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The İstanbul International Theater Festival will celebrate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth in its 19th edition this spring, presenting a packed program with a particular focus on the Bard of Avon’s classic plays and interpretations of his works, the organizers have announced.

The biyearly festival will be marking its 19th program from May 9 to June 5 with more than 100 performances by seven foreign and 35 local theater, dance and performance companies in various venues across İstanbul, the İstanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) announced on Monday evening during a press meeting at İstanbul’s Rahmi M. Koç Museum.

Monday’s event, hosted by author and dubbing artist Yekta Kopan, also saw an award ceremony in which Dikmen Gürün, who served as festival director for 20 years until 2013, was handed the festival’s Honorary Award by İKSV Chairman Bülent Eczacıbaşı, according to an İKSV press release. Eczacıbaşı said this year’s festival will display a rich program but that their aim is to hold the festival annually in future.

Then current festival director Leman Yılmaz took the stage to inform members of the press and other guests about the 19th festival program.

The highlight of the festival will be a series of theater performances, question-and-answer sessions, panels, workshops and a documentary screening as part of the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, which will be celebrated around the world in 2014.

The Propeller Theater Company, which is famous for its all-male productions of Shakepeare’s plays, will be hosted in İstanbul for the first time as part of the festival. The company, also set to travel to Turkey as part of the British Council’s three-year Shakespeare program, will stage its rendition of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “The Comedy of Errors” in a total of five performances. The director of the company, Edward Hall, will be presented with an Honorary Award on May 24 after a performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Muhsin Ertuğrul Theater in Harbiye.

Local productions and interpretations of the Bard’s plays will also be featured in the festival. Altıdan Sonra Tiyatro and Pangar will perform a joint interpretation of “King Lear,” while the Oyunbaz theater ensemble will stage the original play. The Bakırköy Municipal Theater will offer its rendition of “Romeo and Juliet” and Derme Çatma Kolektif will perform an interpretation of “Hamlet.”

ARABAŞLIK: Festival to celebrate 600th anniversary of Poland-Turkey diplomatic relations

The festival will also use four performances to celebrate the 600th year of the start of diplomatic relationships between Turkey and Poland. Polish theater company TR Warszawa will perform the play “No Matter How Hard We Tried,” written by Dorota Maslowska and directed by Grzegorz Jarzyna. The director of the play will receive an honorary award on May 9 after the company presents the play at the Muhsin Ertuğrul stage.

“Nosferatu,” also directed and written by Jarzyna, is another play included in the festival program. Inspired by Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula,” the play is a co-production between TR Warszawa and Teatr Narodowy w Warszawie.

Polish dance and theater company Baltic Dance Theater, on the other hand, will perform an original interpretation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” choreographed by Izadora Weiss and with music by Goran Bregovic.

“Proust-Pamuk-Memory,” co-written and directed by Emre Koyuncuoğlu from Turkey and Krzysztof Garbaczewski from Poland, will perform its premiere on June 3 on the Muhsin Ertuğrul stage. The play is inspired by Turkish Nobel laureate author Orhan Pamuk’s books “The Museum of Innocence” and “İstanbul: Memories and the City,” as well as Marcel Proust’s novel “In Search of Lost Time.”

The festival will also feature other premieres from Turkish theater companies. Out of these 35 premieres, the İstanbul State Theater’s production of Heiner Müller’s postmodern drama “Hamletmachine,” inspired by Shakespeare’s tragedy “Hamlet,” the Kenter Theater’s “İlk Osmanlı Vampiri Latif Efendi’nin Sergüzeşti” (The Adventure of the First Ottoman Vampire, Latif Efendi), and biriken’s newest project “Tatyana,” inspired by Anton Chekhov and Aleksey Suvorin’s play “Tatyana Repina,” are some of the highlights.

The poster for this year’s festival is a joint effort between actress Şahika Tekand and graphic designer Bülent Erkmen. Tekand is the third name Erkmen worked with in designing a 2014 festival poster as part of the İKSV’s new tradition of working with acclaimed names from different artistic fields in the design of its festival posters.

As a novelty item, the festival catalogue will be published as a book as part of an educational project aimed at raising a new generation of screenwriters. Seven students from İstanbul University’s department of theater criticism and dramaturgy will write introductory texts about the festival plays, which will be published in book form in May.

Festival tickets will be on sale from March 8 at www.biletix.com and at İKSV box offices. For further information, festival venues and performance dates, visit tiyatro.iksv.org.

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