The play, directed by Kazım Akşar, tells of Goethe’s marriage to a working woman from a lower class.
The premiere of a play based on the life of the German
poet and playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe has been canceled, reportedly over controversy prompted by an attempt by the Turkish Culture Ministry to remove lines deemed “foul and erotic.”
Culture Ministry officials who vet original scripts staged by Istanbul State Theater deemed as too racey a number of lines in “The Sun is Large When It Sets,” which tells of Goethe’s marriage to a working woman from a lower class.
Sections considered unworthy of the audience’s ears included some of the most passionate lines in the play, such as “I want to sleep with you” and “I will moan like a rabbit.”
Apparently, the suggestion of adults having sex
and intending to enjoy it was just too much for the Culture Ministry, which asked the Istanbul State Theater to remove all the parts containing such lines.
The ministry asked the Turkey's State Theaters director, Mustafa Kurt, to postpone the premiere in order to send officials to the play who could verify whether those lines were removed or not. The demand reportedly prompted Kurt to offer his resignation to Culture Minister Ömer Çelik.
State Theaters officials said similar alterations had been made before in a Turkish play about a theater troupe trying to continue its work during the Kosovo War. For their part, ministry officials said Kurt was likely to be removed from his post due to an ongoing internal investigation, accusing him of resigning in order to deliberately create the image that he had “resisted censorship.”
The government has long been attempting to privatize Turkey’s State Theaters and Operas, a move criticized by workers and the public alike. Nonetheless, despite wanting to abolish the theaters, the government has also sought to keep them under control, presenting a draft law that will establish an 11-member board appointed by the Cabinet that will have ultimate authority over which theaters, cinemas, ballet or opera pieces will be funded by the state.