Changes to state support for private theaters trigger angry debate
Umut Erdem ANKARA
The Culture and Tourism Ministry’s new move has been interpreted as 'an effort to punish dissenting theaters that expressed support for the Gezi protests.'The Culture and Tourism Ministry’s committee to support private theaters in Turkey has stirred controversy with proposed changes to funding methods for the new season, with critics saying the move attempts to punish dissident theater houses.
“We shall not provide support to those theaters that have been supported for the last six years. Instead, we shall support newly-formed theaters,” Deputy Undersecretary Sefer Yılmaz said, while delivering the proposal of Culture and Tourism Minister Ömer Çelik, prompting an angry reaction from some.
If the proposal is put into practice, many long-established institutions such as the Kenter Theater, the Oyun Atölyesi, the Ferhan Şensoy Theater, the Tiyatrokare, the Dostlar Theater and the Ali Poyrazoğlu Theater will not receive state support.
State Theaters General Director Nejat Birecik denounced the proposal of the committee, which is made up of seven people, four of whom are representatives of the ministry.
“This means getting rid of private theaters. This support is the lifeblood of private theaters,” Birecik said.
Actor Ali Poyrazoğlu, who also objects to the proposal, said he had spoken to the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal KIlıçdaroğlu and asked for support on the issue.
Poyrazoğlu also claimed that cutting state support would lead to the closure of many theaters. “This is a big mistake and should be fixed as soon as possible ... They cannot introduce such a quota. The main project of theaters is just to remain open,” he said.
‘Dissenting theaters are punished’
Veteran actor Genco Erkal, meanwhile, described the proposal as unprecedented.
“I have never heard of such a standard in the world. If an art institution contributes to cultural life, it should be provided support until the end. The reason for this became clear last year. There is an effort to punish dissenting theaters that expressed support for the Gezi protests. The real intention [of the new proposal] is to punish dissenting theaters such as the Ankara Sanat Theater and the Ferhan Şensoy Theater,” Erkal said.