Adana stops for celebration of theater
On March 27, Adana marked World Theater Day with a spectacular opening for the city’s 15th theater festival. DHA photoAlthough Istanbul remains inarguably the heart of the Turkish art world, the southern province of Adana is set to become the city’s rival in theater. While March 27, International Theater Day, went largely unnoticed in Istanbul, Adana marked the day with a spectacular opening for the city’s 15th theater festival.
The city’s Seyhan River served this time as a huge theater venue, as the Italian group Studio Festi performed their show, “Water and Fire Memories,” over the waters crossing downtown Adana. The historic stone bridge was also used as a stage by Studio Festi, one of the few groups in the world that uses state-of-the-art technology to perform in the middle of nature.
The festival in Adana, the hometown of one of one of Turkey’s most iconic novelists, Yaşar Kemal, is based on the equally iconic late industrialist Sakıp Sabancı’s dream of transforming Adana into a center of culture and arts, said Güler Sabancı, chairperson of the Sabancı Foundation Board of Trustees.
“We started with the participation of national theater groups; but in time, the festival quickly became an international one and we believe it is now currently an international brand,” said Zerrin Koyunsağan, the director of the Sabancı Foundation.
The festival is jointly organized by the Turkish State Theaters, which according to officials, is the true epitome of public and private sector collaboration.
“We have hosted 5,000 artists so far, including very important groups. When you look in terms of length and the demand from international groups to participate, we believe the Adana festival has become an internationally recognized festival,” said Lemi Bilgin, the general director of Turkish State Theaters.
The festival will last until the end of April with 23 plays, seven of which will be performed by foreign groups.
Exclusively for the festival’s 15th anniversary, Turkey will host two renowned foreign groups for the first time. The Globe Theater, one of the most established ensembles in Britain, will stage Shakespeare’s “King Lear” in both Adana and Istanbul; at the same time, the musical ensemble Taj Express will bring the colors of India again to both Adana and Istanbul.
Show must go on
This year, the Sakıp Sabancı Lifetime Achievement Award was granted to Rutkay Aziz, one of the most renowned figures in Turkish theater. Aziz, who is currently the chairperson of the Nazım Hikmet Culture and Art Foundation, said theater was one of the noblest art forms.
Speaking to a group of journalists before the opening ceremony where he received his award, Aziz shared an anecdote about an Austrian commander’s letter to the king while under the Ottoman siege.
“He said that despite heavy Ottoman shelling, he was able to make locals go to the theater at least twice a week,” Aziz told reporters. “Some people in Turkey say theater is dying. Theater will live as long as humanity does. But we have to grant the necessary environment for liberty for theater to strive; we should stay away from any stance that is based on censorship or restrictions.”
In order to reach out to more spectators, the opening and closing events of the festival are being performed in open air.
Studio Festi, which is performing at the opening of the festival for the third consecutive year, has collaborated with Turkish, German and French teams to display a visual show that features the symbols of the surrounding region of Çukurova like cotton fields, sun flowers and orange gardens.