Use of state performers in Erdoğan’s palace show for Putin stirs debate

Use of state performers in Erdoğan’s palace show for Putin stirs debate

Use of state performers in Erdoğan’s palace show for Putin stirs debate

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomes Russian President Vladimir Putin with an official welcoming ceremony at Turkey's controversial new presidential palace complex in Ankara on Dec 1. DHA Photo

A debate has been stirred in Turkey after Russian President Vladimir Putin was treated to a closed door performance by costumed state actors during his visit to the new presidential palace in Ankara on Dec. 1, fueling the already heated discussions over the future of state-run theaters.

Executives of a private firm that helped organize events at the “Ak Saray” presidential palace had demanded that actors from the Ankara State Theaters appear at the palace in costumes, including those of local poets Rumi and Yunus Emre, as well as classic Russian authors.

Daily Cumhuriyet reported on Dec. 13 that the theater management had accepted the request, even without preparing the paperwork to appoint actors for the diplomatic mission. The actors who took part were later reportedly presented with certificates of appreciation.

However, some of their colleagues at the Ankara State Theaters have reacted negatively.

“Will they be sending us to the circumcision feasts of the children of ministers soon? Are we court jesters?” asked one actor, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Lemi Bilgin, the former head of the state theaters, also said the practice of “standing around in costumes had nothing to with the arts.”

Fikri Sağlar, a former culture and tourism minister, said the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) “sees actors only as clowns and is afraid of arts and artists.”

Cumhuriyet also reported on Dec. 15 that Cebrail Esen, one of the actors who took part in the performance, has since accepted an offer to head the Ankara State Theaters.

The management of the Ankara State Theaters has defended the practice, confirming that a team of 12 was appointed for the event.

“Including an art event in the program of a high-level state organization is an indicator of the value attached to the arts,” it said in a written statement.