3. Konferenz in Bethlehem 2013

Theatre pedagogy in Turkey

Selen Korad Birkiye - Turkish Creative Drama Association, Istanbul State Theater

Scope of theatre pedagogy in Turkey

Theatre Pedagogy is divided into two in Turkey:
First is called theatre education which contains acting, directing, dramaturgy, scenography and critisism.

Later is relatively new conceptualisation and called creative drama education and contains all the techniques of drama in education and creative drama.

So both paths have different background and problems.


Theatre Education

Although Armenian Companies such as Güllü Agop and Fasulyeciyan introduced Western Theatre into Ottoman Empire at the second half of the 19th century, first theatre conservatory was founded in 1913 by the order of the mayor of Istanbul.

Atatürk ordered foundation of a State Conservatorium in order to raise actors and actresses in 1934. First students were accepted in 1936. German-Jewish director and successor of Stanislavski, Karl Ebert invited to found opera and theatre departments.


New Ideology of Turkish Republic

•          As a parallel strategy to the new design of new society in Turkey, westernised arts began to be supported as a way of educating and civilizing people. Three important steps were determined, in the first 15 years of the Republic. These were a) encouraging Turkish-Muslim actresses, b) spreading theatres all over the country, and c) the foundation of theatre education in conservatoriums

•          Two important institutions played a very important part in the spreading of theatre around the country: The People's Houses and The Village Institutes. The People's Houses, founded in 1932, was a very important agent for introducing theatre to people everywhere.
While presenting plays of domestic and foreign playwrights, research and collections of drama tradition and games of Anatolia tried to be collected in the People's Houses.

•          The Village Institutes were founded in the first half of the 1940's by the Republican People's Party (CHP) as another way of designing the new human and society model, too.

•          In the Village Institutes, people from rural areas came to be educated. Their curriculum was composed of practical courses such as agriculture, animal caring, etc. and theoretical ones such as literature and mathematics, as well as art courses such as painting, drama and music.

•          But this naive soviet education model for rural people was criticised by land owners and the conservative wing and President Ismet I'nonu couldn't resist the pressure, and terminated them.

•          The founding of Tatbikat Sahnesi , and then State Theatres, Opera and Ballet as well as the Symphony Orchestra were other symbols of supporting westernised art.

•          It was considered that both the combination of content and the form of Westernised performing arts was not only educating, but also a reflection of the Romantic principle of civilising the society as a whole. Thus, one of the impacts of Kemalist ideology was to support theatre and other arts, and to consider them as a public service which should be protected by State.

•          So several conservatoriums and university departments on theatre were founded in the big cities.

•          The strongest transformation of society and human design in the history of the Republic was realised in post-1980 period. After the dark years of military intervention (1980-1983), a new political era began in Turkey.

•          The religious identity of the Turkish society was underlined systematically. This new concept was a radical deviance from the authentic Kemalist ideology. The Ozal government also merged to introduce globalism and a neoliberal economic system to society through a partly democratised Turkey, after military intervention atmosphere of the country.

•          In this period, all conservatoriums transformed and adapted into university system which is not suitable for performing arts.

Private sector began to open foundation universities and found theatre departments.

Spreading of theatre departments, and decreasing of selection criterias of students to acting departments, leads to increasement of theatre education.

•          Despite the increasement of theatre students, the quality of education decreases, because of the inadequate number of professional pedagogues.

•          The attempt by the government to transfer or reduce its responsibilities and duties to theatre: Related to the neoliberal needs of the IMF, the State tries to leave many areas to the private sector. The social state is getting smaller. Besides as a result of conservative ideology of AKP government, westernised arts institutions such as theatre, symphonic music, opera and ballet begin to be considered as burden on State.

•          Although there is a danger on shutting down of all subsidised theatres, and economical constraints and problems of private theatre companies, there is a huge television series industry in Turkey.

•          So most of the theatre students turning on television sector.

•          But TV sector will reach its limit in the short run which means demand on theatre education may decrease.


Creative Drama Pedagogy

Recent history of creative drama in education may be considered in two phases:

Before 1982, some techniques of creative drama were using in the schools, such as impro, dramatisation, theatre games, etc.

After 1982, process oriented creative drama in education begin to introduced to Turkish education system.


1st Period: Before 1980's

•          Using of dramatisation ad dramatic activities in education begins at the last years of the Ottoman Empire in Istanbul. Ismail Hakki Baltacioglu pioneered for preparation of regulations in terms of using of school plays and historical performances in education.

•          It was stressed that these courses should motivate the imitation, creativity instincts of children as well as teach them some manners and knowledge.

•          Children's drama and school plays were reconsidered after the foundation of Republic. In this period Baltacioglu stressed that the concept of "core drama" which depends on the creativity of actor by grasping dramatic reality and improvisation as a core of drama. And the person who uses drama, not only obtain knowledge but also learns how to use it.

•          But the school play conceptualisation was focused on the performance and show, instead of process oriented drama in education.


2nd Period: After 1982

•          The beginning of creative drama in Turkey, in modern sense begins at 1982. A State Theatre actor Tamer Levent and an academician in Educational Sciences in Ankara University, Prof.Dr. inci San come together and shared their ideas and knowledge about drama in education.

•          Mr. Levent was focusing on the acting methods and he wasn't satisfied from what he learnt in the conservatory. And reading John Hodgson's book of "Improvisation" had a great impact on him

•          On the other hand, Mrs. San was focused on effective methods for developing creativity and arts education. So in this meeting both of them find out and improve their ideas and begin to work with a group of students in the university and amateur actors.

•          In 1985, they organised an international seminar about creative drama in education. So creative drama in modern sense introduced and widely discussed and accepted by public opinion, pedagogues and artists for the first time in Turkey.

•          In the 2nd international seminar Turkish, English and German experts agree that "there is no existence of upper level public opinion about the creative drama in Turkey." So model studies started in practical area and large numbers of people from different disciplines and professions interested in.

•          In the third seminar, Minister of Education watched some parts of the workshops and seminars, and promised to present creative drama in education in his plans.

In 1985, master and doctorate thesis begin to be written on creative drama in education.

In 1997, The Council of Higher Education (YOK) stressed that "Drama in Primary Schools" and "Drama in Preschool Education" will be compulsory courses for primary school education and preschool education departments in the restructuring of Education Faculties.

•          In 1997, the first master degree programme for Creative Drama was founded in Ankara University. In 2006 Anadolu University opened master degree proggramme as Creative Drama in Education.

•          Ministry of Education, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Presidency prepared a program for optional drama courses in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades of primary schools in 1998. And published a guide book that's called "Drama for Teachers".

•          Ministry Education has renewed all primary and secondary school programs and creative drama taken part as a method and course since 2005.

•          Although it is a big progress for the drama pedagogy, it's been faced with a serious problem: "Who would teach these courses?"
This problem tried to be solved by organising intensive inner education services.


Modern Drama Association

•          Drama Association was founded in 1990 in order to develop and spread creative drama in education. The need for reaching more people, accumulating and teaching theoretical and practical know-how and acting as NGO especially in relations with Ministry of Education and other institutions were reinforcements for founding the association. Its mission is educating the creative drama leaders and pedagogues.

So began to organise long term drama leaders training programs (320 hours and 6 steps) which gets authorisation after getting consent of the Disciplinary Council of the Ministry of Education and international workshops, seminars and congresses.

"Creative Drama Association obliged to change it's name as Modern Drama Association, because of the reactions of conservatives.

CDA was accepted to the membership of BAG Spiel and Theatre and IDEA.

•          Center of the association is in Ankara, but it has branches in Istanbul, Eskisehir and Izmir, and representatives in 12 cities. There are 500 members of the association who are mostly pedagogues and artists.

•          Several ateliers for housewifes, adolescents, prisoners and handicapped are also executed.

•          CDA publishes a perodical named "creative drama" twice in a year. English, French and German articles and researches are accepted by the editor.


Other Developments

•          Olusum Drama and Atelier Foundation was founded by Naci Aslan in 1988. He started to work on theatre then added creative drama into his rehearsal techniques. Foundation has been arranging international seminars and publishing a book every year.

•          Nowadays, creative drama is very popular spare time activity for the children and adolescents in Turkey. There are a lot of private courses on creative drama, but not always very satisfactory. On the other hand, private schools in primary, secondary and high school level takes it very seriously.



•          Today we can say that, creative drama has taken its place as a technique and lesson in both educational programs as well as in culture and arts spheres. And the attendants comes from all professions and interests.

•          Creative drama and theatre considered as separate areas although they've lots' of common points. For my opinion it's an artificial separation, but we need time to reconsider it in turkey.



Adiguzel, H.O. (2008) The Recent History of Creative Drama in Education in Turkey, Creative Drama Journal, vol. 1, no.5, pp. 7-49

Korad Birkiye, S. (2009) Changes in the Cultural Policies of Turkey and the AKP's Impact on Social Engineering and Theatre, International Journal of Cultural Policy, August, DOI: No:3, pp.261-274


Download the PowerPoint Presentation