Sitting on the coastline of the Aegean Sea, the Turkish city of Izmir is renowned for its arts and cultural celebrations and Greek and Roman history. It’s also home to the Kukla Gunleri — the city’s annual International Puppet Days festival.
“Every year, one of the major puppet festivals of the world, the International Puppet Festival, welcomes art enthusiasts, professional performance artists, the puppet show contest and several theatre companies from all around the world,” Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, a hotel management company with properties in Turkey, writes on its website.
That’s where Sarah Brown, associate professor in the University of Memphis‘ Department of Theatre & Dance, is spending time this winter leading a Mask Performance Workshop at the festival. Brown had previously directed and co-created a site-specific giant puppet show at the Izmir event a few years ago.
“Site-specific theatre,” Brown has written in a previous Izmir festival program, “can take place in any space, anywhere, outdoors or indoors: a hillside, an abandoned train station, an old house, a new house, an historical site or a gas factory; the possibilities are limitless. Site-specific theatre is set apart from traditional theatre not only because it does not have to take place in a traditional theatre space – but because it is created, in a way, by and because of the space itself; it is theatre inspired by the history, character or life of a certain place, giving a voice to it and further revealing its spirit. Sometimes it transforms the space into something it already suggests.”
Attendees of Brown’s workshop this winter in Izmir “will learn to let go of the control and let masks guide their creativity and play,” according to the event’s program. “She will show you how masks can unlock your comical spontaneity, intuitive creativity and story-telling abilities … Masks contain a mysterious life-force that is ignited by the wearer. It is impossible to put on a well-made mask and remain closed to its powers of transformation. Masks serve to hide who we are but they also reveal many new characters that lay dormant inside of us.”
(Above and at top of page: Images from this year’s festival in Izmir.)
Besides teaching at the U of M, Brown is an actor, published playwright, director, solo performer, songwriter and Fulbright scholar. She is a member of Actors’ Equity who has appeared in New York and regional theater, as well as in film and television.
— Phillip Tutor, CCFA media coordinator, email@example.com