Tuygun Töre, born in Nicosia in 1983
Encountering life through acting or: Discovering the monster inside you
Under normal circumstances young people construct their life on the infrastructure of their education perhaps enforced on them by their family, which is realism. But there are young people who have a dream and they will follow it whatever comes in their way, and that is destiny; one of these young people is Tuygun Töre. He and Oya Akın, the two main characters in the play ‘Katıl’ a play which is top of the news since the day of opening on January 18, 2013, have followed my invitation for an interview, with Tuygun being the person I wanted to talk to since I know Oya Akın quite well and have interviewed her before, but Oya has agreed to help interpreting.
Tuygun has a cautious smile that hardly reaches his quiet eyes; his body is very relaxed, his hands looking very young. You can hardly believe that he has played the character of the Boy that develops into a ‘monster’ in the second act of ‘Katıl’. “I could hardly believe it myself”, he answered, and “it was as if I would open a new door to myself.” Oya Akın, the Woman in the play, adds: “It took him four days until he dared to slap me, to be the brute that was asked of the role he had to play in the course of the second act.” The play is a very good base to discuss Tuygun’s life story on and to come back to it in the course of our talks, as it seems that it represents an important crossroads for him.
I want to see him as a young boy, the schoolboy where usually the first tracks for the future life are laid. “I went to school in Nicosia, first to Şehit Ertuğrul primary school, from there to the Şehit Hüseyin Ruso Secondary and last to the 20 Temmuz Science Lycee; my first acting experiences I had in the drama clubs in Secondary and in Lycee. Acting left me excited, it was something which gave me a good feeling, where I felt at home, where I gave everything and in return got satisfaction.” I have the impression that Tuygun was a very shy boy, rather introverted. He nods his head. “Yes, I was, I did not easily communicate. I was a lonely child and built up a world around myself of heroes and famous people who had achieved something in their lives, of whom I read about in biographies. One day, I said to myself, I want to become like them, I want to achieve something great. I admired great cinema actors. I used to watch films, often two films a day. There were some teachers who pushed me to be more outgoing, pushed me to sports and acting, especially my literature teacher Hasan Kortay who suggested that I should become an actor; I was quite good at reciting poetry and imitating public and political figures; eventually I became rather popular among my class mates.” He admires the Turkish actor Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ who was born in the same year as Tuygun, and, when I later looked this man’s career up, there are some similarities. This man is a TV and film actor and has won an award for best actor in a leading role as ‘Behlül’ in the popular TV series ‘Aşk-I Memnu’ and Tuygun wants to be a film actor as well rather than a theatre actor because, as he says, you can reach more people via the screen than as an actor on stage. There is some truth in it, but at the moment he has an engagement at the Cyprus Turkish State Theatre with a contract he holds now for one year.
There is quite a length of road he went along since the moment when he was still dreaming of being an actor and today that he is one at the Cyprus Turkish State Theatre. “I never told my family about my deep desire to go for acting as further education. Honestly speaking there was nobody around me to help me in my career decisions and I wasn’t brave enough to do it myself. My father wanted me to have a secure basis in life, so I studied Tourism and Hotel Management at the Near East University. I graduated in 2006. I didn’t do any acting during my years of study. I did my military service for 1 year straight after my graduation in 2006-2007. I also started working in the field of Tourism and Hotel Management but it was just not what I wanted.” The moment when he made a decision, a decision which was due for a long time, he closed one chapter of his life and opened a new chapter. He went to Istanbul to join an acting workshop for three months with the famous actress and acting teacher Ayla Algan at the Plato Film School, a woman with an enormous international film and theatre career and a wonderful teacher, as I could read. “I learnt a lot in these three months but it is as with everything in life, you need experience to advance. Just as I realized in the present play what it takes to develop as an actor.”
Oya Akın continues as she was with it from the beginning: “The director Mehrihan Elekberzade had come from Azerbeijan to do this play ‘Katıl’ with us on the basis of an agreement with our State Theatre, a sort of friendly art exchange programme. The play had received awards for best play in Baku/Azerbeijan, for best directorship and also for acting, and so we from Cyprus will have performances in Baku, Istanbul, Ankara and Eskisehir which hopefully will also be well received.” I ask my two young friends whether the rather open approach of the problematic theme of sexism, subordination of women, which in Cyprus met with rather mixed and quite opposing feelings, were not a problem in Baku with the political control that exists there in the arts. “No, it did not, but it might be due to the status the playwright Elçin Efendiyev holds in Azerbeijan. Nevertheless, we are very proud that we are the first actors to take part in a play that shows the social problem so openly and if I may speak for myself, it is part of my philosophy to provoke and speak out loud what others hide because of fear and shame.” Tuygun confirmed what Oya was saying. “For me it was quite a learning process, not only as an actor but also as someone who wasn’t aware it was possible to speak out and express in this way. Actually I was second choice in the beginning; they had chosen an academic actor first for the role of the Boy but after ten days the director decided that she was getting nowhere, so she asked me to take over, and we started from scratch again; it went well, however, I realized that Mehrihan opened me up piece by piece and dared me with each rehearsal until I let loose, I freed myself – or rather was freed - of all reins that held me back.” Oya added a remark concerning the status of non-academic vs. academic acting members of the State Theatre. “
I know how hard it is to defend your position as non-academic within this circle; I was a contract actress with this theatre myself for six years, now they call me for the one or other play and I am given an individual contract, which makes life easier.” So, how many acting staff are there under permanent contract with the State Theatre, I asked. “There are seven acting staff and the team for the stage design and construction. Acting staff are Yılsay Özbudak (actor- non-academic), Özlem Özkaram (actress- academic), İbrahim Altıok (dramaturg – academic), Nergül Tuncay (actress – academic), Ertaç Hazer (actor – non-academic), Cansev Gürsoy (actress – non-academic) ; and permanent technical staff: Hüseyin Özinal (stage design – academic), Mustafa Kral (lights – non-academic), Ekman Zaifoğlu (department head, academic); Staff on one year contracts: Zehra Evliya (actress – non-academic), Hüseyin Çakırlı (actor – academic), Cevahir Yerebakan (Actress – academic), Türkey Öztigin (dramaturg – academic).” That is interesting to know. Having talked to many performing artists, also from the State Theatre, I know it is not easy for a Theatre without a stage - which burnt down in 1999 - and no art director to plan and make a proper theatre season. “My acting career with the State Theatre began in 2012 and I am getting a monthly salary. In my first play on stage ‘Karanlık İşler’, a comedy, I played an idiot, a play directed by Hakan Yozcu. This is the first serious experience I had on stage and it was an amazing feeling to be in front of a proper audience. It was during the first performance that I felt a strong realization and satisfaction of how right it felt for me to be on stage (and later, in front of a camera). I also had two roles (the dog ‘Hoşhoş’ and the monkey) in the State Theatre’s children’s play “Ayının Fendi Avcıyı Yendi”.
I have seen Tuygun in a small role in the Cypriot Turkish film ‘Code name Venus’ , he also participated in a short film called ‘Tuz’ (Salt) with the topic of violence against women which received an award in Istanbul, the International Istanbul Crime and Punishment Short Film Festival. He also worked as a model in the Marriage Exhibition with fashion designer Abdullah Öztoprak. “My aim at the moment is to develop myself, to see how far I can go deeper into my personal reservoir and thus the current play ‘Katıl’ helps me a lot, it is another crossroads for me; the director has planned to take this production to Azerbeijan with us; that will be another challenge to play in front of a different audience.” What is he doing all day with his time, is he rehearing or doing special exercises? “I do regular physical exercises in a gym to keep fit and I train my voice, do speech exercises; my younger brother is an opera singer and he showed me what to do for my vocal chords, it is also good for facial training. Otherwise, I am reading and watching films, special films which interest me and show film actors at work to see how they do it. As sort of a research. But it is also quite important to watch ordinary people around you how they move and how they react in certain situation.”
How does he see his future, I asked him. “My final goal is the cinema and television but for the moment I try to find out how far I can push my boundaries, experience myself; drama roles are my favorites, to play a shy guy is not my thing really, I am shy myself….” Here he laughs. Theatre is a very good experience since the contact to the audience is direct, more so than in cinema, and to learn to face it, to feel its atmosphere, this you will not have in cinema. Theatre or cinema, it is always a challenge to go beyond one’s boundaries and for a short moment one is satisfied and then a next role is a new challenge, again and again.