Traditional Turkish Theatre - Handcrafted Puppets

Puppet, meddah, Karagöz, ortaoyunu, köy seyirlik oyunu (village theater) are the vocal performance theater art categories that can be counted under the main title of traditional Turkish theater. The common trait of the urban and rural traditional Turkish theater is that the performance is not based on a written text but on improvised singing, dancing and word games. With comedy as its main element, Turkish theater has always been a part of social events such as holidays, weddings, circumcision feasts, etc rather than having a regular presentation. Karagöz and ortaoyunu which make the most important products of the Turkish folk theater has been widely popular in the urban areas. Ortaoyunu has had its golden era in the late 19th and early 20th centuries however had to compete with the western theater embraced after the Tanzimat era and finally became a lost art like many other traditions after the Turkish Republic was founded.

The history of puppetry can be traced back to the Central Asia and Mesopotamia and later to the Anatolian region into the Ottoman Empire where it improved to its highest point. It is mainly a game of movement and volume with stories based on daily life and literary works. Puppets that are made of wood, plaster, carton or fabrics and moved by hand of with rope and strings have an important history within the Turkish shadow theater (gölge oyunu). The Turkish word for puppet which is “kukla” comes from Greek meaning “doll”. It is also known as karaçör, korkolçak, korçak, kudurcuk, kaburcuk, koğurcak, kaurcak, lubet ve çömce gelin in different parts of Anatolia. Puppetry has had its golden era in the 17th century during the Ottoman Empire with its different genres such as hand puppets, string puppets, stick puppets, car puppets, floor puppets, feet puppets, chair puppets, etc. however has never been as widely known as meddahlık or Karagöz. Although not as popular at it used to be, puppetry is still an ongoing tradition.