The Yapı Kredi Culture Center is hosting a new exhibition on Istanbul-based theater performer and publisher Hagop Ayvaz at its complex on the popular Istiklal Street. “Coulisse: Hagop Ayvaz, A Chronicler of Theater,” prepared in cooperation with the Theater Foundation of Turkey under the guidance of the Hrant Dink Foundation, will be on display until Feb. 21, 2021.
The exhibition reveals the history of Turkish theater in the context of social memory, identity and space through Ayvaz's personal theater archive.
Records of Hagop Ayvaz
Consisting of almost 600 theater and manuscripts in Ottoman, Armenian and Turkish, more than 500 periodicals, magazines and brochures in Armenian and Turkish, as well as nearly 12,000 visual pieces including photographs, posters, cartoons, clippings, invitations, drawings and postcards, Ayvaz's archives were first donated to the Agos daily after his death in 2006 and then to the Hrant Dink Foundation.
The collection was diversified further when some of Ayvaz’s personal belongings, the awards he had received and all 1,104 issues of his Kulis magazine, an Armenian culture and art periodical he had continuously published from 1946 to 1996, were donated to the foundation in 2019. The archive, which was largely cataloged and digitized by the foundation over the years, has been opened to researchers simultaneously with the exhibition.
The Hagop Ayvaz archive, constituting the source of the exhibition, contains a large amount of original content about actors, ensembles and venues in Ottoman and Turkish theater from the mid-19th century to the present day. Ayvaz used the words “my paradise” to describe his study room composed of books, magazines, posters and photographs that he had collected since his youth. This tender metaphor also gives us hints about the possible links that can be established between his passion, namely theater, archives and collective memory.
The first section brings into focus Armenian language theater production and activities in Istanbul, in parallel with the biography of Ayvaz, a devotee of the arts since his youth – from extra to director, from columnist to publisher.
The second section dwells on Kulis' impact both inside and outside Turkey, accompanied by a timetable of the period’s major artistic and political developments.
The final section focuses on artists, companies, plays and venues that constituted the cornerstones of Ottoman and Turkish theater history, inviting visitors to explore the links among these so as to reconsider the history of theater in the nation.
In addition to offering opportunities to examine Turkey's theatrical history from a pluralistic perspective, the exhibition urges its audience to recall the place and importance of culture and art within the coexistence of societies and its “coulisse,” founded with faith and surviving with labor, dedication and solidarity.
Stage actor life
Ayvaz, born in 1911, debuted on stage in 1928 at the Narlıkapı Şafak Theater as an extra in the operetta “Jaghatsbanin Aghchige” (“The Miller’s Daughter”). His first lead role was in the play “The Trail of the Serpent” at the Beyoğlu Yenişehir Garden Theater in 1930. He also wrote about theater in periodicals like Jamanag, Turkiya, Gavroş and Nor Or between 1935 and 1946.
Together with Zareh Arşag and Nazaret Donikyan, Ayvaz co-founded Kulis in 1946. Between 1947 and 1950, he organized special nights for Kulis, where Armenian and Turkish artists shared the same stage. In 1948, he started traveling abroad for Kulis and reached more readers and writers in many Middle Eastern countries as well as Armenia and Greece. Between 1954 and 1956, he published Kulis in Turkish with the support of the Istanbul Operetta Association.
Ayvaz assumed the leadership of the Stage Troupe of the Esayan School Alumni Association in 1960 and made his directorial debut with Galip Arcan’s “Rica Ederim Kesmeyiniz” (“Please Do Not Interrupt”).
In 1996, he published the last issue of his five-decade-old magazine Kulis, which received countless awards in Turkey and abroad and started writing for the Armenian-Turkish weekly Agos in 1997, which he continued until 2006. He received the 1997 Press Service Award of the Writers Union of Turkey and the 2005 Honorary Award from the Theater Critics Association of Turkey.
Ayvaz died on Sept. 29, 2006, and was buried at the Şişli Armenian Cemetery.