When Osh’s Uzbek Music and Drama Theater opened its 94th season last month, the actors looked nervously into the audience. They had not celebrated an opening night for three years, since before the theater was partially burned amid 2010’s ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan. From behind the curtains, they saw something unfamiliar: a full house, including prominent local officials in attendance to show their support.
Theater crowds these days are often thin. Thespians say the local community is too down-and-out to pay much attention to the arts. And the computer age is changing what people expect of entertainment. But the Uzbek Music and Drama Theater, the only Uzbek-language theater in Kyrgyzstan, still has its die-hard fans.
The theater first opened with government support in October 1919. Local communist authorities funded the theater – as well as a Kyrgyz-language theater that opened in 1972 – as part of their efforts to use the arts to promote Bolshevik ideology. The funds aren’t as abundant today as in earlier decades, but there’s also less ideological pressure.
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Hamid Tursunov is a freelance writer from Osh.