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23rd Istanbul Theatre Festival Invites to See the Life Upside Down the Festival to Kick Off On 13 November

September 9, 2019 Destination Global No Comments Email Email

The 23rd edition of the Istanbul Theatre Festival, organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) and sponsored by Koç Holding Energy Group Companies Aygaz, Opet and Tüpraş, will take place between 13 November and 1 December 2019.

The festival will present a total of 78 performances by 28 theatre and dance companies 12 from abroad and 16 from Turkey. The festival programme also features a number of events within the scope of its Learning and Training Programme including panels, reader’s theatres, master classes and workshops with the participation of international guests and experts.

This year, the festival’s slogan is “life upside down.” The festival will seek to answer questions such as “where is the stage?” and “who is the actor?” with its programme consisting of performances with unusual staging technique and structure in which the generally accepted patterns of performing arts are questioned.

Festival’s Honorary Awards

The 23rd Istanbul Theatre Festival’s Honorary Awards will be presented to the playwright, theatre actor and stage director Ferhan Şensoy, stage designer Metin Deniz and director Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota.

Ferhan Şensoy has earned a distinctive place in Turkish theatre history with his unique, original and head-spinning works. He has written and staged unusual plays that have criticised current events using humour elements often based on language subtleties to the point of pushing the boundaries of the Turkish language, with a style that carries traces from various styles ranging from traditional Turkish theatre to epic theatre. Considered to be the mark of mastery in Turkish theatre’s tradition of comedy, Bald Hasan Efendi’s Turban (Kel Hasan Efendi’nin Kavuğu), has been passed from İsmail Dümbüllü to Münir Özkul in 1968, and from Münir Özkul to Ferhan Şensoy in 1989.

Stage designer Metin Deniz, born in Istanbul in 1940, is an artist who uses a wide variety of materials in his work. Throughout his art life, Metin Deniz has stated that the decor in theatre should be given a meaning above that of decoration, which is associated with “ornamentation”. Deniz has prepared the decors of almost 200 theatre, opera, and ballet scenes. He has been invited as a guest artist to France, Switzerland and England and has also worked as an art consultant and assistant director for various films. In recent years, Metin Deniz has been working on the design of theatre stages and theatre hall interiors, and museum furnishings and designs.

Ferhan Şensoy and Metin Deniz will be presented their Honorary Awards at the festival’s award night, which will be announced later.

Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota was born on June 19, 1970 as the son of Portuguese performer Teresa Mota and French director and playwright Richard Demarcy. He founded the Compagnie des Millefontaines in 1988 and was director of La Comédie de Reims, Centre Dramatique National (CDN) from 2002 to 2008. He has directed Théâtre de la Ville since 2008, and has served as general director of the Festival d’Automne in Paris since 2011. Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota will be presented his award on Friday, 22 November after the performance of Ionesco Suite.


Golden Mask in Istanbul

Following its commencement last year, Istanbul Theatre Festival continues its collaboration with The Golden Mask Performing Arts Festival this year with four productions from Russia. Moscow Golden Mask Theatre Festival, which showcases every spring the most significant performances from all around Russia in addition to being a prestigious theatre award given to productions in all genres of theatre art, is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2019.

Every Direction is North which depicts the relationship between 7 talented dancers of Ballet Moscow, a progressive dance company that fuses modern dance and ballet through its original artistic vision;  the stunning musical The Circus, directed by Maxim Didenko, one of the most talked about directors of the new generation of contemporary Russian Theatre, and notable for its stage design by Theatre of Nations, one of Russia’s longest established theatre companies; and Ivan Vyrypaev’s unique take on contemporary Middle East issues Iran Conference will be greeting the festival audience in addition to Eugene Onegin, the marvellous work of Alexander Pushkin who is considered the founding father of the contemporary Russian literature, performed by the famed Vakhtangov Theatre with direction from Lithuanian star director Rimas Tuminas.

Festival’s ground-breaking international productions

Being Faust – Enter Mephisto, is a game that utilizes various virtual and physical game styles that can be played by registering with a smartphone. Adapted by Benjamin von Blomberg from legendary author Goethe’s master work Faust, Being Faust-Enter Mephisto fictionalizes the human mind’s potential to be enticed by desires within a game app designed by The Goethe Institute Korea and Nolgong.

Profil Perdu, which will have its world premiere at the Istanbul Theatre Festival, is a show that brings together the disciplines of film, theatre and dance. Directed by Marco Martins, the show will put two bodies on stage as a repository of memories in which many consciousness and unconscious reflections are intertwined.

Directed by Anestis Azas and Prodromos Tsinikoris, who work on the field of documentary theatre, Clean City deals with women’s migration issue in Greece and the troubles migrant cleaning women face. The play presents the realistically staged stories of cleaning women in Athens from their real owners.

Also featured in the festival will be Ionesco Suite, a bold adaptation of Eugene Ionesco’s works through the creative mind of Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota who will be receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award of this year’s festival, and Taking Stock, directed by Delphine Ciavaldini documents how social events affect societies and make a record in history through the eyes of a historian and an artist.

Festival’s Belgian guests

The collaboration between the Istanbul Theatre Festival, Belgium-based Platform 0090, and the Flemish Ministry of Culture which started last year continues with three plays at the 23rd Istanbul Theatre Festival.  In her one-woman show Voicing Pieces, Belgium-based rising Turkish artist Begüm Erciyas will be personally inviting the audience members one by one in to the performance area where they will have a unique experience as they stand in the intimacy of a sound booth guided by a recording and become the spectator of their own voice.

Ultima Vez, one of the leading dance companies of the world, will be the guest of the festival with their deeply affecting show TrapTown. Directed and choreographed by Wim Vandekeybus, TrapTown is an extraordinary work about the ordinariness of our daily lives.  The company is remembered by the festival audience for their highly praised performance of Blush in 2004.

The remarkable Belgian dancer and choreographer Lisbeth Gruwez will give an enthralling performance in It’s Going to Get Worse and Worse and Worse, My Friend which will challenge our notion of speech.

A Tribute to Genco Erkal and Dostlar Theatre

Istanbul Theatre Festival salutes one of the greatest names of our theatre, Genco Erkal, who is celebrating his 60th year in art, and Dostlar Theatre celebrating its 50th anniversary. Recipient of numerous awards, Erkal will be on stage with three different plays. With her searing voice Tülay Günal will accompany Erkal in the powerful Nâzım Hikmet adaptation On Living. In The Diary of a Madman which was performed by Genco Erkal as the first one-man play ever staged in Turkey in 1965, Erkal will once again mesmerize the audience. Adapted and directed by Erkal, Merhaba, an unforgettable one-man musical, will take the audience on a grand journey in the company of five great names from literature.

Istanbul Theatre Festival will also celebrate Genco Erkal and Dostlar Theatre with a symposium within the Learning and Training Programme which brings together prominent names from the world of theatre. Prof. Dr. Ayşegül Yüksel, Prof. Dr. Dikmen Gürün, Prof. Dr. Kerem Karaboğa, Seçkin Selvi, Prof. Dr. Simten Gündeş, Prof. Dr. Zehra İpşiroğlu, Prof. Dr. Zeliha Berksoy, and Zeynep Oral will be the speakers at sessions which will begin with an opening speech by festival director Leman Yılmaz. The final session titled Meetings will bring together many venerable names such as Arif Erkin, Nurten TuçZeynep IrgatEce YassıtepeMeral ÇetinkayaMetin DenizTülay Günal who will reminisce and share anecdotes.


Written and directed by Şahika Tekand, known for her unique takes on classics and tragedies, and co-produced by the Istanbul Theatre Festival, IO brings the patriarchal world order and the tragedy of today’s people who are increasingly abandoning their memory and ability to question to the stage with a poetic action arrangement.

Somewhere in the Middle of the World is the first production of Tuşba City Theatre which was brought to life with the participation of local youth who went through theatre training for a year as a part of the project organized with collaboration from Eastern Anatolia Development Agency (DAKA) and IKSV.

Shacks and Palaces, a Tiyatro Pera production showcasing master director Yücel Ertan’s unique take on two commanding texts by Büchner; and Geld-Her Damit by Andreas Sauter and Bernhard Studlar and staged by Moda Sahnesi under the direction of Kemal Aydoğan will also be on the roster.

In Much, directed by Özgül Akıncı, the audience will get to witness a series of created moments based on King Lear while wandering the historical Kuzguncuk Pier in the company of three actors.  Directed by Eyüp Emre Uçaray, Kusurlu İşler & ikinci kat’s production of Philip Ridley’s Tender Napalm will take the audience to the cross-section of an unsettlingly intense relationship of an ordinary couple. Altıdan Sonra Tiyatro will be staging The Sidewalk Sparrow as a tribute to the late and great Gülriz Sururi. The production starring accomplished actress Tülay Günal is directed by Yiğit Sertdemir, with Yiğit Özatalay helming the musical arrangements.

Audiences will get to experience an illusory universe in How Do You Like That! which is written by Talin BüyükkürkciyanTolga Tüzün, and  Hazal Döleneken based on original fairy tales the trio has written and incorporates dance, sound, and visual arts.  Produced as a readers’ theatre at last year’s festival and written by Özen Yula, For Rent will be performed on stage by biriken.

After the 2017 staging of Seurs, another Wajdi Mouawad play comes to the festival. This time it’s Incendies, writer, director, actor Mouawad’s play about the 1975-1990 Lebanese Civil War directed by Murat Daltaban. Tehran’s Dream, the final part of Ceren Ercan’s Turkey Trilogy will be showcased as a readers’ theatre directed by Mark Levitas.

“a thing”, choreographed and conceptualized by young dance artist Ekin Tunçeli, and kitty kitty by dance artists Su Güzey and Evrim Akyay will be presented as a double bill.

Istanbul Theatre Festival Youth Platform with the support of Anadolu Efes

This year, with support from Anadolu Efes, Istanbul Theatre Festival is actualizing a Youth Platform within the scope of the festival. The platform aims to support youth who are interested in theatre but live outside of Istanbul and want to follow the festival.

Within the scope of the platform, Tuşba City Theatre, which has been continuing its work in Van since December, will be performing Özen Yula’s Somewhere in the Middle of the World as part of the 23rd Istanbul Theatre Festival. The Youth Platform will enable the members of the company, who will be in Istanbul to perform their play, to spectate other plays on the roster.

The platform will also invite two youths each from four different cities to follow the festival.

23rd Istanbul Theatre Festival Children’s Book

Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) will publish a children’s book with the support of the Bernard van Leer Foundation within the scope of the 23rd Istanbul Theatre Festival. The book, which will be the seventh publication geared towards children by İKSV, will take children on a fun tour inside a theatre venue and introduce them to the basic concepts of performing arts and related professions. The book will be available free of charge throughout the festival at festival venues, İKSV Alt Kat, and selected bookstores and will be accompanied by an event programme.

Festival makes an early start with pre-events

With contributions from Emrah Yaralı of Habitus Kitap and journalist Bahar Çuhadar, Istanbul Theatre Festival will broaden the experience of festival going with a series of discussions scheduled before the start of the festival.  The free of charge events will explore the festival plays in-depth and open up new conversations while discussing past and present of; time/space, here and now, stage/audience, improvised/scripted, funded/ independent, frame/level-ground, dreams/realities, life/theatre and take place at IKSV Alt Kat starting from September.

Learning and Training Programme

Actualised under the sponsorship of Yeditepe University within the scope of the festival, Learning and Training Programme will include free of charge events such as readers’ theatre, discussions, film screenings, workshops and master classes.

The festival will celebrate Genco Erkal’s 60th year in arts and the 50th anniversary of Dostlar Theatre with a symposium that brings together prominent names.  Within the scope of Learning and Training Programme, choreographer Artem Ignatev of Ballet Moscow will be giving a master class and workshop. The programme also includes three panels titled From Storytelling to Storyplaying, Documentary Theatre: Looking for Alternative Narrations, and Contemporary Theatre in Turkey. In addition to the workshop that aims to help theatre and dance companies and artists determine a strategy for working internationally, the third edition of the Criticism Workshop held in collaboration with the Theatre Critics Association will be featured in the programme. In collaboration with the New Text New Theatre Festival, “Play of the Year” winner of the New Text New Theatre Festival will be presented as a readers’ theatre performance.

Events for International Theatre Professionals

The International Platform of the festival, which was organised for the first time in 2014, will continue in 2019 to ensure that successful examples of the local theatre and contemporary dance stage are included in the programmes of various festivals and institutions abroad and reach a wider audience. This year, the professional meeting and showcase programme will be on 28 November – 1 December within the scope of the festival. A number of festival directors, theatre professionals and critics all around the world will meet in Istanbul to discover the most recent artistic outputs of local theatre and dance companies, most of which premiere at the festival. This year, panel discussions will also provide an overview of contemporary Turkish theatre to international guests.

Festival supporters

As well as the main festival sponsors – the Koç Holding Energy Group Companies Aygaz, Opet and Tüpraş – the 23rd Istanbul Theatre Festival is supported by the performance sponsors ENKA Foundation, Tekfen Holding and Allianz Turkey. Festival’s Learning and Training Programme sponsor is Yeditepe University and Youth Platform supporter is Anadolu Efes.

Zorlu Performing Arts Centre supports the festival as the Venue Sponsor with the Highest Contribution.

The festival acknowledges the kind collaboration of Golden Mask Russian Performing Arts Festival, Flemish Ministry of Culture, Institut Français İstanbul, Goethe Institut, Pangea, Arter and Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University Modern Dance Department.

The 23rd Istanbul Theatre Festival is also supported by the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality as well as Beşiktaş and Kadıköy Municipalities.

All festivals organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) are supported by the Founding Sponsor Eczacıbaşı Holding, Official Hotel Sponsor The Marmara Collection, Carrier Sponsor DHL, Insurance Sponsor Zurich Sigorta and Service Health Sponsor American Hospital. Festival’s Service Security Sponsor is Securitas.

The publicity campaign for the 23rd Istanbul Theatre Festival was developed by TBWA İstanbul.

Festival tickets

Ticket sales for the festival begins on Saturday, 14 September at 10.30 and are available from Biletix sales channels, İKSV box office (open 10.30-18.00) and İKSV sales counter at Moda Sahnesi, which will be available during the advance sales period and on the first day of the general sales period without any service fee.

White and Black Tulip members can purchase advance and discounted tickets on 9 and 10 September; Red, Yellow and Orange Tulip members can purchase advance tickets on 11, 12 and 13 September.

Discounted advance sales are limited to two (2) tickets for Black, White, Red and Orange Tulip Card members and one (1) ticket for Yellow Tulip Card members. In case the total ticket quota allocated for Tulip Card members is finished, the members can purchase tickets as of 14 September. Tulip Card members can purchase their tickets between 10.30-19.00 from Tulip Card Contact Centre (0850 755 0260), Biletix website (, İKSV box office or from the İKSV sales counter at Moda Sahnesi, which will be available during the advance sales period and on the first day of the general sales period without any service fee.

All student tickets are 15 TL

As part of the project İKSV initiated with the support of Koç Holding Energy Group Companies Aygaz, Opet and Tüpraş since 2017, a limited number of student tickets will be on sale at 15 TL. Students will be able to purchase the tickets from the İKSV box office by showing their student ID’s or documents.

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