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The play, in which Eliud Kauffman portrays Mehmet the Conqueror and Alan Smith portrays Bellini, was staged at the 17th NY Fringe Festival. AA photo

The play, in which Eliud Kauffman portrays Mehmet the Conqueror and Alan Smith portrays Bellini, was staged at the 17th NY Fringe Festival. AA photo

One of the most famous sultan in Ottoman history, Mehmet the Conqueror, and Venetian painter Gentile Bellini “got together” in the Robert Moss Theater’s play “Bellini and the Sultan,” written and directed by Ed Stevens and produced by New York-based Turkish actress Ayşe Eldek Richardson.

The play, in which Eliud Kauffman portrayed Mehmet the Conqueror and Alan Smith portrayed Bellini, was staged as part of the 17th Annual New York International Fringe Festival, one of the largest and most important multi-arts events in North America. “Bellini and the Sultan” takes place in 1479, after the first Ottoman-Venetian war, and is about the adventures of Renaissance painter Bellini in the Ottoman palace, who was sent to Istanbul to keep the peace by painting a portrait demanded by Mehmet the Conqueror. The focus of the play is the clash of Eastern and Western values in Istanbul, the capital of one of the greatest powers of the era.

The only Turkish performer in the play, Temi Hason, portrays a concubine in the Harem. Hason, also a cellist, who completed her education at the New York Film Academy Musical Theater Conservatory, also appeared in the semifinals of the Turkish talent show “Yetenek Sizsiniz” in 2012.
 
Painting of Mehmet II inspired play

The idea of the play originated when Stevens first saw the famous painting of Mehmet the Conqueror by Bellini at the 2007 exhibition “Venice and the Islamic World, 828-1797” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Noting that he was greatly affected by the painting, Stevens said, “It enabled me to understand the connection between the East and the West and inspired me to write this play.”

Stevens, who afterward visited Istanbul and took Turkish lessons, decided to put the play on stage when he met Richardson. Richardson said that they formed The Turkish American Repertory Theater (TARTE) in 2010 for cultural exchange between Turkish and foreign actors and that TARTE participates every year in the Fringe NYC.

The basic nature of humantity

Asked about the challenges of staging a play on cultural differences, Richardson said: “When we talk about the cultures of the East and the West, we see that clothing, traditions, values and religions are all different. Yet, when we consider the essence of the person, those differences become negligible. When you watch this play, you realize this. You discover the basic nature of humanity, away from everything.”

Richardson also said TARTE had a number of upcoming projects. “In September we will stage an extended version of ‘Bellini and the Sultan.’ We will participate in the Third Annual Turkish American One-Act Plays Festival with this play. Then we are planning a Keloğlan [a fictional character in Turkish culture] project with original score and screenplay. We hope to stage this production according to Broadway standards.”

August/15/2013

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