1. How did your interest in the theater, one of the deepest branches of the art, begin?
My interest in theater started in 1969 BC. Seriously, it began with entering in Radio Children time in 1969. At that time, I was at high school, and was taking examinations. Indeed, with another friend, we started it for a little fun; my friend was even more eager than me; but he did not win, I won. I began and I liked it very much. There were, of course, theater artists working. I took them as role models; they came and practiced memorization, talked about plays, etc. Then, I started going to plays more often, it became like an infection, a disease. Radio Children time also had effect on me as a teacher. It is a club, its name was also Radio Children Club. I started with intonation, and then continued with mini plays. The play was played there already. Therefore, acting was like a disease that spread in me.
2. You were sent to United Kingdom by the state for education. How did it happen?
I wanted to go. It happened as follows – here comes a little gossip – I saw some teachers in the theater studying in a very old fashioned way, in templates. I did not like that study. I thought that I should study something different, but I did not know what it was; I was also too young. Because everybody in Turkey worked like each other, I thought that the best method should be a place beyond these borders. United Kingdom came into my mind as the best place, also I had language infrastructure. In fact, I told this reason also to general manager, in other words, I gossipped “I think some directors usually work wrong, but if you ask what the correct one is, I actually do not know. So I want to learn.” I said. They sent me for maximum one year; from three months to six months onto a year. But it was not enough. You need to build up a connection before going there. I have to thank Haldun Dormen for that matter. I met with Haldun Dormen at that time. I told him that I wanted to go the United Kingdom, but did not know what to do. I could not go to school, because I had graduated. He told me that the best school was actually a theater and The National Theatre was there. “The director of the National Theater is Peter Hall, I know him. I will get into contact with him, and go” Haldun Dormen said. Indeed, we talked, wrote and phoned, etc. They understood and accepted. When I arrived there, Peter Hall was working on a play, a modern one. I worked as his assistant in the beginning. Of course, I was not the one doing his work, but the one watching and observing. I gained great experience in there. For example Judith Dench, who is very famous, played in there. She was not so famous in cinema at that time. How an actor is directed, how the decor becomes united with the play, how the text of the play is told to the actors, what is workshop; we had heard of them at the time in Turkey- but a new world had opened up to me. Then, Peter Hall was going to leave the theater and wanted to stage a last play. He wanted to stage three late period Shakespearian plays together. We cannot envisage such a thing, but his assistants were directors anyhow. He would go from floor to floor and give them directives, and I would walk around him like a mouse, learning how to stage Shakespeare, how to explain, how to express the sentences of that period. They don’t believe in ‘modernising’, neither do I; you cannot play Macbeth wearing jeans. I noted everything down, I look at my notes now – they are so detailed; ‘’he did this, he refused that, he flew at that point…’’ Of course, when the state sends you, they filter it back from you. They send you for a year and ask three years of obligatory work in return. I had no choice of staying more. I really wanted to, but one has to pay back double the amount of money spent on me back. I could not afford that and returned and never went back afterwards.
3. So how much did your family helped you when these were happening?
None. Not on this stage. When I was about to get into drama college, my father did not want it. He also said that he will refuse it when it becomes serious. So I started another university. You don’t have to go to university those days. It wasn’t like today. I was studying and working at a bank also. Working in a bank wasn’t exactly my type of a job. At the end, I said “No way!”. I could stand for it just for ten months. At the end of the tenth month, I threw the type writer, not towards the manager, I understood that I won’t have a future in this job. I thought that I would definitely kill the manager. I did not have any problems with the manager but I had problems with my job. I thought that I would be an alcholic, fight with my wife and kill my son. I would do any bad thing and I would appear in the 3rd pages of every newspaper. That is why I denied my father’s opinion and he did not talk to me for three years. I had already won my boarding rights but my father did not give his permission. Thankfully I was getting the news from my mother. I was obliged to stay at home. Later on, he started to talk to me when he saw me everyday. However, I was like a ghost, like Casper. I was invisible.
4. Where do you see Turkey’s position in theatre?
Actresses and actors are displaying a perfect performance. We need to match this perfomance with the text and the director. However we cannot accomplish this task technically. The world is going in a different way and we need to catch this way. We need to observe the worlds’ view and their impression. This can only happen with text but the texts do not allow us to to keep up with the world. The texts are out of date, they are insufficient. Also the texts which comes from different countries are not adequate too. When we compare these days with the past, we can clearly see the huge difference. Today we can receive a lot of texts by email. In the past when we found a text which came from a foreign country we would feel like we had found gold. Now, it’s as if it is sold on the streets, we find it every where. But good texts don’t exsist abroad either. In fact, there is a general problem with creativty. Of course I am not saying anything for the classics; they keep their place; but we should give proper advice. We should play the classics, they should be a part of theatre; but we need to start using our creativity too. I think that there is a parallel between global warming and mental warming! When you don’t have a proper text you dont have too much to do. Science has advanced a lot in this century. But art and music and literature has become very shallow.
4.1 Do you think that theatre has come to a halt or is regressing?
Halt yes, but we cannot say that it is regressing. If we continue like this, however, and if what is being told about the eclipse of 2012 does not come true, it will halt!
5. Do you think theater is getting sufficient attention from the audience?
I truly find it quite surprising that they are still coming. In spite of all the things that happen they are obstinately coming ! There are some prejudices such as, ‘’the audience likes to see comedy only’’, however, in reality the audience goes to watch tragedy knowing perfectly well what it implies; even if it is a heavy play there are some sentences that scream to them and they are there to see it. It is also wrong that national theater halls are filled with people due to the low prices of the plays. Would anyone go somewhere just because it is cheap? You go out of home, you go all that way, if you go with three people you will pay 30 liras, is that cheap? If they can afford this, it means they are interested and they like the theaters that have different opinions. The audience is still enthusiastic. That is why writers should stop worrying about the audience.
Another reason why directors are stuck is that they are doing a job that is based on money. I want to create a world where money has no importance. If a play needs a train coming onto the stage, I would do it. I would make the sound of the train come on stage. For example, if we are playing Anna Karenina and she is committing suicide under a train, I would give that to the spectator through her scream, through the sound of the train, through the music and the suicide would come alive. Wouldn’t that be nice to see?
Ofcourse, theater budgets do count. That is why the state, instead of giving away money to arms, wars or people they know, they should give it to science and art. As an artist, if you ask me what you believe in on the world, it is science and art; and as a consequence, peace and nothing else.
6. Could you please share with us a memory of you that made you laugh the most, made you think the most or a memory that you will never forget?
I was playing Atatürk in Ankara National Theater when this happened to me. I think it was the first semester. By the way I was constantly going back and forth to Istanbul for filming tv shows. I was really busy. Of course the role is very hard, when it is about Atatürk, all about Atatürk, he talks a lot and I cant memorize the lines very easily. I am going back and forth with trains that contain beds, when I go to a restaurant I encounter a friend, we talk, we stay up till the morning in there, that’s why, that day, I had preferred going directly to my compartment. I put down the book, looked out of the window, the train is moving slowly. First I start to memorize by myself. ‘’ The enemies will immediately abandon Meriç, go to the west of Sakarya.’’ While I was practicing my tone, my voice had risen. I am saving the country. At that moment I saw the ticket inspector looking at me with frightened eyes. He doesn’t understand, he doesn’t see the book either, even if he had he wouldn’t have understood. He thinks here is a person who thinks he is Atatürk and is saving the country, he is obviously crazy. He didn’t open the door completely, he showed his nose, ‘’Would you like to have something?’’ he said, ‘’Tea.’’ I answered. He brought it but he gave it to me frightenedly and sneaked away. In the next days we finished filming the tv show and I am going back to Ankara, I am travelling with train that contains beds again. There they are, conductors are waiting for us, all gathered. When they saw me they smiled, I forgot about this thing. Usually conductors never laugh, they are grumpy, you can’t understand if you are on a train with beds or on a torture train. But here they were standing in a line and smiling for the first time. It couldn’t have been because I was famous because the tv show had just started and these were the first shows in Turkey. I understood what was going on, went to my compartment, put my book on the table and waited. When the door rang I was quiet. Somebody asked ‘’Would you like to have something?’’, ‘’Tea’’ I said. ‘’You saved the country my general.’’ he said. I stayed as the madman of the trains !
6.1 Were there any funny moments when you did voice overs?
Doing the voice overs of cartoons is pretty funny obviously. But what I find especially funny is people, whom we know as extremely serious, even grumpy, come and do the voice over of some animals, to chirp like little birds; they say ‘’tweet tweet’’ and then wear their coats and leave the studio as serious and grumpy as before. I’ve never doen Yeşilçam voice overs, I’ve never wanted to give my voice to those, I’ve worked for my own roles, or cartoons or radio.
7. What is your advice to young actors ?
I always say this in my acting lessons;
1.Don’t act! Go out, just stay on the stage, just “stay”
2.Just “look”. Look and “see” what you’re looking.
3.After those “hear”. Hear and “undertand”
Thats the only thing that I study with them and they can’t do it very easily. They don’t know what to do when I tell them to see something. I’m looking to a point in space right now and seeing a piece of metal. I’m seeing this metal. I’m literally seeing every detail and curve on the metal. An actor on stage should be able to see this very well. If he can see it than the spectator can too. If he can hear it well, the spectator can hear it too. Standing for example doesn’t mean only reclining to a wall with hands in your pocket or sitting down. Stand, just stand in the middle. That’s a very difficult thing to do. People can’t stand still. When I say stand people start to fidget, shoulders move, the back curves, funny things happen to the body. Standing still is not easy. “How will I stand?” First you need to know how to stand on stage, then start to speak. Eveybody wants to start by doing something, start to speak, laugh, cry immediately. That would’ve been easy but you first need to stand still. Let’s first see how you will stand, then how Hamlet stands, then how Hamlet would speak. Until human beings started to speak, humans used body language to get along. In one look they were able to tell the other that a bear was coming and that they were in danger. They didn’t use sentences. They never said “look, a lion is coming”; they moved their hands and looked fearfull. They acted well. The most important thing is not to do “as if”, not to move ridiculously, not to be a silly monkey. Or not to become a parrot who repeates everything. I start with these lessons and the ones that can do it, can play Lady Macbeth. It’s much harder in movies or tv series. For example, yesterday night the director said to me “Please be a bit more cool in this scene.” “What is cool? How do you become cool?” the character is a lawyer in my ages. This lawyer should be “cool” and attract that woman, and this should be very natural. When the camera is on your face, that’s when you understand how hard acting is. You want to do it with feeling. For example, they told me to get angry in a play. A small mimic is nothing in theather, it also doesn’t seem like a lot in cinema, but not true; in cinema that mimic appears as a big motion and gives a very big impression. That’s why cinema teaches you to be natural, to be a human being and act normal. Feel the feeling inside yourself. That’s the main thing that all of us, including me, is trying to learn.