A moment with a living monument

A moment with a living monument

There are moments to remember. Yesterday morning I wrote a small message to one of Turkey’s living legendary theater actors, Metin Akpınar. I first encountered the great man of theater in my 20’s when together with my beloved countryman Zeki Alasya. They were playing their legendary “Yasaklar,” or “Bans” play, criticizing authoritarianism, the coup period and military tutelage on democratic governance at an Ankara stadium for thousands of people.

Over the years, Turkish theatergoers went to see their shows from the late 1960s until the legendary duo parted.

They had occasionally come together for special projects until Alasya left for eternity in 2015. They were the masters of words, legendary living monuments of not only theater, but more so political courageous satire.

Vatan Kurtaran Şaban (Şaban who saved the country), Astronaut Niyazi, Ha bu Diyar (Ah, this land), Haneler (Homes), Keşanlı Alı Destanı (Saga of Ali from Keşan), Gözlerimi kaparım vazifemi yaparım (I close my eyes and fulfill my duty), Aşk olsun (Be it love), Geceler (Nights), Yasaklar (Bans), Beyoğlu Beyoğlu and Reklamlar (Adds) were just some of the masterpieces they gave life to.

It was, of course, a privilege to be able to see the two giants on the stage, as well as on the cinema screen as they performed in many films as well and recorded audio recordings. Interestingly enough, the audio recordings of their shows were selling more than the records of most singers.

I did not want to bother Akpınar, but I also wanted to pass on a message of solidarity, as a prosecutor has just completed his investigation against him and another living monument of Turkish theater, Müjdat Gezen, on grounds of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in comments made on a television show in December 2018. If found guilty, Akpınar, 77, and Gezen, 75, might be sentenced to between one year and two months and four years and eight months in prison.

Obviously I am not a lawyer and I cannot try to write a defense for Akpınar and Gezen, but seeing such important men of theater in a courtyard at that age will definitely be embarrassing, as it was when they were brought by police to a court for the first time in 2018 for interrogation. Who could forget that photograph of Akpınar trying to take a bite from a dry sandwich to avoid a diabetic collapse?

Obviously, I cannot say what Akpınar told me on the phone as I did not think of asking for his permission. But I can share my message that prompted him to call back and make me feel privileged and honored.

“Years ago, in the 1980’s I first saw you and my very dear countryman Zeki Alasya [also a Cypriot Turk] in a stadium together with tens of thousands of people, becoming a giant on the stage, while performing the Yasaklar show.

Over the years, my appreciation grew. Of course, you did not deserve what you have been compelled to live through over the past few years.

But, as [folk singer] Ahmet Kaya was saying in that song, ‘Don’t cry, these days will as well be over my father.’ I just wanted to tell you that not only I and the Association of Journalists, but millions are in solidarity with you today.” He was kind enough to call back.

At this moment, I believe he was in serious pain, and he told me that he very much appreciated my message of solidarity.