Real Live Theater

Archive for November, 2008|Monthly archive page

Ayse Ulu: striving for a place in theater (or theatre) as a woman in a patriarchal society

In Artist Spotlight on November 30, 2008 at 8:05 pm

by Ray Sikorski

Submitted photo of Ayse Ulu

Submitted photo of Ayse Ulu

ISTANBUL, TURKEY – There is a soft-spoken intensity about Ayşe Ulu, a 19-year-old Turkish acting student. With only inches between us, her eyes seek out mine and never look away.

This has always been Ulu’s way. She was 13 in her home town of Izmit when she saw her first play. She sat in the front row, but it was as if she was in the play itself.

“I was trying to see their eyes – eye contact, always,” she says. “I was right in the scene – I feel it. When they smile, for example, it’s just as if they look at me and smile for me. I was feeling like one of them, on the stage. But I’m doing nothing, only watching.”

Afterwards, she told the actors how much she enjoyed their performance, and they invited her to watch them rehearse. This was the start of her love for theater – a passion that marked her so indelibly that the fabric between the stage and real life wore down to mere threads. At first, Ulu was more than pleased to become the souffleur, or prompter, because it meant playing every role in the performance.

“You have to know all the text, and you must be interested in all,” she says. “And I don’t want to take only one part of it. I was in all the play.”

Now a student of Guidance and Psychological Counseling at Istanbul’s Bosphorous University, Ulu hopes her training as actress will help her control the strong emotions that come naturally to her.

“I will be a counselor and some people will come to me with their problems, and I shouldn’t cry with them,” she says, laughing. “Maybe theater will educate me in this way.”

Since my own experience with acting classes in America was quite the opposite – I wanted to learn how to bring out emotions I naturally suppressed – I asked her if this was common in Turkey.

“It is common,” she says. “For all people interested in theater.”

The primary difference between theater in Turkey and America, she says, is the culture of theater-going. Whereas in America it’s not unusual for parents to take children to plays, in Turkey entertainment revolves squarely around the T.V. set. This, combined with low wages, results in a theater scene that has little support, even at a prestigious university such as Bosphorous.

“We can’t study on a real stage, we are studying in a classroom. You have to prepare posters, but you can’t have enough,” she says. “And people hear but can’t come – again, economic reasons.”

Added to that is the pressure a woman actress has in a patriarchal society. Ulu says that Turkey’s conservative culture often interferes with the intent of the play.

“On stage, you should kiss a man because it’s your role, but people think this is not good – ugly things, you can’t show these kind of things. And women should wear more clothes.”

Adding to her frustration is the lack of respect that women actresses and directors are often shown in comparison to men. She keeps her acting classes a secret even from her parents.

“I will have a good job, and I will have a husband, I will have a good life, get good money, have children, they want grandchildren,” she says of her parents’ expectations. She contrasts that with the intensity of performance.

“This is the best thing – trying to show people what you feel,” she says. “No other thing tests me. Only theater gives that feeling to me.”

Ray Sikorksi wrote and directed his first one-act play in 1988, and his second 20 years later. He is a freelance writer based in Bozeman, Montana, and is currently traveling in Turkey, wondering if he can find someplace where they sell peanut butter.


A baker’s perspective on theater (or theatre) and a recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies

In Editor's Note on November 30, 2008 at 6:33 pm

Editor’s Note

Both begin as an idea born of experience, imagination, and a desire to create a result to delight the senses which may be consumed with pleasure.

The ingredients play out in the mind of the baker. The recipe is written down, tried and if successful the cookies and cakes and pies and muffins are shared and the recipes are given to others to recreate. The next baker may: choose to substitute Turbinado sugar for both sugars; use ground Tahitian vanilla bean paste instead of the liquid sort; prefer King Arthur’s Baking Flour over any other brand; delight in using pecans rather than their more bitter cousins, walnuts; and use farm fresh eggs from a neighbor’s chickens whenever available, so that the results may vary in subtle ways, but the recipe essentially remains the same.

Photo of Chocolate Chip Cookies by YinYang

Photo of Chocolate Chip Cookies by YinYang

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 pound butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup chopped walnuts

2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

Let butter sit in a big bowl at room temperature until it becomes soft. Mix in both sugars until smooth. Mix in eggs and vanilla until creamy in texture. In a separate bowl mix together flour, salt, baking soda and nuts. Add the dry mixture to the other bowl. Stir in the chocolate chips. Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto a non-stick cookie sheet. Bake at 375° for 8 to 10 minutes. (Times may vary depending on your oven, ingredients used, desired softness vs. crunchiness, altitude and attitude.) Makes 4 dozen cookies.

The elements play out in the mind of the playwright. The idea is written down, tried and if successful the plays and musicals and monologues and conceptual pieces are shared and the manuscripts are given to others to recreate. The next director may: choose to substitute a tough neighborhood in New York for a romantic city in Italy; like the idea of a sister-in-law-to-be instead of an old trusted nurse; prefer turf wars with knives and bats to actual sword fighting; delight in the setting of a basketball court instead of a family crypt; and utilize a great deal of fancy footwork and some jazzy syncopated tunes, so that the results may vary in subtle ways, but the play remains essentially the same.

The next time you bake, feel free to use whichever ingredients you choose to. Make up your own recipe. Chocolate Chip cookies or Shakespeare. Be creative. After all, you are the baker.

Cheryl Itamura is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Real Live Theater.

How many live theater (or theatre) performances do you attend per year as an audience member?

In An Invitation for You, Who's watching? on November 26, 2008 at 5:10 pm

Real Live Theater is on a quest for knowledge and you can enlighten us.

You are invited to participate in our simple poll to help us discover how many live theater performances people attend per year as  audience members. Please click on the answer that best applies to you on the survey form below, then be sure to click the “Vote” button. (Note: all responses will remain anonymous.)


Thank you for your participation!

One Day More: another look at two memorable Les Miserables video clips

In Found Treasures on November 20, 2008 at 7:34 pm

With the presidential election behind us, we’ve looked back through our of collection favorite campaign video clips to find ones worth remembering. This one, put together by Ultimate Improv very cleverly demonstrates a seamless marriage between theater arts and the world of politics that has consumed our lives for much of this year. It’s also a fresh, contemporary take on a musical that has quickly become a classic. Enjoy!

We also took a look back at the same song performed and recorded for the 10th Anniversary celebration of Les Miserables at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Also known as The Dream Cast Concert, this production is breathtaking in its scope, performance and orchestration. Actors for the dream cast were chosen from two London productions, a Broadway production and an Australian production. Bravo!!

What do the San Francsico Opera, Jimmy Buffett and a dead cat have to do with theater (or theatre)?

In Editor's Note on November 18, 2008 at 3:53 am

Editor’s Note

Margarita photo by Ivan & Monika

Margarita photo by Ivan & Monika

In an earlier episode of my life I was an Implementation Consultant in the field of human resources database systems. As such, I worked for three international companies over a span of 15 years, and to this day I still don’t really understand how I got into that line of work in the first place.

At one point during the course of my career as an Implementation Consultant I found myself working on a year-and-a-half long project for the San Francisco Opera, backstage, in the administrative offices, spending most of my time in meetings with people discussing such things as: mainframe applications; ancient COBOL programming; how much supernumeraries get paid; which benefits are taxable for which types of taxes; and the amount of extra pay performers are required, by the various unions, to get paid for appearing naked on stage wearing nothing but body paint or having to transport their own tuba to and from performances on BART. Fascinating stuff. Really. The most interesting part of working there, I found — aside from being invited to sit in the directors box on more than one occasion, thus having the opportunity to do the ‘queenly wave’ to the masses staring up at the box from down below – was listening to live opera every single day, as the entire office area backstage, on all floors was rigged with a speaker system such that rehearsals and performances happening on the stage could be heard in every corner of the building by everyone. Heaven!

During this same period of my life I was invited by some friends to attend a Jimmy Buffett concert at a huge ice hockey arena. Not knowing anything about Jimmy Buffet, his music or his fan base, I dressed myself all in black and planned for an evening of music, of some sort. Needless to say, I stuck out like a sore thumb, or more accurately like the lone “person in black” among 17,496 Margaritaville fans. I was the only one who wasn’t wearing a colorful plastic Hawaiian lei with shorts, a tank top, sunglasses, a grass hat and flip flops. My bad. I didn’t know, but I loved being there in those seats to the rear of the stage, looking at Jimmy Buffett and his band from behind, just the same.

Then my cat died. My sweet, loving, white, fluffy, Himalayan cat with the smooshed-in face up and died on me. It was a very sad day when I had him cremated.

But what, if anything does the San Franicisco Opera, Jimmy Buffett and a dead cat have to do with theater you might ask? Well the answer is e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, at least to me it does.

You see, working all those weeks and months at the Opera House made me realize there were a lot of people doing something much more fun with their days, every day, than I was, and they were getting paid to do something they loved, body paint and all. And the view I had from those seats at the ice arena from behind the stage allowed me to view the other half of the ice arena — it was the same view that the people on stage had of the audience – and it made me realize that I would much, much rather be on the stage, or at least a vital part of the production, rather than just sitting in my arena seat tapping my toes and clapping. And the dead cat, well the dead cat reminded me that life is short and that if there is anything I want to do, I should just go ahead and do it, because I’ve got just one shot at life and there is no coming back from a pile of ashes to give it a second try.

So, after I finished the project at the Opera House, I quit my job and headed into the world of lights, sounds, auditions, music, stage managing, dancing, singing, acting, and production managing, and while there is still much computer work to do here, I think I’ll stay. It’s not Margaritaville, and I like it.

Cheryl Itamura is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Real Live Theater.

Fikret Seditoglu: keeping Turkish theater (or theatre) alive

In Artist Spotlight on November 15, 2008 at 11:01 pm

by Ray Sikorski

Photograph of Fikret Seditoglu by Ray Sikorski

Photograph of Fikret Seditoglu by Ray Sikorski

ISTANBUL, TURKEY – “In live theater you can see the eyes of the audience, you can feel the excitement, ” says Turkish actor/writer/director Fikret Seditoglu. “When I first walk on the stage, my body is shaking. But after a couple of minutes, I feel comfortable. The audience becomes my family, and I feel at home.”

Seditoglu emits a warmth that gives the sense that he’s at home or part of the family anywhere, even if his name isn’t known in many homes here in Istanbul. Despite having produced eight plays in this cosmopolitan metropolis, he isn’t expecting audiences to start lining up anytime soon.

“There are lots of plays, but no audience,” he says. “Turkish theater is almost dying. Especially if there are no famous actors in a performance, there is almost no audience in the theater.”

To the 27-year-old Seditoglu, the problem is as simple and as difficult as the conundrum that is modern Turkey: the few who frequent theater are the Europhile elite – educated, secular, and, according to Seditoglu, disdainful of Turkishness. The Turkish masses, on the other hand, can’t relate to plays by Europeans.

“The plays about Turkish and Islamic culture, and the plays written by Turkish writers, have been ignored,” he says. “Always the people want to see Shakespeare or European plays – Moliere, Anton Chekov, Cervantes. They don’t prefer Turkish writers’ plays because they see those plays as basic, simple theater. Naturally, the audience wants to see people who are like themselves, but you cannot see the people who are like yourself, so you don’t want to see the play. So you’ve been separated from the theater.”

Considering that he’s describing his fate as that of perpetual obscurity, Seditoglu displays a disarming nonchalance. His one positive take on the Turkish theater scene is that new plays by Turkish writers do manage to make it to the stage.

“They are creative.” he says of the diligent crop of young writers and directors, “Although they don’t have big audiences, it’s not always the same old, same old. They can produce new things.”

While live theater is his first love — he studied at Istanbul University’s arts conservatory and teaches acting on the side – Seditoglu has been dabbling in television and film with the hopes of making enough money to finance more plays. His latest film project, still in the idea stages, is a divergence from his usual comedies – a historical epic about the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453. Naturally, a movie requiring a cast of thousands will require some serious funding, but Seditoglu isn’t interested in kowtowing to get it made.

“Everything except Islam and the country is not important for me. So don’t ask me to leave my principles.” he says. “If you can be successful on your own, good for you. But this is hard, without serving anyone.”

In fact, rather than succumb to the elite to gain a little fame, some of his work criticizes that system.

“When things are going on and you’re just watching, not doing anything to correct the wrong things in life, it makes me feel uncomfortable. I have to correct some wrong things.”

(This interview was conducted with the help of translators Osman Gokce and Tugrul Ozsahin.)

Ray Sikorski wrote and directed his first one-act play in 1988, and his second 20 years later. He is a freelance writer based in Bozeman, Montana, and is currently traveling in Turkey, wondering if he can find someplace where they sell peanut butter.

Theater (or theatre) as Communication, Entertainment and Social Interaction in the 3-D World

In Editor's Note on November 15, 2008 at 4:38 pm

Editor’s Note

Talking Bubbles photo by Sirin Buse

Talking Bubbles photo by Sirin Buse

“Real, live theater. You know, the kind of theater where actors perform plays and musicals live, on a stage.”

I find myself saying these phrases a lot these days.

Upon meeting someone for the first time, the course of polite conversation always, ultimately seems to turn to, “So, what is it that you do?”

To which I answer, “I’m in theater.”

To which they often reply with uncertainty, “Uh, a movie theater?”.

The “Uh” of their uncertainty seems almost always to stem from the combination of their instant identification with movie trailers, movie advertisements, movies they’ve gone to see, and a vision of the megaopolis movie theater complex in their neighborhood that they regularly drive past during their commutes to work or to school or to both, and some cloud of remembrance of some other type of theater they vaguely recall from their far distant past. It is because of this hazy memory they are are unsure if “movie theater” is the correct guess.

When I correct them with my reply, flint rubs steel and there is a spark. The spark may be of: a play at church or at school in which they played some small part as a child; watching friends or their children or their grandchildren sing and dance across the stage in Guys and Dolls or Grease or more recently in High School Musical in, well, a high school musical production; or of a long buried desire to sing or dance or act on stage that was never fully ignited. Everyone, it seems has some story to recall and sadly, too often the existence of theater in their consciousness is referred to in past tense.

During the present technological times the preferred method of most of the world’s communication, entertainment and social interaction funnels through electronic devises and is delivered at a time of convenience to the sender and is received at a time of convenience to the end user, in the privacy of their own homes, laps, hands or offices usually via a two-dimensional rectangular screen that comes in varying sizes, sometimes with earphones or speakers attached. Fast. Reliable. Generic. Often bad. Sometimes good. Occasionally great. But where in this electronic age is real human interaction? Why is the need for privacy encouraged, pursued and prized to the point of creating a society of socially inept individuals? When does actual, not virtual human contact come into play?

We are distracted from our need for human contact as new services emerge that allow us to send and receive an ever-increasing number of voicemails, emails, text messages and an endless stream of hot, new products enable us to download endless hours, days and years, albeit more than a lifetime’s worth of information and entertainment to enjoy in the luxury of our own self-imposed solitary confinement. We are blinded to the fact that isolation is marketed to us as a most desirable situation and is highly encouraged in order to boost the sales of more and more gadgets.

Don’t get me wrong. I do understand the benefits of electronic communication, on-line entertainment and virtual social interaction — after all I am using an electronic device to write this to you and you are receiving it on your two-dimensional screen, all the while people have been sending me voicemails, emails and text messages for goodness sake! – however, I also understand the power of: attending a convention or conference to listen to and witness a live speaker move an audience; partaking in an engagement or celebration where food and drink is shared; real hands touching briefly in formal acknowledgment or in casual appreciation of each other; watching (or participating in) a live performance; and evidencing first-hand the ability of human effort to warrant a standing ovation.

Real, live theater is communication, entertainment and social interaction in the three-dimensional world. A three-dimensional world that must be reclaimed and nurtured in order to maintain our humanity set against the dimension reductionist marketing movements of our day. (What’s next – devices that reduce us all to a one-dimensional existence? We will all end but as a small dot on a globe somewhere in a far flung corner of the universe, but perhaps that is all we are anyway. It’s almost too much to fathom.)

[Applause] to you for your interest in balancing your two-dimensional and three-dimensional worlds.

I hope you take a moment to communicate with a friend and invite them to see a show, be entertained, enjoy the human interaction between the artists and the audience, then applaud yourself for being a part of the three-dimensional world of real, live theater.


Cheryl Itamura is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Real Live Theater.

Real Live Theater (or theatre) is alive!

In Editor's Note on November 13, 2008 at 6:19 am

Editor’s Note

World Egg photo by Alexsl

World Egg photo by Alexsl

The mission of Real Live Theater is: to bring awareness of real, live theater as a means of communication, entertainment, and human interaction to an audience yearning for living, breathing creative experiences; to stimulate interest in theater as a worthwhile pursuit, an investment worthy of time, energy and resources; to encourage the endeavors of current and future theater artists and audiences of all ages toward keeping real, live theater real and alive.

Real Live Theater is dedicated to introducing new audiences and re-introducing experienced audiences to theater through insightful articles and providing information to create bridges by which audiences can learn about artists and theaters.

Real Live Theater stimulates interest in theater as a worthwhile pursuit, an investment worthy of time, energy and resources through thoughtful interviews with industry professionals, students, and supporters of theater.

Real Live Theater seeks out and provides useful information to theater artists and audience groups to demonstrate theater is for everyone to enjoy.

Cheryl Itamura is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Real Live Theater.