By Heidi Trautmann
On my road to finish my new book, Volume II of Art and Creativity in North Cyprus, I have been meeting with most of the known writers, poets and theatre people, all very inspiring, active and involved in many positions on our part of the island.
While working on Bekir Kara’s life, an author, playwright of folkloric and local social plays, theatre man and director of the Güzelyurt Belediye Şehir Tiyatrosu (Güzelyurt Municipality City Theatre), I went to meet him in Güzelyurt accompanied by his editor and poet Fatma Senem because they wanted to show me the new Amphitheatre and the theatre in the Atatürk Cultural Centre.
The building is on the grounds of the Güzelyurt Orange Festival which is organized yearly by the municipality with all kinds of cultural and art events.
My first impression was followed by my shout of surprise: WOW and my companions smiled a broad smile of contentment. It was in the morning, two cleaning women were polishing the marble floors and walls of a most modern and well succeeded piece of architecture. A round building covered by a tensile roof held by metal pillars. It is a project of the METU University Department of Architecture.
The very friendly cleaning woman, Konce Altintac, born in England, got all the keys to open the various rooms and places. During the tour I realized that all the rooms underneath the stage and annexed to it are following the round body of the building and somewhere they all meet on one end. We first entered the space where the scenery is being prepared by the artisans of the municipality. It is here where Bekir Kara and his group of actors and actresses meet to rehearse the next play, the scenery right in the position it is going to be on stage. Bekir Kara explained: “At the moment we meet here three times a week in the evenings, as all members are with another job during the day, later, shortly before the date of performance we rehearse every evening.” Right next to the rehearsal room are the changing rooms, shower and toilets for the performers only. From here the performing actors can reach the stage via stairs from both sides. My guide explains proudly everything to me as if she were involved in the theatre as well. “Oh no,” she exclaims, “I am just cleaning this beautiful building. It takes us three days a week to finish it and our mayor is very strict, he immediately notices anything amiss.”
And then she opens the door to the vast stage shining in a half round of marble with the audience’s seats around, seats for one thousand people. Another WOW from my side.
Bekir is obviously pleased to see me dazzled. “The stage was – for the first time - used for the Festival in 2012 and we had a short sketch of mine for the occasion. Still this year we are expecting some Turkish theatre companies to come over for a Güzelyurt Theatre Festival and we will be ready with our play as well. The working title of my play is “Hayatta küsme” (Don’t be angry with life) with six actors.”
I climb the stairs up to the last row of seats to have the stage opposite me; it looks like an open giant shell and the acoustic must be wonderful. Konce, our guide takes us to the back of the stage where there are - on the first floor - a huge reception and cocktail room with kitchen, the outline of the room also in a round shape with windows all around, and on the basement the same as a more refined reception hall for guests of honour, always with washrooms annexed. Directly under the stage is a huge – round again – store room which leads again to the rehearsal room. Not one metre of space wasted.
We leave the festival ground and drive to the Atatürk Cultural Centre which was built in 2000 with spaces outside for a wedding centre also being used for cocktail parties following a cultural event. The theatre house offers space for 300 guests, all in red, and the stage is wide and backstage plenty of room for the performing people.
Both the stages are not only used for Bekir Kara’s theatre group but for any other cultural event like dancing, music or even conferences.
How lucky the Güzelyurt citizens are but with the new highway from Nicosia, easy to reach for others, also via Gecitköy where the new dam is being built, it is a beautiful drive.
Should you go there one day and meet the kind English speaking cleaning woman Konce, then give her my regards.