Practicing Playwriting for the Black Sea Region

Practicing Playwriting for the Black Sea Region

7th-14th August 2008, Hotel 117

Project Management and Workshop Leader: Emre Koyuncuoğlu

Directors: Hülya Karakaş, Zafer Gecegörür, Nihat Alpteki

Costume, Stage Design and Coordination: Can Tuğcuoğlu

Playwriters: Mehmet Kuvvet, Ömer Turan, Selvin Yaltır, Zafer Gecegörür, Duygu Dalyanoğlu, Zehra Konukman


In collaboration with Kocaeli Municipal Theatre

with the supports of Trabzon State Theatre, Bartın Regional Theatre, Giresun Regional Theatre and Sinop Art Initiative

Sinopale 2, “The New Order of Things”
Curator: Beral Madra

“Contemporary Play Writing Workshop” carried out within the scope of the Sinopale was the second writing workshop that I made that year and both brought out six writers “who wrote their first play”, which is quite satisfactory. The first workshop was a class titled “Play Writing for Different Spaces” lasting for two terms within the scope of cultural studies at Boğaziçi Uni- versity English Language and Literature Department. The fact that the writing class was suc- cessful, brought about the idea to enhance the contemporary play writing project in different ways in our country. The lack of writers in Turkish theatre is often mentioned. In fact, there are writers but few new plays which consider the reality and a specific audience and elaborate their problems -the spectators are rarely able to relate to the characters.

When Melih Görgün, the Artistic Director of Sinopale, said “Let’s make theatre workshops in Sinopale this year, just think about it…”, I proposed the project that I am currently working on to him. I said, “Let’s write plays for the public of Sinop. Let’s make a writing workshop and then practice work with local participation and stage the plays at the Biennial.” Then together with Melih Görgün and Mahir Namur, the President of the European Cultural Association, we thought that if this project were the common project of the two cities on the Black Sea coast, that could provide us with a new path (Between Kocaeli where I work as an artist and the city of Sinop where I was invited). Later on I had the idea to stage the plays written and edited in Sinop at the Tır Stage of Kocaeli Metropolitan Municipality City Theater. I talked about it to Nejat Birecik, Kocaeli Metropolitan Municipality City Theater Artistic Director, who welcomed the idea warmly. Still related to this idea: I thought that it would be a good step, if the candidate writers who participate in the play writing project were coming from other Black Sea cit- ies, in order to find a common language for the participants and also to support the cultural collaboration and production between Black Sea cities. The first institution whose door we knocked was the State Theater of Trabzon. Dilek Güven, one of the artists of this theater, in collaboration with all cultural institutions in Trabzon searched for candidate playwrights who would like to get involved in this project. And she connected me with Mehmet Kuvvet and Ömer Turan from Trabzon Arts House, who were interested in the project and have already signed up for several works in the field of literature. Then of course, my friend from Bartın, Founder and Artistic Director of the Bartın Regional Theater, Zafer Gecegörür – we have supported eachother for many years in several theater works – he put me in contact with other professional and semi-professional theaters in the Black Sea Region. Everybody that I got in touch with seemed quite eager and interested in the project. The project has been a good start with respect to the collaboration, interaction and common production between the theaters on the Black Sea coast.

We started the workshops with six playwrights from Istanbul, Kocaeli, Bartın, Sinop and Trabzon. We were going to write plays which concerned Sinop and the public of Sinop. As the writing workshop was going on, we were trying to get to know Sinop better and to collect details related to its actual problems. The playwrights would write their plays within one week, afterwards directors would get involved and make the plays ready to be staged within five days. And Tır would be arranged for these plays and the premieres would be realised successively. Can Tuğcuoğlu, a young decor and costume designer, provided stage arrange-ments and costumes for the six plays with materials that he collected from tradespeople, local notables, the Sinop Art Theater and the Biennial within three days. Actually, this was a marathon getting cluttered and faster at every stage or a collective/communal performance to create from scratch and to share. It was a performance, but actually all the effort was also to support the new playwrights. The directors Hülya Karakaş, Nihat Alptekin from Istanbul, Erhan Kaya from Sinop and Zafer Gecegörür from Bartın worked with the playwrights during the staging and they were solving the technical problems originating from the text together with the playwrights. The playwright was witnessing all the phases of his play, monitoring how the text was being implemented and embodied on the stage and sometimes he was bringing back his play after editing it. Certainly, the applauses of the spectators were the big- gest gift that motivated the playwrights to write a second play.

Playwright Duygu Dalyanoğlu who participated on the project from Izmit and Zafer Gecegörür from Bartın looked at the nuclear power plant in their plays, Mehmet Kuvvet and Ömer Turan referred to the socio-political past of Turkey in their plays with a family drama/ or love story experienced in Sinop. Selvin Yaltır who participated from Istanbul narrated the story of a friendship between two women and their later choices in life, their encounter and their settlements with spaces specific to Sinop and Zehra Konukman who participated in the workshop from Sinop reflected on stage the story of the struggle for survival of a young man living in Sinop.

As these plays about Sinop were staged, of course we did not have lack of spectators. Since all the rehearsals of the plays were carried out in the open space, on the Tır Stage that was pulled out on a path where the public of Sinop were walking around, the plays were promoted for almost 24 hours a day and the rehearsals were being watched by the public for hours. This, in a sense, allowed the close follow up of the staging process with the specta- tor and made possible for the spectator to get involved, relate to, familiarize and adopt the theater, even to make the theater tangible. The fact that the plays were about Sinop; the nuclear power plant, unemployement, the other status of the city, prison-city concept, ref- erences to the recent political history, the symbolic historic characters of Sinop taking role in the plays as play characters and that the spectators could re-read them within different stories, certainly made possible the emergence of a dynamic which interested the specta- tors very much, met their theatrical needs and provoked them to have a warm relationship with it.

Another positive aspect of the project was that all the actors of the Sinop Art Theater were involved in the project voluntarily. Perhaps the aesthetics created together by such a mixed team, to work with the dynamics of different directors, different actors and different writers, have provided new experiences for these mostly young performers. They devel- oped the capacity to adapt themselves to the other-aesthetic created by the encounter and working together, which in my opinion gave an incredible possibility, for a city that has only one theater, in respect of working and opening to the nation.

For me what is most important is to achieve what seems to be utopian… Namely, to make such a theatre that people who just met, who had come together for a ‘common goal and need’ realise the implementation of six plays and present them to the spectator with great ‘joy and eagerness’, to feel the beauty of being together, to work hard for a product which brings about positive results for everyone and to be able to be proud of what you do.

I guess this also stemmed from the atmosphere and specific culture of Sinop. And of course from the success of Sinopale.