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Short history

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Traditional Turkish Theatre, a term referring to shows that were performed during the Ottoman Empire. The plays were not organized to be performed regularly, but were usually seen as part of traditional ceremonies or social gatherings, for example for weddings or during the Ramadan. Unlike the illusionist theatre in the 19th century Western Theatre, Turkish Theatre has an epic form.

            Theatre based on western traditions started to be taken as a model for Turkish theatre in the 1840s, the Tanzimat Period wherein many reforms took place in Turkish society. Many texts by western dramatists were translated and adapted, and Turkish playwrights also began to write plays. The play that was accepted as the first original Turkish play was Şair Evlenmesi (The Marriage of a Poet) byİbrahim Şinasi. Soon other playwrights followed, like Musahipzade Celal and Ahmet Vefik Paşa. With these developments a new tradition in Turkish theatre began. During this period new theatres were built with proscenium stages, according to the western theatre norms. In these new theatres, various theatre groups began to perform their plays on a regular basis. Some non-Muslim groups, like the Armenians, made considerable contributions to the theatre during this period. Especially the founding of the Darülbedayi (today’s Municipal Theatres) was a groundbreaking event for Turkish theatre.

            With the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923, where western norms were taken as a model, there were great innovations in terms of both play writing and the institutionalization of theatre. Another important event of this period was that the German theatre and opera producer and administrator Carl Ebert came to Turkey and made great contributions to the foundation of the Ankara State Conservatory. With the first graduates from the Ankara State Conservatory, the Tatbikat stage was found in 1941, and in 1949 the Ankara State Theatre was officially established. After the foundation of this theatre many plays were staged in different cities, and soon new theatres were founded in cities like Istanbul, Izmir, Bursa, Trabzon, Diyarbakır, Sivas and Van. This helped to encourage theatre throughout the country.

In the 1960s new prominent playwrights began to produce plays. Some famous names here are Aziz Nesin, Haldun Taner, Güngör Dilmen, Orhan Asena, Turan Oflazoğlu, Necati Cumalı and Sermen Çağan.

After the 1960s many different independent theatre groups began to contribute to Turkish theatre. The Dostlar Theatre, Kenter Theatre and the Ankara Art Theatre staged these plays.

Because of the coup d’état in 1980, there was an unproductive period in terms of the production of plays. Since the 1990s, however, there has been an increase in the number of theatre groups. This period also sees a productive period in terms of new playwrights and modern staging techniques. Since then there have been many productions both of artistic and popular plays.