Azerbaijani national theatre marks its 141st anniversary on March 10.
Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev issued an order for the establishment of the Azerbaijan National Theatre Day on March 1, 2013.
The development of theatrical art in the Azerbaijani culture has a long history, which starts with the theatrical elements of open-air folk performances, religious ceremonies, ashugs - Caucasian folk poets and singers - playing national instruments and narrating folk epics, traditional Islamic mystery plays, mythology, and dervish dances.
The roots of performing national games such as Garavelli, Kosa-kosa, Garagoz, Kilimarasi, and others go back a long way. In medieval times, Shebih, the religious theatre, emerged in Azerbaijan. Shebih performances used to show the tragic events that happened to the family of Imam Not Hussein, the grandchild of Prophet Mohammad.
On the occasion of Novruz bayram on 22 March, 1873, the drama Sarguzashti veziri-khan Lenkaran (The Adventures of the Vizier of the Lenkoran Khan) by Mirza Fatali Akhundov was staged in Azerbaijani in the meeting hall of the Baku Society with the help of Hasan bay Zardabi and Najaf bay Vezirov.
Herewith, the foundation of professional theatre in Azerbaijan and the Muslim world was laid.
Theatrical performances in Baku were put on by the following groups till 1919: the Azerbaijani Artists' Union, Nijat, Hamiyyat, Sefa and The Office of Brothers Zufuqar bey, and Uzeyir bey Hajibeyov. The performances were mainly enacted in the buildings of Tagiyev, Mayilov and Musa Nagiyev.
The Azerbaijani Government Theatre was established in Baku on 24 October 1919, though it is called the National Academic Drama Theatre today. This group is also heir to the one founded in 1873.
Abdurrahim bey Hagverdiyev, Eyneli bey Sultanov, Huseyn Arablinski, Abbasmirza Sherifzadeh, Alexander Tuganov, Sultan Dadashov, Adil Iskenderov, Ismayil Hidayetzadeh, Zefer Nematov, Mehdi Mammadov, and Tofig Kazimov played an important role in creating the productions of the Azerbaijani theatre.
There were great actors too; Mirzaga Aliyev, Jahangir Zeynalov, Marziye Davudova, Fatma Gadirli, Hokume Gurbanova, Rza Afganli, Agadadash Gurbanov, Ismayil Osmanli, Nasiba Zeynalova, Huseyngulu Sarabski, Hegiget Rzayeva, Shovket Mammadova and Bulbul created the fine traditions of dramatic and musical theatre.
At present, there are 27 state theatres in Azerbaijan, performing plays, opera, musical comedies, puppet shows, and mimes. There are also two municipal and four private theatres.
The Azerbaijani State Cultural and Art University teaches the different specialties of theatrical art.
There is also the Russian Drama theatre company in Baku, performing in Russian, and the Young Spectators' and Musical Theatre which has its own Russian company of actors.