 2016, the building of our theatre and home was demolished and it was very painful for us. But we are working, continuing, creating and living. Soon we will have our new theatre, it is under construction. We are looking forward to the day when we will move in.

Which local or foreign cultural partners do you plan to work with?

We often work with the Bactria Cultural Centre and every year we stage plays by French authors during events related to French culture. And I really hope that our friendship and cooperation will go on for a long time. Of course, we would like to cooperate with many other organizations. I think they will also pay attention to us and we can work with them, develop our cooperation.

Interview by Amal Khanoum Gadjieva

Prepared by Christine Wystup

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