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Arrival @ Ilkhom (Enter The Seagull Project)

May 14, 2014

Arrival @ the Ilkhom Theatre of Mark Weil (Enter The Seagull Project)

Uzbekistan Panorama2

View from Shodlik Palace Hotel

We didn’t set an alarm. Waking up after breakfast (which the Shodlik served until 10 a.m. each day included with room), we were thrilled to have saved our extra muffins and bagels from the flight (and also that we remembered to pack a quart baggie of nuts and dried fruit). It was late morning and we could see the mountains from our room.

Uzbekistan Panorama1

Close-up of mountains from Shodlik Palace.

Our phone rang and Irina (our gracious, brilliant host from the Ilkhom Theatre of Mark Weil), was waiting in the Lobby.  We left the hotel and walked around the corner to the Ilkhom (it’s in the same complex as the Shodlik).  As we entered the theatre, the cast of Dance On Bones are just wrapping up rehearsals in the gallery located in the lobby.


Dance On Bones rehearsal in the gallery at the Ilkhom Theatre.

We shake quick hands (I did my best to remember names: CT, John, Dave, and Alex) and Gavin, one of the directors promised to connect after giving notes.  We were thrilled to find a bustling coffee shop in the lobby of the Ilkhom Theatre and ordered two espressos to take the edge off of the jetlag.  Thank goodness it worked.

Aziz, our waiter and future interpreter/guide.

Dave, Aziz, and Rebecca.

After a brief chat with Gavin talking about my sitting in on rehearsals, questions about the play, and a general excitement to get to know each other, we head from the theatre to a Kafe on Navoiy that becomes affectionately known as Chez Aziz because of the waiter, Aziz, who charms us all with his passion about being an interpreter and tour guide (also the Kafe has very reasonable prices, good service, and cold beer).  Our lunch of tomato, cucumber, and onion salad; kabobs; and Shurpa (a soup) tastes wonderful eaten in the spring sunshine.

We meet more members of The Seagull Project at the Kafe and chat through lunch.  Then Rebecca and I take a long walk through a beautiful park alongside a flowing river, kids jumping off the Navoiy bridge, folks picnicking, and just across that river was more park to be explored.  Find a bodega (just a couple of blocks up Navoiy), buy some juice and Q-tips, and get back to the Shodlik Palace before seeing that evening’s show:  Mark Weil’s musical adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat in which Tyler, the other director of Dance On Bones and an Ilkhom training program alum, was going to be acting.

Park along the river off of Navoiy in Tashkent.

Park along the river off of Navoiy in Tashkent.

The following day I was going to sit in on rehearsals (we had 3 rehearsals and a tech day before we presented Dance On Bones), and as excited as I was to get to know everyone, I was also nervous…nervous that this script, this wild idea wrought in the spirit of jazz and the shadows of capitalism/fascism and ecological disaster, would be just that…a disaster and because of that people wouldn’t like me.  I was ready to work, and hoped that everyone else would be too.


What is the Seagull Project?

From The Seagull Project website:

The Seagull Project was formed out of a passion for the works of Anton Chekhov, particularly his play, The Seagull. Having met and collaborated on Seattle Shakespeare Company’s wildly successful Threepenny Opera, the founding producers immediately set about creating a new collaboration, one formed around a long-form, actor-driven workshop of Chekhov’s play. They began assembling an ensemble in 2011, and finally completed their cast in spring of 2012, when they began meeting regularly at the University of Washington, and later at Seattle Children’s Theatre, for weekly sessions in which they trained physically, and began to revisit the fundamentals of their craft as actors.

These sessions began in a free-form model in which ensemble members shared their personal training Seagull Reading and Luncheon 046regimens, methodologies, and made dramaturgical presentations on a wide range of topics, from transportation systems in Russia during the 19th Century, to the history of the great Russian estates under the czars, and explorations of Russian music. Gradually, with the addition of Seattle actor and University of Washington theater professor Mark Jenkins, the sessions matured into open explorations of The Seagull itself, beginning with very slow readings of the text and progressing to scene work in which the entire ensemble offered feedback for one another. When Ilkhom Theatre (Tashkent, Uzbekistan) veteran Tyler Polumsky joined the ensemble in the spring of 2011, the final element of the workshop crystalized. Tyler’s highly physical approach to theater allowed the ensemble a rare opportunity to explore in a purely physical and kinesthetic way the world of their characters. Later, the process of creating “etudes,” or inventive character sketches, deepened the ensemble work, and allowed them to creatively approach off-stage moments, or moments from the character’s past.

In December of 2012, the ensemble began working with their director, John Langs (The Adding Machine, Hamlet) in daily sessions in preparation for the full production, which opens on January 25, 2013 at ACT Theatre in Seattle.

The Seagull Project founding producers are Brandon J Simmons, Julie Briskman, John Bogar, Alexandra Tavares and Gavin Reub.

Members of The Seagull Project


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