25th Istanbul Theatre Festival lifts its curtains on stage and online in October and November

Organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) and sponsored by Koç Holding Energy Group Companies Aygaz, Opet and Tüpraş, the 25th Istanbul Theatre Festival raises its curtains on 22 October. With the slogan “Theatre In These Trying Times”, the 25th edition of the festival has set out to breathe fresh air into both the world of theatre and to theatre lovers with a programme of mostly new productions that look at the world, which is in search of a new normal, through the lens of theatre. The festival will host 25 national and international in person and online performances over the course of one month. While online screenings will be accessible from throughout Turkey, in person performances of the festival will meet the audiences at Alan Kadıköy, Atlas 1948 Movie Theatre, Profilo Cultural Centre West Main Stage, Duru Ataşehir, Moda Stage Theatre, Caddebostan Cultural Centre, Gazhane Museum, Yapı Kredi bomontiada, DasDas and Zorlu PSM in compliance with measures against COVID-19. Online screenings will be available at passostudio.com throughout the festival.

>> Click for full details of the festival programme.

11 physical and online productions from abroad will meet theatregoers with the support of festival’s International Productions Performance Sponsor ENKA Foundation, whereas 14 local productions will have their premieres on the festival. Like every year, free-of-charge side events such as panels, workshops, talks and reading theatres held within the scope of the festival’s Learning and Training Programme will accompany the festival.

Following the presale of discounted tickets for İKSV Tulip Card holders starting on 22 September, the festival tickets will be available for purchase on Saturday, 25 September at İKSV box office and through passo.com.tr.


Istanbul Theatre Festival presents 14 national and 11 international productions

This year the 25th Istanbul Theatre Festival will present the audience with a rich programme extending from in person productions to online screenings, from “ear theatre” to children’s theatre, from movie screenings to complimentary panels, talks and reading theatres over the course of one month.

9 national productions will be staged for the first time in Turkey at the Istanbul Theatre Festival. The Cherry Orchard directed by Mehmet Birkiye of the Kocaeli Municipality Theatre will have its Istanbul premiere at the festival. In the national programme this year there are also three “ear theatres” that can be listened to online.

The festival features three widely acclaimed international productions from the Netherlands, France and Italy along with seven foreign productions that can be watched online. As part of the festival this year Gazhane Museum will host the dance show from France Waterfloor which can be attended free-of-charge while a special screening of Oedipus by the British director Robert Icke will be held on the silver screen of the Atlas 1948 Movie Theatre.

Contemporary Dutch theatre visits the festival with “Dutch Focus”

Continuing its collaboration with the Netherlands consulate-general in Istanbul, which began in 2020, the Istanbul Theatre Festival presents a selection of three works from the Netherlands. Staged with the contributions of ENKA Foundation, the performance sponsor of all international productions in the festival, the plays Medea, Oedipus and Alice are also supported by Dutch Performing Arts, a programme of the Performing Arts Fund NL.

Internationaal Theater Amsterdam (ITA), which spearheads Dutch theatre with its prestigious cast and directorial team, is presenting its award-winning adaptation of Medea by Simon Stone, praised by The Guardian as “a raw masterpiece created by a flawless ensemble”. Successful young writer and director Stone, whose new plays are always eagerly anticipated, rewrites ancient tragedy playwright Euripides’ Medea in today’s language and combines it with a real event. Medea will be performed in person on Wednesday and Thursday, 17 and 18 November at Zorlu PSM, the venue sponsor with the highest contribution to the festival.

Yet another play in the selection is by the talented British theatre writer and director, the youngest ever winner of the Olivier Award Robert Icke who has been acclaimed for his high-profile adaptations of classical pieces. Artist in Residence at Internationaal Theater Amsterdam (ITA), Icke is in the festival with the 21st century Oedipus, which has been praised by The Times as “a superb interpretation that feels modern and timeless”. In this 21st century adaptation of Sophocles’ work, the director transforms Oedipus into a politician who finds out the greatest secret of his life. The play featuring Hans Kesting, who delivers an extraordinary performance as Oedipus, will be on the silver screen of Atlas 1948 Cinema with two screenings on Saturday, 6 November at 14.00 and 20.00.

The dance performance titled Alice by de Stilte, which is a Dutch dance company that focuses entirely on developing productions for children, encourages the children to tell their own story and let their imagination run free by taking them out of the everyday world and inviting them into the abstract world of the senses. Alice can be streamed on passostudio.com throughout the festival.

“Dutch Focus” will also host a reading theatre of a Dutch playwright’s play translated into Turkish.

Golden Mask Festival visits Istanbul with three online plays from Russia

Istanbul Theatre Festival’s collaboration with Golden Mask Russian Performing Arts Festival, which began in 2018, continues this year with three productions included in the festival’s online program. Supported by ENKA Foundation, the performance sponsor of all international productions in the festival, The Bear, Boris and Children of The Sun can be streamed on passostudio.com between 22 October and 20 November along with all the other online shows.

Anton Chekhov’s most known short play written in 1888 The Bear is the bizarre story of romance flaring up between Mrs Popov, a widow mourning the death of her husband, and Mr Smirnov, a landowner nicknamed “The Bear” who comes to collect her husband’s debt.

The relationship between man and power in Pushkin’s tragedy Boris Godunov, which was inspired by William Shakespeare’s historic dramas, is conveyed in Boris with a simple, realistic, and poetic language as the play’s director Dmitry Krymov offers a clever, ironic and contemporary look at this classical text.

The successful Russian director Timofei Kulyabin’s brilliant adaptation of Maxim Gorky’s Children of the Sun intertwines the transcripts of speeches by Russian scientists, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk at Stanford University campus.

Festival’s new section: “There Is A Woman Behind This”

One of the novelties in this edition of the festival is the section titled “There Is A Woman Behind This” which brings together the plays that have been entirely created by women and aims to render visible the women’s production. Four plays under this theme heading are brought to the audience with the theme sponsorship of Odeabank.

Adapted from Zehra İpşiroğlu’s novel, the Confrontation will make the viewer experience a confrontation with the patriarchal mentality that surrounds our lives through the characters Doctor Mert, who has a respectable standing in society, university student Özlem, feminist activist and faculty member Serra and much-loved nurse Sibel who has a successful career.

Written by Aslı Ceren Bozatlı and directed by Özge Erdem, One Step Too Far, a contemporary salute to absurd classics, invites the audience to the inescapable and inert world of two people stuck in a vicious cycle.

Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, which has become a classic as one of the seminal scripts of the women’s movement as well as the history of literature, meets the festival audience as an “ear theatre” with contributions of Podacto and delivered by Tiyatro Boyalı Kuş, which has over twenty years of feminist theatre experience.

Fair Tales, developed by Odeabank and reinterpreted by Can Publications from an egalitarian point of view, is now on the theatre stage as a children’s play... Our heroes, Cinderella, Rapunzel, The Kindhearted Prince, Little Red Riding Hood and The Frog Prince draw attention to gender equality as they break stereotypes on their new adventures.

“There Is A Woman Behind This” theme will also host two panels titled Equality of the Stage and the Stage of Equality moderated by Ebru Nihan Celkan and How to devise an equal path in children’s narratives?

Festival opens with Zerrin Tekindor’s play Dust

This year the festival opens on 22 October with Zerrin Tekindor’s performance of the play titled Dust written by Murat Mahmutyazıcıoğlu and directed by Hira Tekindor. Zerrin Tekindor will play all the characters in the play that reaches from the 1960s to present day narrating the story of Handan and her mother Feri as Handan remembers her. Tekfen Holding is the performance sponsor of the play that will be staged at Alan Kadıköy on the first two days of the festival.

11 national productions will premiere in the festival

Of the 14 national productions in the 25th Istanbul Theatre Festival program, plays will have their İstanbul premiere at the festival; Dust with Zerrin Tekindor’s performance, The Labourer with Emre Kınay’s performance, Confrontation written by Zehra İpşiroğlu, Chorus of Agony by BAMİstanbul, Gabriel’s Dream written by Sema Elcim and directed by Ahmet Sami Özbudak, The Collector directed by Eyüp Emre Uçaray, The Cherry Orchard directed by Mehmet Birkiye of the Kocaeli Municipality Theatres, One Step Too Far by Kadıköy Emek Tiyatrosu, Istanbul Theatre Festival production written by Ceren Ercan, directed by Yelda Baskın Protect Me From Punches as well as the children’s plays Fair Tales and Mythological Tales will meet İstanbul audience for the first time during the festival. Podacto productions Waiting for Godot and The Open Couple as well as A Room of One’s Own by Tiyatro Boyalı Kuş are programmed online.

Productions for children at the festival

The programme of the 25th Istanbul Theatre Festival presents four productions for children: Alice in “Dutch Focus” and Fair Tales sponsored by Odeabank in the thematic section “There Is A Woman Behind This” along with Mythological Tales 1 & 2 sponsored by Paribu.

As part of İKSV Cultural Policy Studies, İKSV Alt Kat offers children, youth and families in person/online workshops and content in different arts disciplines and develops projects targeting the participation of groups with limited access to cultural events. Within the scope of the festival, İKSV Alt Kat presents a new production geared towards children aged 7-12. Co-created by Ani Haddeler (Anuşka’s Workshop) and İKSV Alt Kat, Mythological Tales 1 and 2 is a children’s play with puppets consisting of six chapters and extending over two days. A different myth will be told in each of the Mythological Tales, which will be narrated by the main character/puppet Aphrodite. Following the performances to be staged with a guest artist who will join the team in each chapter, a Body Music Workshop and Puppet/Drama Workshop for children will be organised free of charge.

Once again, an abundant Learning and Training Programme at the festival

Like every year, the 25th edition of the Istanbul Theatre Festival will offer theatre lovers free-of-charge events within the scope of its Learning and Training Programme including panels, workshops, talks and reading theatres. As part of the program, panels titled “New Dramaturgy and Criticism on the Axis of Digitalisation and Ecology”, “How to Devise an Equal Path in Children’s Narratives?” and “Equality of the Stage and the Stage of Equality”led by Ebru Nihan Celkan; a reading theatre called “Play of the Year”; Meanwhile, for children the programme offers “Body Music Workshop moderated by KeKeÇa” and “Puppet/Drama Workshop moderated by Ani Haddeler”.

Arts Map, a digital mapping and networking platform, implemented by the Consulate General of the Netherlands and Inogarart which aims to create a cultural and artistic ecosystem that is sustainable using networking, training of trainers, information sharing and joint projects, is bringing several names from the performing arts field together during a three-day programme, in collaboration with the Istanbul Theatre Festival, titled “Sustain The Stage!” on October 26, 27 and 28, 2021. Dutch and Turkish artists will reimagine the future of Performing Arts using their differing experiences and perspectives. While answers to the question “How can we come up with sustainable strategies for the future of Performing Arts?” are to be sought during group work, participants will find the opportunity to network through a speed date event. Details to be announced soon.

25th Istanbul Theatre Festival tickets available for purchase on Saturday, 25 September

Following the presale of discounted tickets for Tulip Card holders, the festival tickets will be available for purchase as of 10.30 on Saturday, 25 September through passo.com.tr and at the İKSV box office (open every day between 10.00-18.00, closed on Sunday). There will be a limited number of discounted student tickets for every performance.

Tulip Card holders whose memberships contribute to all the activities realised by İKSV throughout the year have priority access to festival tickets at discounted prices. Black Tulip Card holders may purchase their tickets on Wednesday, 22 September; White Tulip Card holders on Thursday, 23 September; and Red and Yellow Tulip Card holders on 24 September as of 10.30. Black and White Tulip Card holders can buy their tickets with an option to select seats at a 25% discount through passo.com.tr or via the reservation form sent to their address. Red and Yellow Tulip Card holders can purchase their tickets at a 15% and 20% discount for in person events and online events, respectively.

Festival’s Honorary Awards go to Ayşegül Yüksel and Pippo Delbono

This year the Honorary Awards of the 25th Istanbul Theatre Festival will be presented to writer and academician Prof. Ayşegül Yüksel and Italian director Pippo Delbono.

Executive board member of International Theatre Institute (I.T.I.) Turkish Centre (1986-1991), founding member of Theatre Critics Association (T.E.B.), advisory committee member of İKSV Istanbul Theatre Festival and International Ankara Theatre Festival, and the author of theatre reviews and articles published in numerous journals, Prof. Ayşegül Yüksel made a brief speech at the festival’s press conference: “Istanbul Theatre Festival’s Honorary Award has an immense significance for me for two reasons. Firstly, it connects me with the very valuable persons of art who have merited this award to date; and secondly, it is an 80th birthday gift that has been given to me. I am at an age when someone who has spent most of her life going to the theatre, reading and writing about theatre and lecturing on theatre, must take a moment and look back. Thus, such a gift coming at this stage tells me that I have not spent my days and nights in vain, that I have ‘fortunately’ done what I did. I heartily thank the Istanbul Theatre Festival team, who have worked around the clock to ensure that theatre creates an impact even in the present “pandemic” situation, and the board that has deemed me worthy of the award.”

Following his training in traditional theatre, the Italian author, actor and director Pippo Delbono founded the Compagnia Pippo Delbono in the early 80s and created most of his works ranging from Il Tempo degli Assassini (1987) to La Gioia (2018) with this company. Rather than staging plays, the artist carried out complete creations devised with a group of actors whose number grew over the years. He worked with socially marginalised people. Some of these actors, including the recently deceased deaf and mute Bobò who was held in an asylum in Aversa near Naples for forty-five years, kept working with the company and still constitute an important part of this experience.

Delbono will receive his award on 4 November at Zorlu PSM following his play La Gioia which will be staged with the support of ENKA Foundation.

25th Istanbul Theatre Festival press conference was held online

25th Istanbul Theatre Festival press conference was held online on Thursday morning, 9 September.

Speaking at the conference, General Director of İKSV Görgün Taner said: “This year we are organising the 25th Istanbul Theatre Festival. As in the 24 editions we have organised since 1989 to date, we have again prepared a versatile festivity with performances and side events. On one hand, we are meeting in the theatres, and on the other, we are continuing to bring different examples from around the world to our viewers through online screenings. The slogan “theatre in these trying times”, which you will see in the publicities of our festival reminds us how theatre brings us together, how it changes us and lets us breathe in this period of global turmoil. I hope that our festival which will go on until 20 November will induce us to experience once again these positive feelings created by theatre and at the same time contribute to the recovery of our theatre scene that has been adversely affected by the pandemic. I extend my heartfelt thanks to all our sponsors and supporters and in particular to our co-sponsors Koç Holding Energy Group Companies Aygaz, Opet and Tüpraş for their contributions to the organisation of the 25th Istanbul Theatre Festival.”

Koç Holding Energy Group President Yağız Eyüboğlu said, “As Koç Energy Group brands Aygaz, Opet, and Tüpraş, we maintain our enthusiasm towards art for 17 years as the co-sponsor of the festival, and contribute to the sustainability of culture and arts while meeting the energy requirement of our country. Within the framework of this vision of ours, supporting theatre and this valuable organization who ensured the improvement of the consciousness level of the society in terms of art as well, who increased the creativity of younger generations, and who reflected the social awareness is of great value for us. Witnessing the gradual increase in the number of festival audience reinforces our hopes for our country’s cultural future. Before I end my words, I wish God’s mercy on Ferhan Şensoy, the great master of theatre and literature, whom we lost recently, and I respectfully commemorate all the valuable artists we have lost. I once again thank the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, Mr. Bülent Eczacıbaşı; the General Director of İKSV, Mr. Görgün Taner; Istanbul Theatre Festival Director, Mrs. Leman Yılmaz, and all festival staff, and I wish a pleasant festival with a high energy.”

Announcing the festival programme at the conference, Istanbul Theatre Festival Director Leman Yılmaz said, “Istanbul Theatre Festival held the festival with a mixed programme with the importance of hope in 2020, when the pandemic was at its heaviest. Due to the ongoing uncertainties this year, we prepared the festival programme with a mixed setup that includes both physical and online theatre, dance and performance productions. The experience we gained at the last festival guided us while preparing this year's programme. The programme of the 25th Istanbul Theatre Festival includes 11 productions from abroad: 3 physical, 1 screening and 7 online. Local productions, on the other hand, will mainly be staged in physical venues. 14 local productions - 11 physical and 3 online - will meet with our audience for the first time. As in every festival, this year's Learning and Training Programme also includes panels on various topics, reading theatres and workshops. This year, we present our honorary awards to our esteemed academician Prof. Dr. Ayşegül Yüksel and one of the most remarkable directors of Italy, Pippo Delbono. There are three sections that stand out in the festival programme: Dutch selection, There is a Woman Behind This and Golden Mask is in Istanbul – Online. We deeply missed watching plays on the stage. We have a strong belief that the theatre will let us breathe in this challenging time. Our hope is our most important support in meeting this difficult process.”

Supporters of the 25th Istanbul Theatre Festival

The 25th Istanbul Theatre Festival is co-sponsored by the Koç Holding Energy Group Companies Aygaz, Opet and Tüpraş. The festival’s International Productions Performance Sponsor is ENKA Foundation, “There Is A Woman Behind This” Theme Sponsor is Odeabank, Performance Sponsors with the Highest Contribution are Tekfen Holding and N Kolay, Performance Sponsor is Paribu. Among the festival’s supporters is also the Venue Sponsor with the Highest Contribution Zorlu Performance Arts Centre.

All festivals of İKSV are supported by the Founding Sponsor Eczacıbaşı Group, Official Hotel Sponsor The Marmara Group and İKSV Insurance Sponsor Zurich Sigorta. The festival is realised with the contributions of Digital Content Security Service Sponsor Digiguardians, Occupational Health and Safety Consultancy Plaza OSGB and service sponsors GFK, AGC Software, Uzman CRM, Loodos Technology and OMD.

The festival is also supported by Dutch Performing Arts, a programme of the Performing Arts Fund NL, Italian Cultural Institute, Institut Francaise de Turquie à Istanbul, Netherlands consulate-general in Istanbul, Golden Mask Performing Arts Festival, Kadıköy Municipality and Gazhane Museum.

The poster of the 25th Istanbul Theatre Festival were created by Lokal Istanbul.

About COVID-19 measures

All indoor events of the 25th Istanbul Theatre Festival to be held between 22 October and 20 November will be carried out in compliance with the measures taken in the frame of the “Circular on the Controlled Normalization Process in Arts and Culture Facilities” dated 23 June 2020 and issued by the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism Directorate General of Investments and Enterprises. For the measures to be implemented at the festival venues and the COVID-19 Activity Guide, please refer to https://tiyatro.iksv.org/en.

Important notice for the audience attending the events

As per the circular issued by the Ministry of the Interior, as of Monday, 6 September 2021, members of the audience can attend the events upon completing their vaccination protocol or by presenting their negative PCR test results taken in the last 48 hours. Controls will be held at the venue entries via Hayat Eve Sığar (HES) application. There is no PCR test requirement for audiences under 18 years old. Measures against Covid-19 will continue to be implemented at the event sites as previously announced.

Follow the festival on İKSV mobile

Through the İKSV Mobile application, you may add to your calendar the Istanbul Theatre Festival performances you wish to follow, create your own program, search by artist, venue or event name, view the events on the map and get directions. The application can be downloaded on App Store and Google Play.

Moreover, you may access the festival brochure, booklet and catalogues through the İKSV Kitaplık application which can be downloaded free-of-charge on App Store.