Is it curtains for the theater in Turkey? Or is it just the cue for an overbearing state to exit and leave the arts to flourish in freedom?
In the bitter debate that is raging in Turkey and pitting the Kemalist elites that long governed the country against the new Anatolian middle class represented by the piously conservative government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, many actors, directors and critics believe the former, and the mood backstage is desperate.
Artists fear that the lights will go down for good if the government goes through with a proposed overhaul of state theaters.
“The government is moving to shut down the theater,” Ustun Akmen, president of the Turkish Theater Critics’ Association, said in an interview in Istanbul last week. “They want to destroy the arts. After the theater, it will be the opera and ballet, and then they will move on to impede education in the arts at the universities. Frankly, I am afraid.”
The Culture Ministry, while declining to disclose details of the overhaul project it is drawing up together with the prime minister’s office, said this week that artists had nothing to fear from it. The changes, slated to be submitted to cabinet later this month, would reflect a modern approach to state patronage of the arts in line with practice in other countries, a ministry spokesman quoted Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay as saying.
But the level of antagonism and distrust between the clashing factions of Turkey’s rapidly changing society is such that artists are not easily reassured, especially given how the overhaul initiative began.THESE ATTACKS ON ART ARE THE FRUITS OF ISLAM.