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Shakespearian actresses in the world

Documenting Female Turkish Shakespeares

Murat Öğütcü

Résumés

La Turquie possède une longue tradition de lecture, de traduction et de représentation des pièces de Shakespeare dans le cadre du processus de modernisation du pays. Dans les premières années de la République turque, les théâtres étaient utilisés comme des forums pour exposer et enseigner les formes progressistes des relations entre sexes qui garantissaient l’égalité des chances. Il n’est donc pas surprenant que la première femme autorisée à jouer sur scène, Bedia Muvahhit, ait joué un rôle shakespearien, à savoir Desdémone. Sans partager le sort tragique d’Afife Jale, dont l’amour interdit pour le théâtre lui coûta la raison et la vie dans les dernières années de la Turquie ottomane, des actrices comme Yıldız Kenter, Ayla Algan, Ayten Gökçer, Demet Evgar, et beaucoup d’autres ont pu s’exprimer librement en jouant Shakespeare sur les scènes turques. Depuis, ces actrices interprètent les rôles shakespeariens de personnages féminins ou de personnages masculins principaux dans des productions qui ne distinguent pas entre les genres : ce fut le cas des Hamlet féminins interprétés par Ayla Algan ou Fatma Girik. Pourtant, malheureusement, la plupart des critiques anglophones ne font presque aucune référence à ces interprètes turques de Shakespeare. Par conséquent, cet essai présentera une galerie d’interprètes féminines des pièces de Shakespeare en Turquie pour combler le vide archivistique concernant ces interprètes dans le cadre du projet Turkish Shakespeares qui vise à compiler une base de données numérique sur l’histoire de la représentation théâtrale de Shakespeare en Turquie.

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  • 1 İnci Enginün, Türkçede Shakespeare, İstanbul, Dergah, 2008, p. 7-10; Ayşegül Yüksel, William Shakes (...)
  • 2 Özdemir Nutku, Atatürk ve Cumhuriyet Tiyatrosu, İstanbul, Kaynak Yayınları, 2018, p. 39-40.
  • 3 Idem, p. 39-43. Metin And, Türk Tiyatrosunun Evreleri, Ankara, Turhan, 1983, p. 365-370. Gülfem Adi (...)

1There is a long tradition of reading, translating and staging William Shakespeare’s plays in Turkey, because Shakespeare has been instrumentalised as part of the country’s modernisation process.1 In the early years of the Turkish Republic, the theatres among many artistic forms were seen as means to naturalise the progressive revolutions of the republic to a wider audience, which manifested itself in the most apparent way in the legal introduction of female Turkish and Muslim performers on the stage.2 The theatre became thereby a forum for exhibiting and teaching progressive forms of egalitarian gender relations that guaranteed equal social opportunities.3

Figure 1: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, 1929, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Figure 1: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, 1929, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

URL: https://upload.wikimedia.org/​wikipedia/​commons/​9/​99/​Ataturk-23-4-1929-celebrations.jpg.

  • 4 It should be noted that this essay makes use of only a representative list of female performers to (...)

2Therefore, this essay aims to document female performers of Shakespeare’s plays in Turkey as part of the Turkish Shakespeares Project that aims to compile a digital database about the performance history of Shakespeare in Turkey.4

  • 5 Enginün, op. cit., p. 23-30.
  • 6 Sibel M. Dinçel, “The Beginnings of Shakespearean Influences on Ottoman-Turkish Drama: Namik Kemal’ (...)
  • 7 Vahit Turhan, “Shakespeare in Turkish”, Litera 8, 1965, 49-61, p. 52-56.
  • 8 Enginün, op. cit., p. 33-121.
  • 9 Idem, p. 26-27; And, Türk Tiyatrosunun Evreleri, p. 208-224
  • 10 Metin And, Tanzimat ve İstibdat Döneminde Türk Tiyatrosu (1839-1908), Ankara, İş Bankası, 1972, p.  (...)
  • 11 Metin And, “Shakespeare in Turkey”, Theatre Research 6.2, 1964, 75-84, p. 78. Possibly because of a (...)

3In order to understand the achievements of the republic, we need to have a look at the Ottoman context, which we should consider sometimes as the historical root of problems and sometimes as the root of innovations regarding the representation of women and Shakespeare on the Turkish stage. We know that the first documented performances of Shakespeare in Turkey were done by Ottoman Armenian and Ottoman Greek theatre companies which performed Shakespeare in the Armenian and Greek tongues respectively in the 19th century.5 Following the success of Ottoman Armenian and Greek companies, original Turkish works inspired by Shakespearean themes and conventions became influential in the wake of both modern Turkish drama and Shakespeare’s place in Turkey.6 This was also paralleled with the increasing number of Turkish translations of Shakespeare that was the result of the establishment of the “Office of Translators” as an extension of the Ottoman Empire’s modernisation efforts.7 The first translations of Shakespeare into Turkish were either re-translations from other languages, notably French, or from other genres like opera versions or from Charles Lamb’s family friendly version.8 With the advent of the Ottoman Theatre Company or Gedikpaşa Theatre Company founded by Güllü Agop in 1868, Romeo and Juliet became the first play to be performed in Turkish. Following Romeo and Juliet’s success in 1868, more and more of Shakespeare’s plays appeared in the repertory of theatre companies in Turkey.9 Güllü Agop’s company introduced many important performers of Shakespeare, the most notable of whom is possibly Merope Kantarcıyan (1857-1932) or better known as Siranuş who started her career when she was only 15 years old in 1872.10 Apart from her many performances in Shakespeare’s Hamlet as Ophelia, she became the first female Hamlet in Ottoman Turkey in 1910 and was highly praised for her acting styles as both Ophelia and Hamlet.11

  • 12 Nutku, Atatürk, op. cit., p. 39.
  • 13 Muhsin Ertuğrul, Benden Sonra Tufan Olmasın!: Anılar, İstanbul, Remzi, 2007, p. 526-527; Özdemir Nu (...)

4While non-Muslim women experienced a relative freedom on the stage, because of sharia rules that forbade the presence of non-related men in the presence of women, Muslim women were not allowed to perform in plays.12 The İstanbul City Theatre’s attempts in 1918 to train Muslim actresses like Afife (1902-1941) to perform for only female audiences were cut short when the same Afife was not allowed to perform in public, for which she resigned from the İstanbul City Theatre.13

  • 14 Refik Ahmet, Türk Tiyatrosu Tarihi, İstanbul, Kanaat Kitaplığı, 1934, p. 117.
  • 15 Nutku, Darülbedayi’den, op. cit., p. 181-182, 345-346.

5Afife used the non-Muslim pseudonym Jale, henceforth came to be known as Afife Jale, and clandestinely performed in plays as if she was a non-Muslim woman. Yet, Afife Jale was regularly persecuted by contemporary police forces who stormed performances and cut the performances short before she escaped through the help of fellow actors/actresses.14 From 1920 to at least 1924, constant surveillance and the fear to be imprisoned caused her severe headaches, which were mistreated with morphine, and caused her to spend extensive time in mental asylums that prevented her from further pursuing her acting career.15

  • 16 Nutku, Atatürk, op. cit., p. 39-43. Nutku, Darülbedayi’den, op. cit., p. 183.

6Despite the fact that gender discrimination was still felt in the early years of the republic, at Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s personal insistence, Muslim female performers were legally allowed to perform on the public stage. When Atatürk watched a play in İzmir in July 1923, he demanded from the play’s director that the female roles should be performed by Turkish women, upon which Bedia Muvahhit (1897-1994), who was among the first Muslim silver screen actresses in Turkey, volunteered while being an audience member in the same play.16

Figure 3: “Bedia Muvahhit’in Hayatı - Türk Dünyasında Kadın - TRT Avaz”, TRT Avaz, 2016, screen grab (Youtube video).

Figure 3: “Bedia Muvahhit’in Hayatı - Türk Dünyasında Kadın - TRT Avaz”, TRT Avaz, 2016, screen grab (Youtube video).

URL: https://youtu.be/​-kVJXH7agSI.

  • 17 Ertuğrul, op. cit., p. 302-306. Nutku, Darülbedayi’den, op. cit., p. 183.

7After continuing to act in subsequent plays in İzmir, Bedia Muvahhit officially started her theatre career by performing Desdemona in Shakespeare’s Othello in December 1923, which was directed by the famous director Muhsin Ertuğrul (1892-1979) who popularised Shakespeare through his efforts in the City and State theatres.17

Figure 4: “Türkiye’de Şekspir Olmak / Being Shakespeare in Turkey”, Being Shakespeare in Turkey, 2021, screen grab (Youtube video). Muhsin Ertuğrul.

Figure 4: “Türkiye’de Şekspir Olmak / Being Shakespeare in Turkey”, Being Shakespeare in Turkey, 2021, screen grab (Youtube video). Muhsin Ertuğrul.

URL: https://youtu.be/​IsXYyuUjJHk.

  • 18 S. Bayındır Uluskan, Atatürk’ün Sosyo-Kültürel Politikaları, Ankara, Atatürk Araştırma Merkezi, 201 (...)
  • 19 Idem, p. 340.
  • 20 Gökhan Akçura, Bedia Muvahhit: Bir Cumhuriyet Sanatçısı, İstanbul, İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi (...)
  • 21 Ertuğrul, op. cit., p. 569. Akçura, op. cit., p. 72-74. Muvahhit translated the following plays fro (...)

8As part of the Greco-Turkish peace in the early years of the republic, Bedia Muvahhit performed the same role in Greek in front of a Greek delegate that arrived in Turkey in 1930.18 This was followed by an Othello production that was performed by Turkish and Greek performers in Greece in 1931 as part of diplomatic relations.19 Among many other plays, Muvahhit performed in several Shakespeare productions, such as Hamlet, Twelfth Night, and The Merchant of Venice.20 She continued her acting career in the İstanbul City Theatre until her retirement in 1975 and translated several plays into Turkish.21 Muvahhit illustrated one of the earliest instances of how the republic valued the presence of women in public life and how Shakespeare was instrumentalised in domestic and international politics by the Turkish Republic.

  • 22 Nutku, Darülbedayi’den, op. cit., p. 210. Ertuğrul, op. cit., p. 302-306. Agah Özgüç, Cahide Sonku: (...)

9Bedia Muvahhit’s fruitful acting career, marked by several successful Shakespeare productions, paved the way for several generations of female Turkish performers who had a close relationship with Shakespeare’s plays. While her contemporaries Cahide Sonku (1919-1981) who impersonated Desdemona and Ophelia in the 1930s turned to the cinema, and Neyyire Neyir (1902-1942), co-star alongside Muvahhit and the wife of Muhsin Ertuğrul, lost her life at a very young age, other female performers were soon to follow.22

Figure 6: Neyyire Neyir, İstanbul Kadın Müzesi (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Figure 6: Neyyire Neyir, İstanbul Kadın Müzesi (CC BY-SA 4.0).

URL: http://www.istanbulkadinmuzesi.org/​neyyire-neyir.

  • 23 Dikmen Gürün, Tiyatro Benim Hayatım: Yıldız Kenter’in Hayat Hikayesi, İstanbul, Yapı Kredi Yaynları (...)

10Among the most prominent figures of the subsequent generation of actresses was Yıldız Kenter (1928-2019), who became one of the greatest performers and educators of drama in Turkey. Being the daughter of a diplomat and an Englishwoman, having studied drama in the US, and being an educator of drama throughout her career, Yıldız Kenter coupled her bilingual and theatrical skills in her successful career.23

Figure 7: “Yıldız Kenter belgeseli ilk teaser”, Ranini TV, 2022, screen grab (Youtube video). On the left, Olivia (Yılıdız Kenter).

Figure 7: “Yıldız Kenter belgeseli ilk teaser”, Ranini TV, 2022, screen grab (Youtube video). On the left, Olivia (Yılıdız Kenter).

URL: https://youtu.be/​QRqeypUH1ZI.

  • 24 Idem, p. 106-239. Ayşegül Yüksel, Uzun Yolda Bir Mola: Türk Tiyatrosu Üzerine Notlar, İstanbul, Cum (...)

11Having formed the Kenterler Theatre together with her brother Müşfik Kenter (1932-2012) and her husband Şükran Güngör (1926-2002), Yıldız Kenter performed in many award-winning plays and taught a great majority of contemporary Turkish performers.24 But her career as performer did not start in a smooth way, especially because men felt the need to explain how a woman should perform Shakespeare in Turkey. Here is an excerpt from Lütfi Ay’s unfair review of her performance as Olivia in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in 1948:

  • 25 Gürün, op. cit., p. 49.

Unfortunately, I have to criticize Yıldız Kenter, who played the Countess Olivia and played an important role at the Tatbikat Stage for the first time. Yıldız Kenter could not express the sadness that Olivia was buried in. She almost gave the impression of a hysterical woman who would take Viola by force and lock her in her room, and therefore, despite her beautiful looks, Yıldız Kenter could not portray her role with the grace it required. On the condition that Yıldız Kenter studies her roles, her diction, and especially her intonation better and more carefully, I don’t see any reason why she shouldn’t be successful in the future.25

12Trying to mansplain how Olivia should be performed lays bare how despite the many advancements in the place of women in Turkey especially through the theatres (especially after the foundation of the republic), spokespersons of fragile masculinity tried to minimize female intellect and female presence.

13Yet, a letter written by Yıldız Kenter’s mother might indicate why Kenter continued with her acting career despite the negative comments that followed her first performances:

  • 26 Gürün, op. cit., p. 51.

Yıldız, you are the apple of my eye, my daughter. Today is a blessed day that you took your first step in your career. I say blessed, because to start an acting career as the lead role in a beautiful work of a genius like Shakespeare (Twelfth Night) has been the luck of few people. But let this beginning not make you proud, on the contrary, let it connect you to more work and constant humility. Actually, I expect this from your honest and strong character. I wish with all my heart that today will be a happy day in your life. I wish you success, health and happiness from God, my child.26

14The founding principles of the Republic of Turkey for egalitarian gender relations and her mother’s support despite the overwhelming power of patriarchal forces strengthened Yıldız Kenter’s determination to continue her career, perform in several other productions of Shakespeare like a well-received performance in Hamlet in 1959, and teach many future performers and directors in Turkey.

  • 27 “40 Yıllık Genç Tiyatrocu”, Hürriyet, 1999, accessible online at https://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem (...)
  • 28 Ibid.
  • 29 Ibid. Ertuğrul, op. cit., p. 516. One of the most avant-garde productions of its time that was co-d (...)

15Among the actresses after Yılız Kenter’s generation, Ayla Algan (1937-2024) is another important actress whose fortunes have been based on how the republic supported immigrants. Ayla Algan was the daughter of an immigrant from Crete, and her merchant father’s economic means along with his and her artist mother’s support were formative in Ayla Algan’s subsequent career.27 After meeting in 1957, Ayla Algan’s acting career was also supported by her late husband Beklan Algan (1933-2010).28 The couple’s studies at the New York Actors Studio and the Actors’ Repertory Theatre in Broadway in 1961 and their subsequent work at the İstanbul City Theatre were decisive periods for Ayla Algan’s innovative acting style as seen in the bold adaptations she performed or (co-)directed afterwards.29

Figure 8: “Türkiye’de Şekspir Olmak /Being Shakespeare in Turkey”, 2021, screen grab (Youtube video). Hamlet (Ayla Algan).

Figure 8: “Türkiye’de Şekspir Olmak /Being Shakespeare in Turkey”, 2021, screen grab (Youtube video). Hamlet (Ayla Algan).

URL: https://youtu.be/​IsXYyuUjJHk.

  • 30 Ertuğrul, op. cit., p. 516-517; Yüksel, William Shakespeare, p. 291.
  • 31 Ertuğrul, op. cit., p. 519.
  • 32 “40 Yıllık Genç Tiyatrocu”, op. cit.
  • 33 Ibid.

16Becoming one of the several Turkish female Hamlets, Ayla Algan’s performance of Hamlet and Ophelia in the 1962-1965 İstanbul City Theatre’s productions of Shakespeare’s Hamlet were much acclaimed.30 Following Muhsin Ertuğrul’s resignation from the İstanbul City Theatre, Algan also resigned and founded with Ertuğrul and her husband the Language and Culture Center where several important future performers and directors were trained.31 While her acting and directing career continued in the theatres both in Turkey and abroad like in France, Germany and other countries, Algan also performed in films and also took active part in the music industry as a singer and composer especially in the 1970s.32 Formally retiring from the İstanbul City Theatre in 1999, Algan continued performing in theatres, in TV series and films until her recent death.33 Though of course heavily based on her own diligence, Algan’s acting career illustrates how the republic enabled her to express herself freely and in versatile ways as a woman. It also shows how Muhsin Ertuğurul and his vision of versatile Shakespeare acting styles enabled Algan to express herself beyond gender restrictions by being trusted quite early in her professional acting career to perform both Ophelia and Hamlet in 1962.

  • 34 Yüksel, William Shakespeare, p. 291.
  • 35 Ibid.

17Some illustrative examples of Algan’s contemporaries and subsequent important female performers of Shakespeare’s plays in Turkey are as follows. Nedret Güvenç (1930-2021), for instance, is still considered as among the most acclaimed Lady Macbeths in Turkey with her 1962 performance marked for her strong but fragile depiction of Lady Macbeth’s descent into madness.34 Nedret Güvenç’s performances in Much Ado About Nothing in 1964 and in Winter’s Tale in 1973 are also noteworthy beside her outstanding career as a movie actress.35

Figure 9: “Nedret Güvenç Belgeseli”, Belgeselci, 2017, screen grab (Youtube video). Nedret Güvenç.

Figure 9: “Nedret Güvenç Belgeseli”, Belgeselci, 2017, screen grab (Youtube video). Nedret Güvenç.

URL: https://youtu.be/​9qfLFGQA_qc.

18Another important figure is Ayten Gökçer (1940-…) who started her acting career in the State Theatres in 1958 and had successfully portrayed Olivia in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in 1963; a performance that was marked by her elegant acting style that has been indicative of her subsequent fruitful career in Turkey.36

Figure 10: “Bir Öykümüz Var-Ayten Gökçer”, TRT Arşiv, 2019, screen grab (Youtube video). Ayten Gökçer.

Figure 10: “Bir Öykümüz Var-Ayten Gökçer”, TRT Arşiv, 2019, screen grab (Youtube video). Ayten Gökçer.

URL: https://youtu.be/​HShXlNQL83M.

  • 37 Onur Pelister, “Sanatçı ve Yönetici Kişiliğiyle Yücel Erten”, MA thesis, Dokuz Eylül University, 20 (...)

19Işık Yenersu’s (1942-…) performance of Katherine in the avant-garde production of the radical director Yücel Erten’s (1945-…) The Taming of the Shrew in the 1985-1986 season aroused much applause in the Turkish audience for substituting Katherine’s final submission to patriarchy with her bold resistance towards it.37

Figure 11: “30. Yılda Seslendirme”, TRT Arşiv, 2019, screen grab (Youtube video). Işık Yenersu.

Figure 11: “30. Yılda Seslendirme”, TRT Arşiv, 2019, screen grab (Youtube video). Işık Yenersu.

URL: https://youtu.be/​CAK9hCifJkk.

  • 38 Erkan Akın, “Eros-İktidar, Makyavelizm ve Macbeth”, 20. Yıl İstanbul Devlet Tiyatrosu: Bir Kentin Y (...)

20In 1992, Sumru Yavrucuk’s (1961-…) interpretation of Lady Macbeth took that performance one step further through very daring and explicit scenes of depicting Lady Macbeth in a bathtub while she was trying to rub her guilt off her hands.38

Figure 12: “Sumru Yavrucuk / Oyunculuk Eğitimi / Resmi Tanıtım Videosu / Sonsuz Oda”, Sonsuz Oda, 2019, screen grab (Youtube video). Sumru Yavrucuk.

Figure 12: “Sumru Yavrucuk / Oyunculuk Eğitimi / Resmi Tanıtım Videosu / Sonsuz Oda”, Sonsuz Oda, 2019, screen grab (Youtube video). Sumru Yavrucuk.

URL: https://youtu.be/​OjyCoMv5j4M.

  • 39 Adele Lee, “Antony and Cleopatra, Directed by Kemal Aydoğan for the Oyun Atölyesi Theatre Company ( (...)

21Also, despite some technical problems, Zerrin Tekindor’s (1964-…) performance as Cleopatra in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, directed by Kemal Aydoğan (1965-…) that represented Turkey as part of the 2012 Globe to Globe event at Shakespeare’s Globe, has been praised by critics and audiences alike and can be named among the many outstanding female performances of contemporary Turkish Shakespeare productions.39

Figure 13: “Zerrin Tekindor | Yekta Kopan’la Set Arası | beIN CONNECT”, beIN CONNECT, 2022, screen grab (Youtube video). Zerrin Tekindor.

Figure 13: “Zerrin Tekindor | Yekta Kopan’la Set Arası | beIN CONNECT”, beIN CONNECT, 2022, screen grab (Youtube video). Zerrin Tekindor.

URL: https://youtu.be/​j5Kq3XEQ4cw.

  • 40 Gülşen Sayın, “Shakespeare in Turkish Cinema: A cultural transfer from Hamlet to The Angel of Venge (...)

22Despite the numerous and illustrious female theatre performers of Shakespeare in Turkey, one of the most acclaimed female Hamlets of Turkey was from the silver screen, namely Fatma Girik (1942-2022), whom we lost quite recently before the Annual Congress of the French Shakespeare Society took place in Paris in 2022. In Metin Erksan’s Kadın Hamlet (1976), that is Female Hamlet or the Angel of Vengeance, Girik performs in a very surreal adaptation that capitalises and manipulates several conventions from Turkish cinema and theatre, such as the rural film genre, domestic melodrama, and native improvisational Turkish theatre.40

Figure 14: “Türkiye’de Şekspir Olmak / Being Shakespeare in Turkey”, 2021, screen grab (Youtube video). Hamlet (Fatma Girik).

Figure 14: “Türkiye’de Şekspir Olmak / Being Shakespeare in Turkey”, 2021, screen grab (Youtube video). Hamlet (Fatma Girik).

URL: https://youtu.be/​IsXYyuUjJHk.

23Metin Erksan’s quite psychedelic approach to Shakespeare’s play along with Fatma Girik’s energetic acting style render the film an important milestone for Shakespeare in Turkey. The film focuses on intergenerational power struggles within the upper-class members of an unnamed rural space in Turkey. Girik’s performance of Hamlet can be considered as representative of the new Turkish woman. Girik’s Hamlet is educated, beautiful, clever, and compassionate, and her concern is not just to survive in Turkey’s patriarchal society but to live an honourable life. This almost idealised woman figure is set against Gertrude, named Gönül (Heart) in the film and portrayed by Sevda Ferdağ (1942-…), who represents the pre-republican woman type who acts in a passive way according to patriarchal expectations and restrictions. Ferdağ’s Gertrude is a self-centric wife who survives and earns her financial expenses merely with her physical beauty in accordance with the expectations of the male dominated Turkish society. In the film, Girik’s Hamlet is a dominant rather than a reluctant figure, through which not only gender, but also gender stereotypes are reconceptualised. Girik’s performance shows how the gendered body of the Turkish female Hamlet is turned into a material and metaphorical space to illustrate the struggle of women to survive in toxic power structures. Girik’s strong performance is set against patriarchal forces represented by Claudius’s toxic masculinity, portrayed by Reha Yurdakul (1926-1988) as Kasım (The Divider) in the film. Within this social frame, Hamlet’s resistance to and victory over Claudius at the cost of all her happiness elucidate the flawed gender relations in 1970s Turkey and beyond. Kadın Hamlet illustrates the struggle of women who have been emancipated with the progressive policies of the early years of the Turkish Republic but have been restricted by patriarchal figures and their male and female supporters. Ranging from progressive to conservative people in Turkey, supporters of the patriarchal cause in Turkey have not fully accepted the republic’s gender equality measures. Regardless of a woman’s political direction, this has been why the new woman type in Turkey – a woman who is active in public life and demands social equality – has been suffering from the restrictions imposed by patriarchy in Turkey, which was perfectly illustrated in Girik’s ageless performance.

  • 41 Yasemin Ozbudun, “Demet Evgar: Biography”, Internet Movie Database, accessible online at: https://w (...)
  • 42 Ibid.
  • 43 Gürün, op. cit., p. 200, 273-274.
  • 44 Ozbudun, op. cit.
  • 45 Murat Öğütcü, “Kral ‘Soyatrım’ Lear (‘My Fool’ King Lear) (Sertdemir, 2014)”, Global Shakespeares: (...)

24Today, Girik’s passion in the theatres and films is continued by a relatively younger performer, namely Demet Evgar (1980-…). Evgar started her career as an amateur performer in her hometown Manisa, a relatively small provincial town in the Aegean region in Turkey.41 She graduated from the State Conservatory of the İstanbul University and during her studies she formed along with her friends the theatre group called Tiyatro Kılçık.42 While she continued to work with this group, she also performed at the Kenterler Theatre until 2009 which has proved a very formative period especially under the further supervision of the late Yılıdz Kenter.43 Moving to the collectively established Pangar Theatre Company, through her performances at the 2012 Macbeth and the 2014 My Fool King Lear productions, Demet Evgar has along with her fellow performers brought new light to Shakespeare performances in Turkey.44 For instance, along with other prominent figures like Tomris İncer (1948-2015) and Sezin Akbaşoğulları (1981-…), Evgar performs multiple roles in the adaptation of King Lear where Lear’s fool retells Lear’s stories to other fellow fools in a dream-like grotesque adaptation that foregrounds human follies.45

Figure 15: “Kral ‘Soytarım’ Lear Tanıtım Filmi”, Tiyatro Pangar, 2014, screen grab (Youtube video). On the far right, Demet Evgar.

Figure 15: “Kral ‘Soytarım’ Lear Tanıtım Filmi”, Tiyatro Pangar, 2014, screen grab (Youtube video). On the far right, Demet Evgar.

URL: https://youtu.be/​fKaYGWsCLGY.

  • 46 Ibid.

25Complicating notions of the puppets and puppeteers, the play underscores how social demarcations are void and non-existent in crisis situations, which also hint at the constructed and flawed gender relations in Turkey.46 A biographical study of Evgar’s fruitful career in the theatres and in films reveals some of the reasons for the circumstances that may enable the public presence of women in Turkey in spite of gender and class restrictions. The possibility of Demet Evgar’s rise into a successful performer is a direct consequence of the general spirit of the Turkish Republic laid by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who conceptualised it as an institution purified from nepotism. Aiming to have egalitarian social opportunities regardless of one’s origin and socio-economic background, the republic has especially enabled women to express themselves in public life to the dismay of the ongoing patriarchal restrictions that are being felt by both progressive and conservative people in Turkey.

  • 47 Murat Öğütcü, “Kraliçe Lear (2019): Rural Women’s Take on King Lear”, Turkish Shakespeares, accessi (...)
  • 48 Ibid. Murat Öğütcü, “Contemporary Turkish Shakespeares: New Breath to Old Lives”, Early Modern Live (...)

26Nevertheless, Shakespeare is not just an urban elite entertainment for the relatively well-to-do women in Turkey. But also through rural theatre companies, Shakespeare has been instrumentalised for the emancipation of rural women in Turkey. For instance, the documentary about the performance process of staging King Lear as Kraliçe Lear (2019) illustrates how Shakespeare’s plays in Turkey can be localised through collective performance practices.47 The play is performed by the Arslanköy Theatre Company, which is an all-female and rural travelling theatre, whose performances give new insights about Shakespeare’s universality that is not merely imitating Anglophone dramatic conventions but blends them with native Turkish dramatic traditions like folk drama for a Turkish audience.48

Figure 16: Pelin Esmer, Kraliçe Lear, 2019. (CC BY-SA 4.0). Fatma Fatih (standing), Ümmü Kurt, a villager, Cennet Güneş, Zeynep Fatih (from left to right).

Figure 16: Pelin Esmer, Kraliçe Lear, 2019. (CC BY-SA 4.0). Fatma Fatih (standing), Ümmü Kurt, a villager, Cennet Güneş, Zeynep Fatih (from left to right).

URL: http://pelinesmer.com/​portfolio/​kralice-lear-basin-odasi/​.

  • 49 Idem, p. 151-152.
  • 50 Idem, p. 153-158.

27Directed by a Pelin Esmer, the documentary tells the story of Fatma Fatih (Lear), Behiye Yanık (Cordelia), Cennet Güneş (Goneril), Zeynep Fatih (Regan), and Ümmü Kurt (substitute player).49 The backstories of both the rural performers and the rural audiences prior and following the recorded performance of Shakespeare’s play create a “retrospective vision”, comment upon patriarchal “restrictions”, and illustrate how the theatre can be used to overcome such restrictions and give a chance for rural women to express themselves and have an active role in public life.50 Thus, Shakespeare in Turkey is not just used by and for urban audiences, but also by rural ones as a means to ease and enhance gender relations, illustrating the politics of performing gender in Turkish Shakespeares.

28To conclude, with the advent and gradually progressive policies of the Turkish Republic, women have been able to express themselves freely while performing Shakespeare on the Turkish stage. Women have performed Shakespearean roles either as female characters or major male characters in gender-blind productions. But, of course, there is a need for documentation for the recognition of the impact of Shakespeare for positive gender politics in Turkey, which my project, Turkish Shakespeares aims to accomplish. Introducing texts, productions, and research on Turkish Shakespeares to a broader international audience of students, teachers, and researchers, I and my fellow colleagues publish new blog entries every two weeks. Through short descriptions and links to productions and adaptations, and the ongoing bibliography with hyperlinks of secondary works on Shakespeare in Turkey, we intend to illustrate how Turkish Shakespeares and the socio-political history of Turkey have affected each other.51 I hope that this essay will inspire new research on Turkish Shakespeares within and without Turkey.

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Notes

1 İnci Enginün, Türkçede Shakespeare, İstanbul, Dergah, 2008, p. 7-10; Ayşegül Yüksel, William Shakespeare: Yüzyılların Sahne Büyücüsü, İstanbul, Habitus, 2017, p. 9-13; Bülent Bozkurt, “Some Observations on the State and Curiosities of Shakespeare Translation in Turkey”, Çankaya University Journal of Arts and Sciences 3, 2005, 43-54, p. 43-51.

2 Özdemir Nutku, Atatürk ve Cumhuriyet Tiyatrosu, İstanbul, Kaynak Yayınları, 2018, p. 39-40.

3 Idem, p. 39-43. Metin And, Türk Tiyatrosunun Evreleri, Ankara, Turhan, 1983, p. 365-370. Gülfem Adile Şankaya, “Atatürk Dönemi Türk Tiyatrosu: Afife Jale ve Kadın Tiyatrocular”, PhD dissertation, Bursa Uludağ University, 2020, p. 2-4 (accessible online at: https://0-www-proquest-com.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/dissertations-theses/atatürk-dönemi-türk-tiyatrosu-afife-jale-ve-kadın/docview/2618231235/se-2?accountid=86210, last accessed 10 February 2022).

4 It should be noted that this essay makes use of only a representative list of female performers to give a glimpse of the relationship of Shakespeare and gender relations in Turkey.

5 Enginün, op. cit., p. 23-30.

6 Sibel M. Dinçel, “The Beginnings of Shakespearean Influences on Ottoman-Turkish Drama: Namik Kemal’s Akif Bey (1874) and Gülnihal (1875)”, DTCF Journal 59.2, 2019, 1170-1187, p. 1171-1185. Enginün, op. cit., p. 26-28, p. 122-225.

7 Vahit Turhan, “Shakespeare in Turkish”, Litera 8, 1965, 49-61, p. 52-56.

8 Enginün, op. cit., p. 33-121.

9 Idem, p. 26-27; And, Türk Tiyatrosunun Evreleri, p. 208-224

10 Metin And, Tanzimat ve İstibdat Döneminde Türk Tiyatrosu (1839-1908), Ankara, İş Bankası, 1972, p. 148.

11 Metin And, “Shakespeare in Turkey”, Theatre Research 6.2, 1964, 75-84, p. 78. Possibly because of a typo from primary textual material, the date of Merope Kantarcıyan’s performance as Hamlet is disputed. For instance, the same Metin And argues that Kantarcıyan performed the role in 1901. See Metin And, Osmanlı Tiyatrosu, Ankara, Dost Yayınları, 1999, p. 135.

12 Nutku, Atatürk, op. cit., p. 39.

13 Muhsin Ertuğrul, Benden Sonra Tufan Olmasın!: Anılar, İstanbul, Remzi, 2007, p. 526-527; Özdemir Nutku, Darülbedayi’den Şehir Tiyatrosu’na, İstanbul, İş Bankası, 2015, p. 180-184. Before 1934, the İstanbul City Theatre, founded in 1914, was named Darülbedayi, meaning the House of Fine Arts. For the sake of convenience, I will use İstanbul City Theatre throughout the essay.

14 Refik Ahmet, Türk Tiyatrosu Tarihi, İstanbul, Kanaat Kitaplığı, 1934, p. 117.

15 Nutku, Darülbedayi’den, op. cit., p. 181-182, 345-346.

16 Nutku, Atatürk, op. cit., p. 39-43. Nutku, Darülbedayi’den, op. cit., p. 183.

17 Ertuğrul, op. cit., p. 302-306. Nutku, Darülbedayi’den, op. cit., p. 183.

18 S. Bayındır Uluskan, Atatürk’ün Sosyo-Kültürel Politikaları, Ankara, Atatürk Araştırma Merkezi, 2010, p. 339.

19 Idem, p. 340.

20 Gökhan Akçura, Bedia Muvahhit: Bir Cumhuriyet Sanatçısı, İstanbul, İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi Yayınları, 1993, p. 55, 90-91.

21 Ertuğrul, op. cit., p. 569. Akçura, op. cit., p. 72-74. Muvahhit translated the following plays from the French language into Turkish: Yahudi, İstanbul Havası (1924, after a play by Romain Coolus), Kır Çiçeği, Geçti Borun Pazarı (1930, after a play by Robert de Flers), Oğlumuz (1938-39, after a play by André Birabeau), and Arılar (1938-39, after a play by Denys Amiel).

22 Nutku, Darülbedayi’den, op. cit., p. 210. Ertuğrul, op. cit., p. 302-306. Agah Özgüç, Cahide Sonku: Peçete Kağıtlarındaki Anılar, İstanbul, +1Kitap, 2007, p. 17-18, 55.

23 Dikmen Gürün, Tiyatro Benim Hayatım: Yıldız Kenter’in Hayat Hikayesi, İstanbul, Yapı Kredi Yaynları, 2016, p. 14-105.

24 Idem, p. 106-239. Ayşegül Yüksel, Uzun Yolda Bir Mola: Türk Tiyatrosu Üzerine Notlar, İstanbul, Cumhuriyet Kitapları, 2011, p. 161-162.

25 Gürün, op. cit., p. 49.

26 Gürün, op. cit., p. 51.

27 “40 Yıllık Genç Tiyatrocu”, Hürriyet, 1999, accessible online at https://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/40-yillik-genc-tiyatrocu-39110728, last accessed 10 February 2022. 

28 Ibid.

29 Ibid. Ertuğrul, op. cit., p. 516. One of the most avant-garde productions of its time that was co-directed by Beklan Algan and Ayla Algan was Hamlet 70 (1970) that turned Hamlet into a 1970s Turkish activist university student who struggled against the forces of neo-liberal capitalism. See Murat Öğütcü, “Beklan Algan’s Hamlet 70: Re-imagining Shakespeare for Turkey’s Secularism”, Turkish Shakespeares, accessible online at: https://turkishshakespeares.wordpress.com/2022/06/19/beklan-algans-hamlet-70-re-imagining-shakespeare-for-turkeys-secularism/, last accessed 17 October 2022. Also see Savaş Arslan, “Turkish Hamlets”, Shakespeare, 4.2, 2008, 157-168, p. 160-161. (accessible online at: https://0-www-tandfonline-com.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/doi/abs/10.1080/17450910802083468, last accessed 10 February 2022).

30 Ertuğrul, op. cit., p. 516-517; Yüksel, William Shakespeare, p. 291.

31 Ertuğrul, op. cit., p. 519.

32 “40 Yıllık Genç Tiyatrocu”, op. cit.

33 Ibid.

34 Yüksel, William Shakespeare, p. 291.

35 Ibid.

36 Pınar Çekirge, “Ayten Gökçer”, Tiyatro Dünyası, accessible online at: https://www.tiyatrodunyasi.com/makaledetay.asp?makaleno=1228, last accessed 10 February 2022.

37 Onur Pelister, “Sanatçı ve Yönetici Kişiliğiyle Yücel Erten”, MA thesis, Dokuz Eylül University, 2007, p. 56-60.

38 Erkan Akın, “Eros-İktidar, Makyavelizm ve Macbeth”, 20. Yıl İstanbul Devlet Tiyatrosu: Bir Kentin Yaşamında Rol Almak. ed. Şule Ateş, Selen Korad Birkiye, and Yetkin Dikinciler, İstanbul, Wyeth, 1999, 193-197, p. 193-197.

39 Adele Lee, “Antony and Cleopatra, Directed by Kemal Aydoğan for the Oyun Atölyesi Theatre Company (Istanbul, Turkey) at Shakespeare’s Globe”, A Year of Shakespeare: Re-living the World Shakespeare Festival, ed. Paul Edmondson, Paul Prescott, and Erin Sullivan, London, Arden, 2013, 36-38, p. 36-37.

40 Gülşen Sayın, “Shakespeare in Turkish Cinema: A cultural transfer from Hamlet to The Angel of Vengeance (1976)”, JAFP 4.1, 2011, 17-37, p. 17-18, 27-35; İnci Bilgin, “Hamlet in Contemporary Turkey: Towards Postcolonial Feminist Rewrites?”, Multicultural Shakespeare: Translation, Appropriation and Performance 12.1, 2015, 65-74, p. 67-71. Arslan, op. cit., p. 161.

41 Yasemin Ozbudun, “Demet Evgar: Biography”, Internet Movie Database, accessible online at: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1728411/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm, last accessed 10 February 2022.

42 Ibid.

43 Gürün, op. cit., p. 200, 273-274.

44 Ozbudun, op. cit.

45 Murat Öğütcü, “Kral ‘Soyatrım’ Lear (‘My Fool’ King Lear) (Sertdemir, 2014)”, Global Shakespeares: Video and Performance Archive, accessible online at: https://0-globalshakespeares-mit-edu.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/kral-soyatrim-lear-serdemir-yigit-2014/#video=kral-soytarim-lear-trailer, last accessed 10 February 2022.

46 Ibid.

47 Murat Öğütcü, “Kraliçe Lear (2019): Rural Women’s Take on King Lear”, Turkish Shakespeares, accessible online at: https://turkishshakespeares.wordpress.com/2021/07/10/kralice-lear-2019-rural-womens-take-on-king-lear/, last accessed 10 February 2022.

48 Ibid. Murat Öğütcü, “Contemporary Turkish Shakespeares: New Breath to Old Lives”, Early Modern Liveness: Mediating Presence in Text, Stage and Screen, ed. Danielle Rosvally, and Donovan Sherman, London, Arden, 2023, 145-169, p. 151-154.

49 Idem, p. 151-152.

50 Idem, p. 153-158.

51 More on https://turkishshakespeares.wordpress.com/.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, 1929, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Crédits URL: https://upload.wikimedia.org/​wikipedia/​commons/​9/​99/​Ataturk-23-4-1929-celebrations.jpg.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/shakespeare/docannexe/image/8353/img-1.jpg
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Titre Figure 2: Afife Jale, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Crédits URL: https://tr.wikipedia.org/​wiki/​Afife_Jale#/​media/​Dosya:Afife-Jale-1jpg.jpg
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/shakespeare/docannexe/image/8353/img-2.jpg
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Titre Figure 3: “Bedia Muvahhit’in Hayatı - Türk Dünyasında Kadın - TRT Avaz”, TRT Avaz, 2016, screen grab (Youtube video).
Crédits URL: https://youtu.be/​-kVJXH7agSI.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/shakespeare/docannexe/image/8353/img-3.jpg
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Titre Figure 4: “Türkiye’de Şekspir Olmak / Being Shakespeare in Turkey”, Being Shakespeare in Turkey, 2021, screen grab (Youtube video). Muhsin Ertuğrul.
Crédits URL: https://youtu.be/​IsXYyuUjJHk.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/shakespeare/docannexe/image/8353/img-4.jpg
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Titre Figure 5: Cahide Sonku, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Crédits URL: https://upload.wikimedia.org/​wikipedia/​commons/​5/​51/​Cahide_sonku.jpg.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/shakespeare/docannexe/image/8353/img-5.jpg
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Titre Figure 6: Neyyire Neyir, İstanbul Kadın Müzesi (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Crédits URL: http://www.istanbulkadinmuzesi.org/​neyyire-neyir.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/shakespeare/docannexe/image/8353/img-6.jpg
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Titre Figure 7: “Yıldız Kenter belgeseli ilk teaser”, Ranini TV, 2022, screen grab (Youtube video). On the left, Olivia (Yılıdız Kenter).
Crédits URL: https://youtu.be/​QRqeypUH1ZI.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/shakespeare/docannexe/image/8353/img-7.jpg
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Titre Figure 8: “Türkiye’de Şekspir Olmak /Being Shakespeare in Turkey”, 2021, screen grab (Youtube video). Hamlet (Ayla Algan).
Crédits URL: https://youtu.be/​IsXYyuUjJHk.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/shakespeare/docannexe/image/8353/img-8.jpg
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Titre Figure 9: “Nedret Güvenç Belgeseli”, Belgeselci, 2017, screen grab (Youtube video). Nedret Güvenç.
Crédits URL: https://youtu.be/​9qfLFGQA_qc.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/shakespeare/docannexe/image/8353/img-9.jpg
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Titre Figure 10: “Bir Öykümüz Var-Ayten Gökçer”, TRT Arşiv, 2019, screen grab (Youtube video). Ayten Gökçer.
Crédits URL: https://youtu.be/​HShXlNQL83M.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/shakespeare/docannexe/image/8353/img-10.jpg
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Titre Figure 11: “30. Yılda Seslendirme”, TRT Arşiv, 2019, screen grab (Youtube video). Işık Yenersu.
Crédits URL: https://youtu.be/​CAK9hCifJkk.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/shakespeare/docannexe/image/8353/img-11.jpg
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Titre Figure 12: “Sumru Yavrucuk / Oyunculuk Eğitimi / Resmi Tanıtım Videosu / Sonsuz Oda”, Sonsuz Oda, 2019, screen grab (Youtube video). Sumru Yavrucuk.
Crédits URL: https://youtu.be/​OjyCoMv5j4M.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/shakespeare/docannexe/image/8353/img-12.jpg
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Titre Figure 13: “Zerrin Tekindor | Yekta Kopan’la Set Arası | beIN CONNECT”, beIN CONNECT, 2022, screen grab (Youtube video). Zerrin Tekindor.
Crédits URL: https://youtu.be/​j5Kq3XEQ4cw.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/shakespeare/docannexe/image/8353/img-13.jpg
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Titre Figure 14: “Türkiye’de Şekspir Olmak / Being Shakespeare in Turkey”, 2021, screen grab (Youtube video). Hamlet (Fatma Girik).
Crédits URL: https://youtu.be/​IsXYyuUjJHk.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/shakespeare/docannexe/image/8353/img-14.jpg
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Titre Figure 15: “Kral ‘Soytarım’ Lear Tanıtım Filmi”, Tiyatro Pangar, 2014, screen grab (Youtube video). On the far right, Demet Evgar.
Crédits URL: https://youtu.be/​fKaYGWsCLGY.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/shakespeare/docannexe/image/8353/img-15.jpg
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Titre Figure 16: Pelin Esmer, Kraliçe Lear, 2019. (CC BY-SA 4.0). Fatma Fatih (standing), Ümmü Kurt, a villager, Cennet Güneş, Zeynep Fatih (from left to right).
Crédits URL: http://pelinesmer.com/​portfolio/​kralice-lear-basin-odasi/​.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/shakespeare/docannexe/image/8353/img-16.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 350k
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Murat Öğütcü, « Documenting Female Turkish Shakespeares »Actes des congrès de la Société française Shakespeare [En ligne], 41 | 2023, mis en ligne le 19 décembre 2023, consulté le 03 mars 2024. URL : http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/shakespeare/8353 ; DOI : https://0-doi-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/10.4000/shakespeare.8353

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Auteur

Murat Öğütcü

Adıyaman University, Adıyaman, Turkey

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