When you read this, our play will have been long over. But as I’m writing my piece for this week, there are less than ten hours to go before our opening night. Sounds like a suicide note at first glance, doesn’t it? Well, I can assure you that it’s not.
The reader familiar with my pieces will recognize that this opening is rather different from my usual introductions. Instead of focusing on a topic related to the arts and analyzing it in relation to personal experiences, I have decided to do something even more personal this time. I will take my writer mask off for a day and tell you about the little journey I’ve been making for over a year now.
About two years ago, I wasn’t much different from any computer science student. I was also minoring in English language and literature (something it was very hard to believe anyone would do), but apart from that I was focused on my major study. This all changed with a Shakespeare course I was taking. I’m sure you’re assuming that I fell in
love with Shakespeare and decided to continue with literature after I graduated, but there’s a lot more to it than that. If it hadn’t been for a girl I couldn’t place, but who seemed awfully familiar, coming up to talk to me and mentioning the play our instructor was staging that semester, I might have spent two boring years and still have been struggling with what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
So it started with that play. Unlike most of my friends in the cast, I had no previous acting experience. I didn’t even know that I enjoyed acting. But on the day of the first performance, I understood what they say about theater. It is a very tiring and a stressful business, but the moment you hear people clapping, all your weariness fades away and you remember why you love theater so much.
After that production was finished, I focused on reading plays for a couple of months. It was really interesting to find out that I was having so much fun doing anything related to theater; it was as if my whole life had prepared me for this, and now it was time to sit back and enjoy.
As graduation came closer, I started to think about whether I wanted to continue with literature and writing. So I got a few of those books people often say you shouldn’t bother with, because you can’t learn “how to write” from a book: you need a massive amount of practice for that. They couldn’t have been more wrong! That description I read about the craft of the playwright, which focuses on the character’s way of thinking — the playwright is interested in how thoughts are conveyed through speech, whether in monologues, dialogues or other forms of conversation. When I read this, all my short stories containing very brief descriptive passages and very long conversations made sense: I was meant to write plays! Of course I wasn’t that sure at the moment, but you never know if you don’t try.
Then came a period that I’m looking forward to experiencing again. I don’t think there is any other feeling more satisfying than putting the story in your mind on paper, or in my case giving my characters an opportunity to be seen, to talk, to touch, to be. This stage, which generally takes longer, for me took only a couple of months. When I think about it now, I think the reason why I finished writing a play in three months was because this story had been in my mind, trying to find a way out, for so long that when I gave it an opportunity, it immediately began emerging as I typed.
I’m about to explain why you’re reading this autobiographical statement. When I took my play to some of my instructors — and I should say that they have all been very supportive — my life changed for the second time. One of them said something that I hadn’t even thought of: “The good thing about writing plays is that you can always get them staged!” Yes, I could! At Bilkent? Why not? And six months after I talked to the chair of the English Language and Literature department about it, “Sirens of Lachesis” is to be staged for the very first time this evening.
The reason why I wanted to share all this was not to offer lessons like, “If you want something a lot and do all that is in your power to get it, you will eventually be happy.” In fact, there are two reasons. The first one is to relate the background story of our play, which I’m hoping at least a few readers will have seen. Theater is often a selfish business; it demands that all attention be focused on the performance. So people generally judge according to what they see on stage for two hours, and that is what they should do. But to be an even better judge, I think one needs to see the whole picture.
The second reason is to show my appreciation for the little coincidences of life: a girl I was not even sure I knew asking me whether I wanted to be a part of a theater production, an instructor being more supportive than anyone could have asked when he heard that I had written a play, and my lovely cast, who have helped me through the good and the bad for the last couple of months.
Now, setting aside my Oscar speech, I should get going to the theater. I have my opening night this evening!