However, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has recently said “I am privatizing the theaters. Stage whatever play you want after privatization,” criticizing theater artists for both being paid by the municipality and freely criticizing the authorities in their plays.
Star’s Fehmi Koru, in his article “Much ado about nothing,” says the cause of numerous discussions on art have stemmed from İstanbul City Theaters’ staging a play titled “The Rosenbergs Should Not Die” by Alain Decaux. The play is about the Rosenbergs, an American communist couple who were convicted and executed in 1953 for conspiracy to commit espionage during a time of war. Koru says most of the theater companies around the world avoid staging this play, and İstanbul City Theaters’ staging it was indeed wrong. Koru thinks the reason for staging it was most probably to draw a parallel between the current government and the US’s McCarthy era. So the motivation behind staging the play is apparently an ideological one, Koru says and asks if a theater administration can do such a thing. He replies that if a theater is funded by the state, it cannot. Although the discourse of “the theater belongs only to theater people” is right in theory, politicians cannot be expected to lean back and watch the theater administration stage a play that has such a sharp political message. Furthermore, both parties cannot be expected to move on like nothing has happened. So this brings up the question as to what will happen now, Koru says. People working in theaters should pay attention to Erdoğan’s call for privatization, as otherwise it will turn into a situation like the one Shakespeare describes in the play “Much Ado About Nothing.”
On the other hand, Sabah’s Emre Aköz argues that political and ideological messages should not disturb the state, as the state’s approach to art should always be encouraging and supporting. “For example, I recently saw a banner of a political theater group in Sarıyer [a district of İstanbul]. I totally disagree with the political message in the banner, which was indeed harsh, but I did not care. On the contrary, I loved how the message was illustrated because it doesn’t matter if we agree or not, we must encourage the young to have music, dance and theater groups,” he says.