Adana’s theater festival marks 16th year with ‘Aquatic Parade’

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- The 16th edition of southern Turkish province Adana’s annual State Theaters-SabancI International Adana Theater Festival got under way on Monday night with an impressive outdoor performance by the French theater company Ilotopie on the city’s famous Seyhan River, followed by a lengthy fireworks show.

Titled “Suya YansIyan DuIler” (Aquatic Parade), Ilotopie’s two-part show featured numerous characters, both imaginary and based on real life, all floating on the waters of Seyhan, which flows gracefully right through the heart of the vast and mostly green flatland on which Adana is built.

Thousands of theater enthusiasts who had started gathering on the banks of Seyhan hours before the show cheered and whistled as Ilotopie’s performers, in costumes ranging from mythological warriors to a garbage collector, made their fantastical aquatic parade on various strange floating structures, including a baby’s cradle and even a tree. A colorful fireworks show that drew oohs and aahs from the thousands of spectators marked the end of Ilotopie’s hour-long show.

The performance, staged in Turkey for the first time in Adana, kicked off a month-long program of 21 plays to be staged by 16 Turkish and five foreign companies in 45 performances at the city’s HacI Ömer SabancI Cultural Center.

Istanbul State Theater’s rendition of Moliere’s “The Miser” and Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” and Kenter Theater’s production of Canadian playwright Ann-Marie MacDonald’s play “Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)” are among the Turkish festival favorites.

Among the visiting troupes, Iranian and Azerbaijani companies are taking part in the festival for the first time, Turkish State Theaters (DT) General Director Mustafa Kurt said during an evening gathering with the press at Adana Hilton’s terrace overlooking the Seyhan and its historic TaIköpru bridge. Two theater companies from Spain and Romania are also among the foreign troupes on this year’s lineup.

Kurt added that the Adana festival was a pioneering event that has prompted state theaters in other Turkish cities to launch international festivals, such as Trabzon in the Black Sea region, Konya in Central Anatolia and Antalya in the Mediterranean region.

The State Theaters’ Adana branch, which has a history of 32 years, each year chooses the lineup of the festival from among a slew of local and foreign companies, both private and state-funded, who apply to take part in the event, said Kurt, a former director of the Adana State Theater, who was appointed to his current post last summer after previous General Director Lemi Bilgin was removed from his post by the Culture and Tourism Ministry late June.

Kurt also added that the Adana DT often pays great attention to not include foreign companies that are taking part in other international theater festivals in Turkey in the same season.

Also speaking at Monday’s press gathering, Guler SabancI, chairperson of the board of trustees of the SabancI Foundation, which is the main sponsor of the festival, said the citizens of Adana each year showed great interest in the festival and this year was yet another proof of how much a theater-loving city Adana is. Tickets for this year’s festival sold out shortly after going on sale, a fact the organizers take pride in. Asked whether the foundation had any plans for the festival’s upcoming editions regarding sold-out performances, SabancI’s response was a bit unexpected: “This shows that Adana has some very avid theatergoers.” Perhaps a pledge to open more new theaters in the city could have been received more positively by the press members in attendance.

The press gathering was followed by opening speeches and an awards ceremony where veteran thespian Zeliha Berksoy was honored with the festival’s 2014 Lifetime Achievement Prize.

Berksoy, a stage and screen actress and academic whose career spans more than 45 years, said during her acceptance speech that she was sharing her prize “with all theater professionals in Turkey, including theater students.”

Zeliha Berksoy, the daughter of pioneering 20th-century Turkish opera singer and artist Semiha Berksoy, started her acting career in 1951 as a member of the Ankara State Theater.

The 16th State Theaters-SabancI International Adana Theater Festival will continue until May 16. The festival, which traditionally begins on March 27, World Theater Day, was moved to mid-April to mid-May this year due to Turkey’s local elections in March.

(CihanToday’s Zaman)