Helping make theater in Istanbul

Our good friend and mentor Melanie Dreyer opened a show last night at garajistanbul in Istanbul, S/he, a bilingual combination of two original plays (one by a Turkish playwright, one by an American) about the female experience in both countries.

I haven’t seen the show yet – Christina and I will see it tonight – but I got to help out yesterday at the theater, during their hectic one-day combination load-in/tech/opening night. I’d been in Istanbul for three days, happily overwhelmed by saturation in a language I don’t speak, rivers of tea, regular calls to prayer emanating from mosque speakers, armies of stray cats swarming over cobblestones, traffic that makes Manhattan look like a sleepy Sunday in Pittsburgh. It felt like an accomplishment to navigate alone from my friend’s apartment in Maçka to Taksim (the city center) by way of dolmus, a shared taxi, and then find the theater hidden in a twisting side street.

After all that, stepping through garajistanbul’s front door was like entering a safe space, a sanctuary. At moments like this, I understand why theater is a religion for some people. Theater buildings are the same the world over. Tech may be conducted differently, but it’s the same ritual, the same nail-biting. I was grateful for the chance to participate in that world in the midst of this other world.

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