Başar Sabuncu was born in 1943 in Istanbul. He graduated in 1961 from Saint-Joseph high school, where he had had his first theatre experience as an amateur actor. He studied for some time at the School of Political Science in Ankara and at the Department of French Language and Literature of Istanbul University but left school to venture in the world of theatre. He worked as an actor for a couple of years for private theatres. Then he concentrated on writing and directing plays.
He was only 19 when his first play Kargalar (The Crows) was staged in 1962 at the State’s Theatre.
He worked for the Drama Department of TRT Radio in Ankara between 1964 and 1969. He adapted 18 literary works to radio drama including classics such as Odysseus, Don Quixote and Le Père Goriot. He directed over 100 radio drama series.
After the 12 March 1971 coup, he preferred to live abroad for some time. After conducting theatre activities for 2 years in France, he came back to Turkey and joined in 1974, upon Muhsin Ertuğrul’s invitation, Istanbul Municipal Theatre as a director. There, he was a pioneer in the implementation of the “decentralization”. He occupied the position of art director in the Üsküdar and Fatih houses of the Istanbul Municipal Theatre. He staged Nazım Hikmet’s work for the audiences of the Istanbul Municipal Theatre, who had not seen the famous artist’s works performed on the Theatre’s stages for a very long time.
During the period after the 12 September 1980 coup, he was made redundant under the notorious Law no. 1402. Then, he directed the play Occupation in the Schaubühne Theatre in Berlin. In 1982 – 83, he staged the original play Momie in the Sururi – Cezzar Theatre and a re-arrangement of Brecht’s Schweik in the Second World War and an adaptation of Prosper Mérimée’s Carmen in the Şan Theatre both as musicals.
During the same period, he was prosecuted by military authorities for having signed the famous “Intellectuals’ Petition”.
Afterwards, he dedicated most of his time to cinema. His first 5 scripts were filmed by other directors. From 1985, he made 6 films with his own scripts. He represented the Turkish cinema in a number of international festivals. Homage Weeks were organized in his name in 1988 in the British Film Institute in London, in 1991 in the French Cinémathèque in Paris and in 1992 by the Montpellier Festival, where all of his films were shown.
In1988, after a prolonged legal struggle, he got back to his job in the Municipal Theatre. He directed over 30 plays for the Municipal Theatre and for the State’s Theatre as well as for private theatres. He resigned in 2004, without waiting until his regular retirement age, from his position in the Municipal Theatre after a conflict on principles with the management on the subject of the Theatre’s “artistic independence” from the Municipality.
He translated into Turkish works of Racine, Marivaux, Brecht, Genet and Kovachevich.
His works in the field of theatre and cinema were awarded many prizes, including international prizes (London 1969, Bastia 1989, Ohrid 1997), in 6 different categories, namely the categories of playwrights, drama directors, scriptwriters, translators and stage designers.
Başar Sabuncu died in 17 Haziran 2015.