Theater actress rejects ‘insincere’ Turkish awards

Theater actress rejects ‘insincere’ Turkish awards

Umut ERDEM ANKARA / Hürriyet
Theater actress rejects ‘insincere’ Turkish awards

State Theater actress İpek Çeken (C) plays musicolog Katherine Brandt in ‘33 Varyasyon’ (33 Variations), a play that examines the creative process behind Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations.

A prominent Turkish theater actress has refused to receive three of four “best actress” awards after declaring the honors to be “insincere.”

“For an actor and actress, awards are a source of pride, along with the applause he or she receives from the audience. But in the situations I was in, accepting the awards would have been serving the mentality that looks down on arts. The award system is completely at fault,” said İpek Çeken, a State Theater actress who plays Katherine Brandt in “33 Varyasyon” (33 Variations).

The play examines the creative process behind Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations and the journey of a musicologist, Brandt, to discover the meaning behind why Beethoven was compelled to write 33 distinct variations on a simple theme by a minor music publisher. 

With her role in the play, Çeken was awarded the “best actress” in the Journalists Association Arman Talay Special Arts Award, the Theater Critics Union Award, the Direklerarası Audience Award and the Sadri Alışık Anatolian Theater Award. She refused all of the awards except for the one given by the Journalists Association.

Çeken told daily Hürriyet she had viable reasons to reject the three awards. “Three or four years ago, I was invited by the organizers of the Sadri Alışık Anatolian Theater Award to present the best supporting actor award. One night before the ceremony, they called me and said the category had been canceled. But the next day a colleague of mine presented the award to the winner. I rejected the award based on the organizers’ [lack of] seriousness,” she said.

The actress said she was delighted to have been awarded the Direklerarası Audience Award, since the winners are chosen by the audience. 

“The invitation for the award ceremony had been delivered to the State Theaters, but I was not informed and missed the ceremony for an award I wanted to have a lot,” she said, adding that she declined the Theater Critics Union Award because the organizers wanted to present the award, which is traditionally given at the end of the play the actresses are awarded for, after another play performed by the State Theaters.

Çeken also voiced general criticism regarding the awarding system in the country.

“The reason for the situation of the arts is in in our country is, unfortunately, we who keep silent in the face of injustice,” the actress said.

Çeken said the same names make up the jury members for almost every award. “The jury members think ‘let’s give this award to İpek Çeken, but the other one to person X’ to keep some kind of balance. One of the awards claims to encourage young talent, but the recipients are all veterans. Another one with ‘national’ in its title only awards plays from Istanbul, as if Istanbul is the whole country. My greatest award is the applause I receive on stage, where I do my best to reflect my life.”