3. Art & Culture‎ > ‎

3.5. Theater



It may well be that the first ceremonial activities back in the depths of time in Anatolia, rituals performed in the name of the gods, were the first steps towards the art of theatre of our own time. The performance plays, the most important component of the festivals and celebrations observed in the structure of Ottoman society, appear before us as a kind of folk theatre. The most noteworthy varieties of these spectator shows include the storyteller, puppet shows and Karagoz shadow plays. These experienced their golden age in the 19th and early 20th centuries. At the same time however, written texts in the theatre began to make the presence increasingly felt. The famous stage artist Muhsin Ertugrul, who was appointed to head the Istanbul City Theatre in the Republican period, managed to reach a wide audience by staging the contemporary theatrical translations he had presented. That then encouraged new writers, who, together with stage decor representative of contemporary tastes and expert performing skills, formed the basis of current Turkish theatre. The Darülbedayi, which was made part of Istanbul Municipality in 1931, took the name Istanbul City Theatre in 1934. The first children's theatre was set up in the Istanbul City Theatre in 1935, again at Ertugrul's initiative.

The Ankara State Conservatory was founded in 1936, with the first graduates forming the Rehearsal Stage in 1941. In 1949, the State Opera and Ballet was founded, and the Rehearsal Stage was replaced by works staged by the State Opera and Ballet. Since the 1970s, the State Theatres Department has been continuing its activities as a General Directorate attached to the Culture Ministry. The State Theatres Directorate has opened offices in cities such as Ankara, Istanbul, Van, Sivas, Izmir, Bursa, Erzurum and Konya, and is also trying to reach all other settlement areas by means of the tours it regularly stages. The organisation also carries out a large number of activities aimed at children's theatre.

Outside the State Theatres Directorate, city theatres established by local municipalities and private theatres also make a valuable contribution to Turkish theatre. The private theatres, which began in 1950 and increasingly grew in number thereafter, played a major role in the development of Turkish theatre. The Little Stage, founded by Muhsin Ertugrul in 1951 after leaving the State Theatres, produced a large number of professionals for the Turkish theatre. Among the noteworthy theatres of the time were the Style Stage, Pocket Theatre, Muammer Karaca Theatre and the Istanbul Operetta. The 1960s was a time when private theatres developed and multiplied rapidly. Amateur theatres also increased in number. The Dormen Theatre founded in 1955, the 1961 Oraloglu Theatre, the 1962 Gulriz Sururi-Engin Cezzar Group, and the 1963 Ankara Classical Theatre (AST) were among those that led the way in Turkish theatre at the time. These theatres also produced important works for children's theatre.
The 1970s, by contrast, were years of stagnation for private theatres, although the sector began to revive again in the mid-1980s.

Among the private theatres that made the greatest contributions to the Turkish stage from the 1960s and 1970s on, even though not all have survived to the present day, are the Hadi Caman Yeditepe Players, the Enis Fosforoglu Theatre, the Hodri Meydan Culture Centre, the Ferhan Sensoy Players Ostrich Cabaret, the City Players, the Friends Theatre, the AN Poyrazoglu Theatre, the Nejat Uygur Theatre and the Levent Kirca-Oya Basar Theatre.

Writing for the Turkish theatre has developed increasingly since the founding of the Republic, and has generally followed a critical-realistic line aimed at society as a whole. Writers such as Haldun Taner, Necati Cumah, Gungor Oilmen, Orhan Asena, Turan Oflazoglu, Turgut Ozakrnan, Ferhat Sensoy and Selim ileri, who have produced works for the political cabaret theatre in which players such as Zeli Alasya, Metin Akpmar and Ahmet Guldal have starred, have also made an enormous contribution to the Turkish stage while making full use of all the features of traditional Turkish theatre.