It was the month of December, the year 1999. I found the website of Magdalena. It was not a mirage; it was an oasis for me while questioning how to make feminist theatre in Istanbul. I wrote the email; I got the answer. Jill Greenhalgh replied. Then we met in Novi Sad in June 2000: The workshop, little talks, lots of energy exchange. It was the month August, the year 2000, we established our feminist theatre group, Tiyatro Boyalı Kuş (Theatre Painted Bird) in Istanbul.
Now we are about to celebrate our 20th anniversary. Time passes quickly. There were so many tears, so many laughs … we did so many plays, performances, workshops, tours and activities … with very little financial support, but with so much labor and love. The group is small and poor but feminist and alternative.
A few years ago, on a snowy evening, a friend who barely saw our work asked me what Boyalı Kuş is. The road was empty; I was feeling the slight touch of the snow on my face while these words came out of my lips: “A dream”. I thought about this a lot. How can Boyalı Kuş be ‘a dream’ although we have been doing so many ‘real’ things?
I do not recall when I read Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own first time but it became one of the handbooks for our newcomers, the other book was Josephine Donovan’s Feminist Theory. Nothing is coincidence, for sure.
It is the month April, the year 2019. Ninety-one years have passed since Virginia Woolf’s talk at Women’s College and ninety years after her book’s publication. Nothing is coincidence. Tiyatro Boyalı Kuş is now performing A Room of One’s Own in Istanbul. I have never imagined that this would happen, not even in my wildest dream.
I have the room of my own at my house for thirteen years now, around four-meter square, consists of four bookcases, a writing desk, Tiyatro Boyalı Kuş’s archive boxes on top of each other also serves for the cats to sleep. Actually, I thought I had the room of my own.
The opening of A Room of One’s Own was on April 7, 2019. It is a site-specific performance, between two rooms; we are hosting not more than twenty-five spectators.
During the dramaturgy, translation and adaptation of the text, we figured out that “the room” Virginia Woolf was talking about was not a physical space. “A room of one’s own” was Boyalı Kuş itself… It has been the safe and free space for women to create and to produce… And now we are sharing that creative space with our spectators…
Virginia Woolf’s last sentences at her speech are precious:
“I told you in the course of this paper that Shakespeare had a sister (…) She died young--alas, she never wrote a word. She lies buried where the omnibuses now stop, opposite the Elephant and Castle. Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the cross-roads still lives. She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here tonight, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed. But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh. This opportunity, as I think, it is now coming within your power to give her. (…) I maintain that she would come if we worked for her, and that so to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worthwhile.”