1. Uluslararası Shakespeare Festivali: The First International Shakespeare Festival in Turkey
Reviewed by Anna Carleton Forrester
On the homepage for the first international Shakespeare festival in Turkey a banner reads “Prometheus of World Literature Honors Turkey.” But over the course of ten days, the organizers, scholars, students, and contributors of the inaugural festival, hosted at Süleyman Demirel in Isparta, Turkey, made that honor reciprocal. In a series of exhibits, lectures, video contributions and documentary presentations, performances and ceremonies, this international community created a space where the important work on Shakespeare in Turkey was showcased and celebrated.
The ten-day event began on 20 April 2018, with an opening ceremony and Shakespeare-themed poster and ceramic exhibitions by students of the Department of Western Languages and Literatures and the Ceramics Research and Application Department of Süleyman Demirel University. Below are select works from the exhibitions.
The festival hosted several performances, put on both by visiting companies and students of Süleyman Demirel. The musical production “Müsadenle Shakespeare” (“Excuse me, Shakespeare”) by the Denzli Büyükşehir Belediyesi Şehir Tiyatroları (Denizli Metropolitan Municipality City Theatres), literally pardons Shakespeare by staging scenes from non-Shakespearean plays. Students of the Department of Western Languages and Literatures staged an English production of Romeo and Juliet, directed by two graduate students of the department, Yasemen Kiriş Yatağan and Yadigar Kılavuz. The production is in the process of being made available on the open access MIT Global Shakespeare Video and Performance archive. On 23 April, actors from the Uluslararası Sosyal Medya Derneği (International Social Media Association) performed an adaption of the same play called Twitter Fenomeni Romeo ve Insta Girl Juliet (Twitter Phenomenon Romeo and Insta Girl Juliet) that reimagined the narrative as a comedy, in which the title characters were each champions of the respective social media applications, and their relationship were mediated through those platforms.
Students from the Department of Performing Arts at Süleyman Demirel staged a fantastically choreographed adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew called Hirçin Kız (Combative Girl), where three couples in a local pub, La Casa di Rosamaria, role-play very physical encounters between Kate and her potential suitors.
Perhaps the most anticipated production of the festival was Bülent Emin Yarar’s one-man Hamlet. In the production, an enormous maroon velvet clam-like apparatus occupies and functions as the stage-space; it sits with an incline up-stage, and its top opens upon the sole performer, positioned at its center. In roughly an hour and a half, Hamlet takes on the personas of the traditional cast, their various identities and aspirations.
Nineteen students from Süleyman Demirel’s Western Languages and Literatures Department contributed to the festival with sonnet reading. Organized by graduate student Yeşim Sultan Akbay and Dr. Elif Aktürk, their students were given the freedom to create the design and delivery of their sonnet recitation; each student took the stage with a favorite quotation from Shakespeare, and sat poised on stage while their classmates delivered their reading. The final reading, one of Sonnet 66, can be viewed here.
The play Salem Sana Shakespeare (Hello to you, Shakespeare) was staged by the students of Boğaziçi University of Istanbul’s Performing Arts Department. Buse Şimşek, a fourth-year student in the Department of Western Languages and Literatures, noted that “Selam Sana Shakespeare was one of my favorite plays. My first Shakespeare class was two years ago and this play was a very successful summary of that course; it was full of information about that era; with people, Queen Elizabeth, and The Globe.”
The Antalya Metropolitan Municipality City Theatre gave a special performance of Tarla Kuşuydu Juliet (Oh Oh Juliet) for the festival. A parody of Shakespeare’s tragedy, it imagines its title characters as married, with children, and even includes an episode in which Shakespeare awakens from his grave and intervenes.
The festival was fortunate to include on its program the premiere ballet performance of Romeo and Juliet, put on by the State Opera and Ballet at the Antalya State Opera and Ballet House in Antalya.
And, finally, the children’s play Maskbet, an adaptation of Macbeth told from the perspective of the witches and performed by the Bursa City Theatre, was included as the final performance in the festival.
A number of scholars from Turkey, the US and the UK contributed important talks on Shakespeare in Turkey, Shakespeare in translation, global Shakespeare, and resource and research tools. Dr. Özdemir Nutku, professor and translator of Shakespeare into Turkish, gave a talk entitled “Translating Plays and Stage Language: Some Hints on Shakespeare’s English.” Dr. Hülya Nutku gave a talk on contemporary adaptations of Shakespeare; she considered some English adaptations, such as Spymonkey’s The Complete Deaths, to Turkish ones, like Yücel Erten’s translation of Sebastian Seidel’s Hamlet for You, Bir Baba Hamlet, to Turkish performances of Rosencrantz ve Guildenstern öldüler (Rozencrantz and Guıldenstern are Dead), which played at the 18th Istanbul Theatre Festival, and Leyla Özgüler Kalender’s translation of Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield’s The Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged, Bütün Shakespeare’in Eserleri, which recently played in Istanbul. Lastly, professor of Süleyman Demirel, Dr. Betüre Memmedova gave a commemorative talk on Shakespeare’s body of work.
International contributions included a screening of a video talk from Prof. Stephen Greenblatt of Harvard University. Drawing upon his recent publication, Tyrant, Prof. Greenblatt focused on the tyrannical behaviors of Richard III, which, as students were quick to point out, carried haunting resonances with the current global political climate. Prof. Peter Donaldson of MIT Global Shakespeare held a video lecture, where he discussed the video archive of international performances, its cross-media resources, and future aspirations for the website. Students of Süleyman Demirel University were especially excited to contribute video recordings of their performances to the catalogue, and contemplate the international reach of their work. Prof. Sir Stanley Wells and Dr. Paul Edmondson of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust contributed a video lecture on Shakespeare’s sonnets, in which they discussed the dating, publication, and attribution of the sonnets, in addition to looking at facsimiles and Turkish translations housed at the Birthplace.
Other events in the festival included a “fish and chips festival,” part of the second-annual university-wide “Balık Ekmek Şenliği” (“Fish Bread Festival”). During the festival, Trabzon folk dancers performed the traditional Horon dance, which narrates the catching of the hamsi (anchovy) fish. A screening of the documentary “Türkiye’de Şekspir Olmak” (“Being Shakespeare in Turkey”), directed by Gülşah Özdemir Koryürek, gave a brief account of the arrival and rise of Shakespeare’s plays in Turkey.
On the final day of the festival, participants were asked to submit letters to the Juliet Club of Verona, Italy; a screening of various Shakespeare films played at various locales around the campus; and an opening for the University’s Shakespeare Library, in addition to a closing ceremony were held.
After the festival, the conference organizers spoke to the importance of the festival’s local and global reach. Dr. Ömer Şekerci noted that they “desired to bring together the residents of Isparta and students by getting plays staged. Thanks to this event many students and people of Isparta had the experience of drama and theatre.” And PhD student İlker Özçelik commented on their hopes to incorporate the festival into the European Shakespeare Festivals Network, in order to “create grounds for more collaboration.” He went on to say that “We want to incorporate more international productions/speakers… [and] also hope to find some sponsorship from the Ministry or private institutions/agencies or companies.”
Parties interested in getting involved with next year’s festival should contact Dr. Ömer Şekerci (firstname.lastname@example.org) or PhD student İlker Özçelik (email@example.com) of Süleyman Demirel University.