A tribute to Istanbul’s bygone theaters

The global community marked World Theater Day on Friday and Turkey’s theater companies, both private and state-run, joined in the celebrations with free performances throughout the day as is tradition. However, celebrations in Turkey are bittersweet with the Ataturk Cultural Center (AKM) in Taksim, not only Istanbul’s but also Turkey’s major performing arts venue, closed and decaying since 2008, the Muammer Karaca Theater, closed since 2012, and the

The global community marked World Theater Day on Friday and Turkey’s theater companies, both private and state-run, joined in the celebrations with free performances throughout the day as is tradition.

However, celebrations in Turkey are bittersweet with the Atatuumlrk Cultural Center (AKM) in Taksim, not only Istanbul’s but also Turkey’s major performing arts venue, closed and decaying since 2008, the Muammer Karaca Theater, closed since 2012, and the Iinasi and Akuumln theaters in Ankara, recently sold by the government to a private company, facing an unclear future.

Soon these venues might also join the list of bygone theaters in Istanbul, a city whose first theater building was constructed in the 1830s.

Since then, over 450 theaters have been built in the city, but among them, the most important ones don’t exist today they’ve either burned down or were demolished for other construction projects. In short, Istanbul is a huge cemetery of theatres.

Architect and author Hasan KuruyazIcI, well known for his documentation of Istanbul’s historical buildings, has compiled a list of the city’s bygone theaters and shared his vast knowledge with a Pera Fest audience earlier this week at a panel discussion at the Maya Cuumlneyt Tuumlrel Theater in BeyoIlu.

During the panel, titled Yitirilen Kuumlltuumlr MirasImIz: BeyoIlu’nun Tiyatro YapIlarI (Our Lost Cultural Heritage: BeyoIlu’s Theaters), KuruyazIcI focused on the question, Why should these theaters not have been demolished?

Here’s a look at Istanbul’s major theaters of old that used to be important milestones in Turkey’s cultural history, based on the inventory compiled by KuruyazIcI.

Elhamra Theater (1831-1999): This was one of Istanbul’s first theater buildings, which hosted the premieres of numerous important Turkish plays throughout its history, including those written by the late YaIar Kemal and NazIm Hikmet. Veteran actor Genco Erkal first premiered his adaptation of Gogol’s Diary of a Madman here.

It was also the theater where Mustafa Kemal Atatuumlrk, the founder of the Turkish republic, went to watch movies whenever he was in Istanbul.

Naum Theater (1838-1870): This theater building, which was located at the corner of the Istiklal Street and the street that opens to the fish market, burned to the ground during 1870’s great fire in BeyoIlu.

This was the most famous theater in Istanbul during the Ottoman era, and Sultan Abdulaziz used to watch performances there. The theater is also known to have hosted numerous foreign emperors and princes during their visits to Istanbul to watch performances.

Dolmabahccedile Theater (1859-1937): Built upon a commission by Sultan Abduumllmecid, this theater was part of the palace complex of the same name. It used to be billed as one of the most beautifully decorated theater buildings of its era Ottoman author Ibrahim Iinasi wrote his 1859 play Iair Evlenmesi (The Wedding of a Poet) to be performed at this theatre.

GedikpaIa Theater (1861-1884): Situated on a street connecting the neighborhoods of CcedilarIIkapI and KumkapI, the GedikpaIa Theater hosted numerous important performances throughout its short-lived history, including an 1868 Turkish adaptation of the OsmanlI Tiyatrosu company’s play Sezar Borcia, which was originally written in Armenian, and the premiere of NamIk Kemal’s drama Vatan Yahut Silistre (Fatherland, or, Silistra).

Apollon Theater (1873-1961): Replaced by the Rexx Cinema, this was the oldest theater in KadIkoumly and numerous Istanbul-based companies performed there for years.

Afife Jale, Turkey’s first stage actress, made her debut in this theater on April 22, 1920.

Odeon Theater (1875-2006): Located at the corner of the YeIilccedilam Street in BeyoIlu, this used to be one of the top three theaters of Istanbul along with the Dram Theater and the Ortaoyuncular Theater

TepebaII Dram Theater (1880-1971): This building, used by the Istanbul Municipal Theater Company from 1916 through 1970, was considered the heart of Turkey’s theater community.

TepebaII Komedi (Comedy) Theater (1889-1957): This was an open-air theater that was mainly constructed as a venue for summer performances. The Municipal Theater used the building from 1942 until it was demolished in 1958.

KuruyazIcI says the reason why the building was taken down was never explained, but the property was used as a parking lot for many years after the demolition.

Yeni Komedi (New Comedy) Theater (1923-2013): The Municipal Theater used this building on Istiklal Street for 20 years until 1975, when they left due to a disagreement about the rent with the property’s owner After that, several fires severely damaged the building, which doesn’t exist anymore.

Ian Theater (1953-1987): A major venue that hosted numerous well-known Turkish musical productions during the 1980s, including Yedi KocalI Huumlrmuumlz (Seven Husbands for Huumlrmuumlz) and Hisseli Harikalar KumpanyasI (The Joint Venture Company of Wonders), this building is now in derelict condition.

Cep Theater (1955-2011): This was Istanbul’s first example of tiny theaters built in apartment blocks.

Founded by Haldun Dormen, the theater has hosted numerous well-known thespians such as Erol GuumlnaydIn, Metin Serezli and Altan Erbulak. Currently empty, the building awaits demolition.

Karaca Theater (1955-2012): Founded by the famous comedian Muammer Karaca, this theater hosted more than 3,000 performances of the famous play Cibali Karakolu (The Cibali Police Station), based on a French vaudeville, for 16 years. This was the theater that launched the careers of such well-known names as Guumllriz Sururi, Guumlzin Oumlzipek and Adile NaIit.

The theater has been closed since 2012 due to danger of collapse.

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN