A Letter To Freedom

Based on the theme, ‘Freedom - Questionings’, the 18th İstanbul Theater Festival is examining the situations, issues and realities that encapsulate human life from migration and human rights to violence and armed conflict.

One of the special offerings of the festival, on the theme ‘Freedom - Questionings’, is “SILSEL: Letters Written to Turkey”, produced by Kutluğ Ataman. Sılsel is Aramaic for a fluttering of wings and at the same time the name for the depictions of the sky found on the ceilings of old Syriac Christian homes in Turkey’s southeastern city of Mardin.

This special event, slated to take place May 12 to June 5 at the Greek Primary School in Galata, invites people of all ages to create the skies of their dreams. Anyone wishing to take part in the performance should write or draw whatever he likes on a 45-cm-wide piece of colored paper or cloth of any length. All the contributions will be joined together by June 5 and preserved as an historical document when the festival is over. The project itself is aimed at putting together other skies in other countries.

Another project that started out in other countries is the documentary play ‘Seven’ based on interviews with seven women who have fought for women’s rights around the world. The play, to be staged at the Kenter Theater on May 16, has already been performed in eight countries since it was written in 2007, read by upwards of 300 politicians, activists and actors. Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep is among those who have read Seven, which was introduced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at its U.S. performance. Well-known actors, journalists and human rights activists will read the play in its Istanbul production.

Staged by Thomas Ostermeier, artistic director of Schaubühne Berlin, one of Europe’s leading theaters, ‘Hamlet’ is expected to be one of the festival’s biggest draws. Only six actors will be performing Shakespeare’s more than 20 characters in the play, which is coming to audiences at the Harbiye Muhsin Ertuğrul Theater on May 12 and 13 with Lars Eidinger in the role of Hamlet. Thanks to a rotating camera, the audience will be able to follow the speeches of the characters closely in this production, which has played to sell-out crowds in a number of cities and countries from London and Venice to Buenos Aires and Chile.

Ali Paşa Han, Sahne Beşiktaş, Caddebostan Culture Center, Galata Greek Primary School, Garajistanbul, Haldun Taner Theater, Hamursuz Fırın, Harbiye Muhsin Ertuğrul Theater, Hasköy Silk Factory, İkinci Kat, Kenter Theater, Kumbaracı50, Küçük Sahne, Lütfî Kırdar Convention and Exhibition Center, Mekan Artı, Oyun Atölyesi, Salt Galata, Üsküdar Studio Theater, Üsküdar Tekel Theater, Salon, Tiyatro Hal and Theater Pera.


Many Turkish plays will be premiering at the festival, among them Tiyatro Hal’s Yaka Beyaz (White Collar). Written by Özer Arslan, this play depicts the plight of being at once urban and provincial from the point of view of a woman plaza director.  Merve Engin plays the white-collar professional in this play, which will be staged at Tiyatro Hal in Şişli on May 16 and 17. Born in Bursa in 1984, Merve Engin won acclaim last season for her three one-woman performances.

The festival, May 10 to June 5, is hosting more than 100 performances by 40 Turkish and 5 foreign theater groups.

HAMLET - Schaubühne Berlin (Germany)
ORFEO - Choreographers Montalvo & Hervieu and the Cirque du Soleil dancers (France)
KAFKA’S MONKEY - Young Vic Theatre Company (England)
HANS WAS HEIRI - Zimmermann & de Perrot (Switzerland)
RHINOCEROS - Théâtre de la Ville (France)