European News
Uzbek Theater Director Killed
By MANSUR MIROVALEV, Associated Press Writer

Fri Sep 7, 5:51 PM

MOSCOW – Mark Weil, an Uzbek theater director whose productions caused controversy in the tightly controlled former Soviet republic, was stabbed to death outside his home, a theater spokeswoman said Friday. He was 55.

Weil was attacked in front of his apartment building in Uzbekistan's capital, Tashkent, late Thursday night, said Oksana Khrupun, a spokeswoman for the Ilkhom theater. She said he died on the operating table at a hospital.

Actors at the theater, reached by telephone, said Weil was taken to the hospital by neighbors who described seeing two young men in baseball caps waiting for the director in front of his building.

Police were investigating, but refused to say whether they had identified any suspects, Khrupun said. Calls to the police were not answered.

The actors, who had rushed to the hospital, said Weil was not robbed and that the director said before the operation that he did not know his assailants.

"To the last minute, he kept talking about tomorrow's premiere," said musical director Artyom Kim.

Ilkhom, which Weil founded in 1976, was the first independent theater in the Soviet Union. He gained popularity for staging uncensored productions that combined elements of Uzbek folk theater, Italian commedia dell'arte, absurdist plays and pantomime.

"Our credo is not to repeat ourselves, and each new project obliterates everything we've done before," Weil told The Associated Press in 2006.

Khripun said the director's last words were, "I'm opening the season tomorrow, whatever happens."

The actors said the premiere _ a production of The Oresteia by ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus _ would open Friday night.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Weil's theater began participating in festivals throughout the world, and he directed productions in Moscow and Seattle.

Sarah Nash Gates, who collaborated with Weil as executive director of the School of Drama at the University of Washington in Seattle, fought to keep her composure in a telephone interview. She recalled Weil downplaying U.S. State Department warnings of lawlessness in Uzbekistan while welcoming Washington students visiting Ilkhom.

"He always said the theater never had any enemies," Gates said.

"He had a gift for a director of really getting to the core of the material," she added. "and then he could lead actors to demonstrate that."

Ilkhom has stood out as an oasis in Uzbek theater life, which has been hit by economic hardships and a talent drain.

Some of Ilkhom's productions touched on gay love, a taboo topic in a predominantly Muslim country where homosexuality is punishable by up to two years in jail.


Associated Press writer Tim Klass in Seattle contributed to this report.