The Department of English Language and Literature recently produced a play, “Blood Wedding” by Federico Garcia Lorca. The premiere of the play was a huge success and attracted the attention of many theatre lovers. Here is an interview with the director, the project manager, and some of the students taking part in the project on their latest production.
-We know that the ELIT department has been staging different plays for three years, and this year you have decided on Federico Garcia Lorca’s “Blood Wedding”? What were your criteria for choosing this particular play?
Gül Kurtuluş: When we first embarked on staging a play in 2009, I thought it would be nice to come up with a comedy. Since Oscar Wilde is quite a renowned writer, and also has the wit, we thought his work, namely “The Importance of Being Earnest” would appeal to many people. Subsequently, we staged a Bernard Shaw play, “Arms and the Man”, which is again a comedy concerned with the issues of war and death. This time I thought it was high time we staged a tragedy. The first dramatist that came to my mind was Shakespeare. Nevertheless, as I shared this idea with my students, I realized that they had certain hesitations and fears about Shakespearean tragedies. Therefore, we switched to Lorca’s play which has an obvious musicality in it; and by musicality I mean his poetic language. Additionally, the themes of the play including the woman question, death, revenge, and feud are still relevant today, so I believed this play would be a nice choice for our new project.
-You are working with a Bilkent graduate, Erdi Mamikoğlu, who is a professional director and playwright. What was your motivation for this collaboration?
Gül Kurtuluş: Since we held an academic conference in 2011 for the first time, to which we gave our priority, we had to put aside the theater project; because for each project we had the same volunteers. When I took theatre into consideration again at the beginning of this academic year, I strongly believed that Erdi should be a part of our project as well. We happened to come across each other a while ago, and I told him about our project and asked him whether he could assist us. By the way, Erdi is one of my former students in ‘Introduction to Drama’ course. Besides, we have a mutual friend, Akif Yeşilkaya, the manager of Ankara state-theatre, to whom I need to give some credit, as well. Through this acquaintance, we got the chance to work together.
-How long have you been rehearsing for the premiere, and are you satisfied with the performances of ELIT students?
Erdi Mamikoğlu: Absolutely! I guess we have been rehearsing since October, generally three times a week; so that makes it a four / four and a half month rehearsal period. They have made an incredible improvement as you might notice during the play. Of course you do not know the early stages of our rehearsals in terms of performance, but you can all guess. However, their current performances are genuinely quite impressive. They have come a long way!
-“Blood Wedding” is a tragedy that has underlying surrealism in it. What was your interpretation process like?
Erdi Mamikoğlu: Our writer is already a surrealist one, so we basically make use of what he offers us in the text. We have (the personifications of) the Death, the Moon; and honestly I think it is one of the plays that can easily be staged surrealistically. Besides, we do not necessarily have to cry in each tragedy.
-You are an award-winning playwright and have become the youngest person ever whose plays are staged by state-theaters. Could you tell us about your upcoming projects?
Erdi Mamikoğlu: My latest play, “Nobody’s Story” is still being staged in Bursa state theatre, and also in Istanbul, there are preparations going on for a new production in a private theater. Actually, the play is being turned into a movie right now, and the shootings will start this summer. Currently, this is our only project.
-Will your department continue these kinds of projects, and if yes, are there any specific projects you have in mind?
Gül Kurtuluş: I think theatre is a part of what we do. That is, literature students are naturally very much into arts. Our students all have distinctive expectations from the department that are shaped either before their university years or during the education they receive at Bilkent University. Accordingly, we do have other projects in relation with, say, translation studies or more academic studies. Back to the issue of theatre, I think visualizing the plays or giving life to fictional characters that we have been studying in our department is a nice ambition. We do not aspire to be as professional as an actor/ess, nor do we want to fall short of expectations. In future, we will definitely be considering each project that we can handle as a team.
-Considering your academic background, how hard was it for you to stage a play professionally?
Erolcan Talas: The frequency of rehearsals has tired us both physically and mentally especially for the last fifteen days; even so the play has turned out to be a great meditation for us, especially in order to escape our daily-life struggles.
Ülkem Önal: It was quite a big opportunity to work with a professional director, because we had to adopt ourselves to his working schedule and methods, and that made us all professionals to a significant extent.
-Did literature help you penetrate the depths of your characters and themes?
Erolcan Talas: Indeed! Especially when you think of gender politics and artificially constructed gender roles that have been craftily imposed on us, it is impossible to ignore the effect of literature, because these issues have always been major topics in our curriculum.
Ülkem Önal: The play is highly concerned with the dynamics of patriarchy. Especially my character, the mother of bridegroom, is a perfect reflection of a typical patriarchal society. Thus, our education has enabled us to understand the themes, and also the symbols and messages given by Lorca.
Erolcan Talas: Blood Wedding is quite a serious play that has occasional surrealist elements, so I cannot imagine how the play would turn out unless we were unable to recognize these details.
BESTE HASKAN (ELIT IV)