As winter settles in, one of the best activities you can do in the city is to go to the theater.
For those who love sunny days there are two pleasing aspects of winter in Istanbul. First, winter does not last long. Second, winter is a lively season for culture and arts. As the days of December quickly grow shorter, the time spent in parks, gardens, and streets becomes shorter. The residents of Istanbul and visitors to the city have more evening hours to spend pursuing artistic activities. The theater, which has remained a popular pastime for 2,000 years, is the first choice for many art enthusiasts. This season, the Istanbul State Theater awaits audiences throughout the city, offering 10 new plays and 5 new theaters. The stages, ranging from historical theaters to modern settings, await to be discovered.
A Theater Overlooking the Bosphorus
The best way to reach the Üsküdar Tekel Theater, one of the favorite theater venues on the Anatolian shore, is by boat. The theater is only a ve-minute walk from the Üsküdar pier. The building, on Paşalimanı Avenue, was built on the order of Sultan Selim III at the end of the 18th century. It was originally used as a grain store, and later became a tobacco depot used by the Tekel company. After 2002, the building was opened to visitors as the Tekel Museum. The building, which has been renovated a number of times throughout its history and used for a number of different purposes, has been used as the Istanbul State Theater’s Üsküdar Tekel Theater since 2009.
As the stage is not set very high, there is a closer relationship between the actors and the audience. The historical atmosphere of this theater transforms every play staged here into an unforgettable experience. The plays here are staged sold out six days a week; over the last ten years the former storehouse and depot has enjoyed its most active era. In the month of December, the Tekel Theater is staging Filozof Ahmed and Sahibinin Sesi. After seeing a play, it is possible to go for a walk in the immediately adjacent Fethi Paşa Woods, which is beautiful in every season, or to review the performance while drinking a hot sahlep.
The Center of the City’s Art Scene
With the beginning of the 2019-2020 season, the State Theater has brought five new stages to the residents of Istanbul. One of these is located in Istanbul’s oldest theater district, Beyoğlu, which at one point was the sole location for culture and the arts. A new location has been added to the beloved locations in the area like the Ses Theater, Salon İKSV, and the Grand Pera Emek Theater. This is the Garibaldi Stage in Casa Garibaldi, one of the Beyoğlu buildings that maintains its original character.
The Casa Garibaldi building in Asmalımescit was constructed at the end of the 19th century. The building was used as a meeting center by the Italian Workers Cooperation Society and was named after Giuseppe Garibaldi, who united Italy as a nation. In the 1920s, the building hosted concerts, dance performances, and operas. The restoration work on Casa Garibaldi began in 2012 and was completed in 2017. On October 17, 2019, the play based on the story written by Sait Faik Abasıyanık Meraklısı İçin Öyle Bir Hikâye was staged here, making this building one of the city’s important theater locations. The premier of Aziz Dostum Çehov, directed by Zafer Algöz, was performed at the Garibaldi Theater in November.
The one-act play Meraklısı İçin Öyle Bir Hikâye, directed by Ozan Uçar, continues to be performed at the Garibaldi during the month of December. After leaving this location, which is of importance to the Italian community living in Istanbul, you can stop at La Fontana di Trevi, an Italian restaurant in Asmalımescit, for a tasty meal.
A New Theater for a New City
In addition to the large number of historical theaters in Istanbul, there is a selection of comfortable modern locations for audiences. The newest is the State Theater Stage that opened this season in Mecidiyeköy, Istanbul’s business center. The Mecidiyeköy Theater
is the second address in Şişli for theatergoers, after the Istanbul State Theater’s Cevahir Theater. The Mecidiyeköy Theater is on the lowest floor of the Torun Center, built where the old Ali Sami Yen Stadium, which was home to Galatasaray Football Club, used to stand.
The play Flying Hezarfen Ahmed Çelebi, one of the ten new plays that Istanbul State Theater is staging this season, held its premier at the Mecidiyeköy Grand Stage on November 19. The play tells the story of a man who devoted himself to the passion of flying in 17th- century Istanbul. It is directed by Hakan Çimenser and will continue to be performed until December 7. The Istanbul State Theater’s aim for 2020 is that 15,000 art enthusiasts will attend the plays, new and old, staged at the Mecidiyeköy Theater.
The grand stage can host an audience of 432. There is also a studio stage, for an audience of 150, which is attractive for those who want a boutique theater experience. If you are planning to come to this busy region during rush hour, you can travel more easily by public transport. The Mecidiyeköy Theater is a five- minute walk from the metro.
Theater for Everyone, Everywhere
The ability to have easy access to theaters becomes important in the hustle and bustle of metropolitan life. With this motivation, the Istanbul State Theater has theaters in Beylikdüzü, Küçükçekmece, Kozyatağı,and Zeytinburnu. Of these, the Küçükçekmece CKSM (Cennet Kültür ve Sanat Merkezi) Theater has been bringing plays and actors to audiences on the western side of the city since 2008. The Cennet Kültür ve Sanat Merkezi has a theater with a capacity for 435 people, as well as ballrooms, exhibition halls, and music studios.
According to the director of the Istanbul State Theater, Kubilay Karslıoğlu, children’s plays are being given more importance this season. In the month of December, younger audiences are invited to the musical Siz Ne Dersiniz, directed by Faik Ertener at the Küçükçekmece CKSM Theater.
The State Theater entertained 273,000 people last season. The aim is to increase this number by 50% in
the 2019-2020 season. The State Theater sells 98%
of its tickets and, this season, it is staging plays for all ages. Even including private theaters, there is a large number of plays that are completely sold out, which gives a good indication of Istanbul residents’ love for the stage. In addition to regular performances, the State Theater also arranges theater festivals and summer workshops. There is a large number of plays and activities taking place on the stages of Istanbul, all of which have a unique character. Isn’t it great that winter is finally here?