Useful tips for Turkish playwrights and theater troupes
This time Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s rage is directed toward government-sponsored theaters and their actors and dramaturges. While they are funded by the nation’s money, Mr. Erdoğan reasons, the theater community cannot go against the nation’s will; i.e., scripts should be conservative enough for all audiences. Mr. Erdoğan has said he will privatize the state and city theaters. “We’ll sponsor plays if we like the script,” he said.
I do not understand the theater community’s thundering reaction against the prime minister. With a little bit of creativity, Turkish theater troupes can easily become entitled to state funding. I shall try to illustrate how. For example, a play based on William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” could easily feature this inspirational script:
Act I, scene II: Rome. A public place.
Casca: Peace, ho! Caesar speaks.
Caesar: Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music,
cry, “Caesar! One day a city in Mikri Asia will be named after you;
where a leader even greater than you will be born!”
Soothsayer: Beware the ideas of non-believers!
Caesar: The divine oracle says a tall Turk with a mustache will lead the whole world.
What man is that?
Brutus: Caesar, be not deceived: That Turk will make all God’s lands Muslim!
And in his court there will be a loyal servant like me;
And that servant will bring peace to Jerusalem, Mesopotamia, the Levant
and the land of Hatti.
Caesar: I trust you, Brutus; you speak more wisely than my oracle.
But, noble Brutus; I have learned that you drink wine.
The faithful don’t drink, kill, tell lies or build atomic bombs.
Brutus: Great Caesar! I swear by God Almighty;
the uranium I have stockpiled in my basement is for peaceful purposes;
I shall invent electricity!
Cassius (sottovoce): O Great Emperor!
Brutus’ third wife does not cover her hair:
She is a sinner!
Brutus: I hear you, Cassius; you ignoble infidel!
Caesar: We must be as patient as a spider, Cassius.
For one day the Great Turk will raise devout generations;
He shall speak like thunder to the Israelites: Thou shalt not kill!
One day the world will glitter like the noble sun
In the time of the “Golden Generation”! The Emperor has spoken!
Of course, Turkish playwrights are free to write for younger audiences, as well. Here’s an idea for a children’s play based on the myth of King Midas.
Narrator: Once upon a time there was a pagan king called Midas, and he wanted all the gold in the world. One day he did a favor for the gods, and in a dream God, not the gods, spoke to him…
God: Thank you for your kindness. I will give you anything you want. Make a wish!
Midas: I wish anything I touch would turn to gold.
God: Your wish is foolish, Midas, but it will come true.
Narrator: One day Midas hugged his daughter, and she turned into gold.
Midas: Oh no! What have I done? My precious little daughter is now a gold statue.
Narrator: Horrified, Midas sought out God.
Midas: Please take back my wish!
God: I can only undo your wish if you choose to follow the holy path of Islam.
Narrator: Midas became a pious Muslim and fought the infidels. From that day on the king lived happily in his palace.
Midas: I have learned that true faith is what makes a person rich, not gold.
See, it’s easy. I am in no way a playwright, but I was able to produce two sample sketches in less than 15 minutes. Now you must get to work, dear playwrights, and produce scripts worthy of government funding. Good luck! And by the way, what is that famous passage in the finale of Macbeth, when Macduff reenters, with Macbeth’s head in his hand? Here is my government-friendly rewrite:
Hail, Sultan! For so thou art: behold, where stands
The infidel’s cursed head: the time is free.
I see thee compass’d with thy empire’s pearl,
That speak my salutation in their minds;
Whose voices I desire aloud with mine:
Hail, Sultan of Turkey!