The origin of Turkish theatre dates back to pagan rituals of millennia ago. The dances, music and songs performed during the rituals of the inhabitants of Anatolia millennia ago are the elements from which the first shows originated. These rituals later became theatrical shows. In the 10th century, a blend of traditions occurred between the Seljuk Turks and those of the inhabitants of Anatolia. The interaction between the various tribal societies paved the way for new plays.
After the Tanzimat (Reformation) period, characters in Turkish theatre were modernized and plays were performed on European-style stages with the actors wearing European costumes. Following the declaration of the second Constitutional Monarchy in 1908, theatrical activities increased and social problems began to be reflected in the theatre as well as in historical plays. A theatrical conservatoire, Darülbedayi-i Osmani, was established in Istanbul in 1914. During the years of chaos and war, the Darülbedayi-i Osmani continued its activities and attracted the younger generation. Turkish playwrights emerged. Some wrote on romantic subjects, others were interested in social problems and still others dealt with nationalistic themes. There were even those who wrote musicals. In time, Turkish ladies began to appear on stage and this was indeed a revolution of the time, since female roles had only been played by actresses who were members of Turkey’s ethnic minorities. (from Turkish Cultural Foundation website)
Shadow Theater gained great popularity among the people and the Turkish puppeteers much improved the techniques they had inherited from others. The colorless and motionless presentations of the Egyptian shadow play gained much rich coloring and mobility in the Turkish form of the art.
Here is an example of shadow theater to help you practice your Turkish. This particular play is split into 3 parts, all of which are available on YouTube.
The Devlet Opera ve Balesi or State Opera and Ballet website links to all the state-run opera and ballet houses around Turkey. Learn more about the opera in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir by clicking on the interactive map.
Süreyya Opera House is an opera hall located in Kadıköy district of Istanbul, Turkey. The building is designed by architect Kegam Kavafyan by order of a Deputy for Istanbul Süreyya İlmen, it was originally established in 1927 as the first musical theatre on the Anatolian part of Istanbul. However, due to lack of appropriate facilities and equipment in the theatre, operettas were never staged. The venue was rather used as a movie theatre until the building underwent a functional restoration and reopened as an opera house by the end of 2007 (from Wikipedia).
Read about the state of Turkish Theater in the last Twenty years here
The Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism offers wonderful information about the different forms of theatrical presentations in Turkey, covering traditional theater and folk theater.
The Turkish Cultural Foundation also offers information on traditional theater, shadow theater, folk plays, and modern theater.
Turkish State Theaters are spread otu throughout the country. The state theater website offers links to festivals, individual theater repetoires, genral programs, foreign tours, and other projects.