IKSV- THEATRE PERA Co-production
Written and directed by: Nesrin Kazankaya
“Oh My Smyrna, My Beautiful Izmir” had premiered on May 20th 2012 and had been performed five times during “18th International Theatre Festival”. The play is a co-production of Istanbul Culture and Art Foundation and Theatre Pera.
At “18th International Theatre Festival” English surtitles were used. The play will be the closing performance of “International Cyprus Theatre Festival” at September 30th. As may be desired, the play could be seen in Cyprus or in Istanbul from October 13th.
The play is in two acts and its total duration is two hours and ten minutes with the intermission. Cast consists of ten actors. With the technical crew, the complete group is 15 persons. Turkish and Greek songs that reflect the tradition of both societies are sung within the dramatic structure. Live music is made with mandolin, bouzouki, clarinet, bendir (type of a traditional drum), which are played by the actors. Both music and dance take place as parts of the story, in the dramatic structure of the play.
The play takes place in 1923 in Smyrna (İzmir), one year after “The Catastrophic Fire of İzmir” burned down the city. ‘The Turkish War of Liberation’ was over; the law requiring ‘Obligatory Exchange’ of Greek and Turkish populations went into effect and forced the communities to immigrate mutually. When the play begins the “Vlasto”s, a wealthy Greek Family with deep cultural roots in Anatolia, are preparing to migrate to Greece from their mansion in Bournabat (Bornova), İzmir. The “Vlasto”s had lived in the center of Izmir, Punta but by taking shelter in Bournabat, a wealthy suburban area, they were rescued from the catastrophic fire of 1922. The Turkish housekeepers, who have lived with the Vlastos, like a family, for decades, are sad witnesses of this migration.
Number of characters belonging both English and Turkish families is ten. The Greek family Vlastos has 7 members. All of them are Smyrneans from birth and have been living in Smyrna ever since. The Vlasto family’s old mother Eleni, is a fourth generation Smyrnean. Her husband died during the 1912 Balkan War. Her son Konstantinos is a famous merchant. He worked for Smyrna Greek Quarters during the war. Konstantinos’ twin had died in the war. Eleni’s little son Theodopulos was enslaved during the war and worked in the camps. Eleni, her sons, her daughter in laws Ioanna and Polyxeni and her grand children live all together. Grandchildren Ilias and Lefkothea are Ioanna’s children. Ilias is sick and has been hidden in the mansion in Bournabat throughout the war. During his three years of concealing, he translated the famous antique Symrnean writer Homer’s Iliad into Ottoman language. From the Turkish family only three are left. Muzeyyen, her seven-year-old son Ali Riza and her brother Mehmed. The elders of the Turkish family had died during different war periods and Greek Occupation.
Traumatic traces of war and the obligatory exchange, causes tension between the Turkish and Greek families. As they turn against each other living together becomes impossible. The characters who find themselves in the midst of this conflict are deeply saddened and must yield to a hopeless future, desperate longings, impossible loves. ‘The Catastrophic Fire of İzmir’ not only ruins the legendary and beautiful city of Smyrna and burns it down to ashes but also ends the centuries long tradition of diverse ethnic and religious communities living together peacefully and destroys their past and future, their hopes and dreams.
The great war was over and in the year of 1922, the catastrophic fire that lasted for three days, had destroyed and made disappear the fascinating, multi-cultural city, “the pearl of Aegean”, Izmir. The city was co-created by a cosmopolite society of Turks, Greeks, Armenians, Jews and Levantines who had been living together for nearly one century, with different religious beliefs, different languages. Memories of these people who had been celebrating even their religious festivals together are all left in pages of books. The silhouette of Izmir, the richest center of trade in Ottoman Empire, with its fabulous architecture, theaters, cinemas, libraries, entertainment venues, shops, is to be only found in postcards. The soil that gave birth to the ancient culture, mythological stories also witnessed a great destruction enforced by ethnical provocation of imperialist war gods. Withered away is our past, our culture. The people who were exiled from their birthplaces, the people who were forced to emigrate from their own lands, are our own people. To recall this very tragic end of Izmir, may contribute to the hope and effort for the idea of living together of nations.
After eleven years of performing Theatre Pera, with the same responsibility to the past and future, opens a small window to this tragic part of our recent history.