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Renowned for his contemporary performances on Traditional Turkish Theater, Ayhan Hulagu has released his new book, ‘Shadow of Hamlet,’ in the United States. Bringing Shakespeare’s Hamlet to traditional arts for the first time in its 700-year history, Hulagu documented the entire play process in his book, including documents, director’s notes, photographs, and the rewritten script. While the book details how Hamlet was adapted into traditional theater, it also provides clues on how art can build bridges between Eastern and Western cultures.

US Karagoz Theatre Company, conducting studies on Anatolian performing arts in America, presented Shakespeare’s Hamlet in a different interpretation in 2019. The classic play was reinterpreted with the Turkish Shadow Theater form, listed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List. Just like in the traditional form, all characters are manipulated by a single performer using puppets made from cow or camel leather behind the curtain. The traditional play, where the audience does not see the manipulator throughout the show, tells the story of two friends who settled in America, establishing their own theaters, and performing Hamlet. After Ayhan Hulagu’s highly acclaimed performance, the play was once again staged in New York under his direction at Hamlet Isnt Dead theater. Subsequently, academic theses were written about it, referenced in books, and covered in the news. In his new book, Hulagu shares the entire process of the play in detail with the readers.

The book, resulting from a long-term working process, also includes articles by different authors. Prof. Dr. Metin And and Samet Altıntaş shed light on the historical process of shadow theater, drawing a portrait of the art form from past to present with their articles. While the dramaturgical notes of the play and which references were taken into account during its writing are explained, the script of the play, visuals of the designed puppets, posters, brochures, and the creation process are shared and presented as references. Additionally, Zehra Haliloğlu’s thesis, “Turkish Shakespeare in Shadows: Rewriting the Content and Medium with Dream of Hamlet,” written at Shanghai Theatre Academy on this project, is introduced to readers for the first time. The details of the process, artistic interpretation, reflections in the academic world, and interpretations between traditional and modern are also examined through extensive interviews with the artist.

Ayhan Hulagu

Ayhan Hulagu, who first brought Shakespeare together with traditional shadow theater and then shared the entire process with readers through the book ‘Shadow of Hamlet,’ says his main motivation is to leave a reference. Reminding that theater is not left for the future like cinema, the artist says, “I wanted to leave a note to those who will look back in the future and ask what kind of studies were done before. If it becomes an example for contemporary adaptations of traditional arts, inspiration for new productions, and a reference for those working in this field, I would consider my goal achieved. I believe it will open the door to different adaptations of Shakespeare.”

Stating that he is the bedside author of Shakespeare, Hulagu says it creates new dreams and inspires him. Making a statement about interpreting traditional theater in a contemporary language, he says, “As an actor, I love telling stories. Everything, including puppets, chairs, handkerchiefs, and canes, has a soul. Transforming them on stage and playing them as different characters feels very natural and sincere to me. Imagination is important… Great writers open the door to this imagination.”

Ayhan Hulagu, known for his cinema and theater works, is recognized as the first artist to bring traditional Turkish theater to Broadway and introduce it to the world. The artist, who previously wrote books such as ‘Shakespeare’s Cats’ and ‘Flying Fish,’ brought world classics such as Don Quixote, One Thousand and One Nights, and The Nose to the stage in his own style and was nominated for the best adaptation play of the year in America.

US Karagoz Theatre Company

Dream of Hamlet poster


Related Links

Shadow of Hamlet

Dream of Hamlet

Interview with Ayhan Hulagu









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