Women of New York

Phew… What a season!
It all started with LPAC’s production of Privatopia by Maria Efstathiadi, where I got to portray a larger than life board member of a gated community, scared of a strange cat and all the other strangers around.
Right after our successful run of 8 shows in two weeks, I was ready for the auditions of Women of New York. A new play that I had written throughout my summer in New York, hanging around the Upper West Side, New York Public Library and Caffe Vivaldi with my straw hat and old laptop.

That laptop went through so many projects, presentations, plays… he’s a proud veteran.
Women of NY_Poster
Design: Emir Gamsizoglu

Women of New York was an ambitious project, with nearly 20 characters, a funky mix of actors and non-actor New Yorkers with diverse ages and backgrounds. That has been one of the key factors in our shows with 4thU-Vday through the years. Now we are 4th U Artivists, carrying the same mission; creating and producing artistic projects/events to raise awareness and funds to stop violence against women and girls. Women of New York was written with the same mission to be premiered by 4th U Artivists. Proceeds benefited three amazing non profits working for women in need; Her Justice (Provides free legal advice for women in need), Restore NYC (Provides services for the victims of sex trafficking) and V-Day (A global movement founded by Eve Ensler the author of The Vagina Monologues).
Feb7_4_FotorOff we started the rehearsal process right before Christmas, most of the early rehearsals were for the monologues, and scenes. Meeting the new cast members one by one and sharing stories, talking about beats, and doing exercises from Spolin and my teacher George Morrison was a real joy as a director and the writer of the play.
IMG_3013Many characters gained their real voices through honest discoveries of the actors playing them. We had several rehearsals in our organizer Deb Roth’s living
room, sipping some hot tea in the breezy cold New York winter. As a theater artist I learned one more time how important it is to open yourself up to your partner and your director. Being vulnerable is the sign of a good actor and theater maker. Our conversations with Tammy (A transgender comedian who performed a part that I had written thinking of her (-Yes, you should totally check her out!), and the rehearsals of mother-daughter scenes with Lynn, Elizabeth, Mary Anne and Shena, as well as our rehearsal with wonderfully talented Niesha who was playing a young woman from Bronx frustrated by the effects of social media and how “real life is not real anymore” were among the gatherings that opened many doors for me.
By the end of February all the small pieces of our puzzle were almost ready to find their places in the big picture. As an actor, I am used to embellishing the piece that I have and, as a director your job is not only guiding the small pieces but also (and more so) creating the whole puzzle.…The colors, and overall shape in which the smaller shapes can find their places and fit in. So there I was in the middle of splashes of colors waiting to find harmony. Those were our ensemble rehearsals where the whole cast got together to rehearse, the group scenes, transitions, entrances, exits, floor plans, sound effects, and lastly music…

Click to enlarge the photos in these collages.

Luckily my favorite jazz musicians in town both happily accepted to be a part of the show, donating their time and talent for the cause. Having Stephanie Layton and John Lander performing some old timey New York tunes from Gershwin and Ellington added another layer to the show, which made the big picture complete for me.
Before we knew it, it was March 11 ; opening night! Viola Spolin’s warm up games and my beloved teacher Lester Shane’s voice warm up set were there with us as we gathered in a circle with the cast. It was my first time coaching Spolin games with a wig on my head and a heavy make up on my face as the “Homeless Woman”. I cannot wait to check out the footage we took from that warm up 🙂
Women of New York had two successful performances in the beautiful Fourth Universalist Society on Central Park West. Several audience members asked me after the show “What is next for the play?”. Hey! We are New Yorkers after all, it’s all about the next step!! Of course I took this question as a compliment. They had enjoyed the show and wanted to see it have a longer run, and maybe share it with their friends. Hopefully that can happen in the near future… New Yorkers asked me how come I knew what New York women go through so well, and how the characters can be so different from each other. My answer is simple; the women of New York! Especially the diverse group of women I got to meet and work with through our “artivist” group over the last 7 years made me aware of women’s issues both current and past. When it was my first time co-directing The Vagina Monologues with 40 women in the cast in 2011, I was terrified. My fear became awe as we moved on to create a terrific show together with so much joy and kindness. Now I say, bring the women on!

Click to enlarge the photos in these collages.

I am impressed by my cast who followed this long journey, and were so attentive on stage and off stage, my crew who was organized, peaceful, supportive and happy, our A-Team; the volunteers, supporters everyone who were happy to support our cause and my fellow artivists Deb, Lynn, Mary Anne, Zafreen, Pangia, Matt, Erin along with my stage managers Aydin, and Cihangir who were there to lift me up when I fell down. And of course my partner in crime, Emir who so relentlessly worked on every detail of the project starting with graphics, and production.
The world premiere of Women of New York featured these talented people;
Lynn Bourbeau, Mary Anne Holliday, Shena Gryffudd, Elizabeth Raia, Maria Severny, Pangia Macri, Tammy Twotone, Niesha Brown, Derya Celikkol, Lisa Curry, Yi Liu, Luisa Alarcon, Amelia Zuver, Deborah Roth, Rebecca Geneve, Joanie Watkins, Ege Maltepe, Antonio Truyols, Zachary Nading, Nick Velkov. Musicians: Stephanie Layton, John Lander.
And lastly, we are still accepting donations!!
Go ahead and click the NY Charities link and all the way on the bottom, you will see a box to donate whichever amount you wish to contribute. I thank you for your contribution on behalf of our beneficiaries and the women who receive services from them.
DONATION PAGE: http://www.nycharities.org/Events/EventLevels.aspx?ETID=8759
Photo credit: Andrei Severny and Luisa Alarcon

GENIUS #CHOPIN – A Theatrical Concert

CLASSICALFOR ALL_Logo1clrFor “Classical for All” ; February and March are the months to celebrate Frederic Chopin’s birthday! On February 21st, we are putting our project GENIUS #CHOPIN on its feet with a great cast of players! It is a theatrical concert created by Emir and I, focused on the timelessness of Chopin’s music.
You can join us by purchasing your tickets here : www.geniuschopin.eventbrite.com
And here’s a little reading from “Classical for All” ;

“I do not climb so high. A long time ago I decided that my universe will be the soul and the heart of man. It is there that I look for nuances of every feeling which I transfer to music as well as I can.” – Frederic CHOPIN

“Hats off gentlemen! A new genius!” shouted a young music enthusiast in Leipzig. He had the score of a new piece by Frederic Chopin in his hand. He sat down at the piano and started to play the piece while everyone, including composer Robert Schumann, in Caffebaum listened to him silently.
chopinsick1In his short life, often interrupted by his poor health,Frédéric Chopin composed more than 200 pieces for piano. When we consider all the other highly acclaimed classical composers of his time, composing only for the piano could be something that many people would look down to. However, whenever someone played his music, or let’s put it this way; whenever Chopin started to talk, he made his case. His sincere, open-hearted, sentimental and yet solemn melodies spoke to the listener, directly about beauty. This chat continues for centuries between Frederic and us.

However Chopin is no hero, and his life was no fairytale. He spent most of his life complaining about loneliness, away from his country, in places that he could barely speak the language. His humorous character grew grumpier and grumpier as his body weakened through the years. He wasn’t good looking, wasn’t rich, he didn’t own any property, didn’t have any children. He was nowhere close to being “the boy next door”. He could easily be forgotten in the history of humankind. He had only one thing; his music. During the war between Russia and Poland, he was away from home, in constant worry and grief.

“And I here unoccupied! And I am here with empty hands! Sometimes I only groan, suffer and despair at the piano! ”

He wrote to his journal. Is it only his talent that made him a genius, or his endurance and ability to hold on to something meaningful to him?
The genius of Frederic Chopin is our foundation, our corner stone in this theatrical concert. While following his life story with its successes, longings, hesitations, loves and losses, we are witnessing the lives of others from different times and places around the world. Some of the characters have gifts to be discovered, to be fought for, and some of them are waiting for an inspiration to take the first step. With his music, Frédéric Chopin will be there for them to give inspiration, strength and sometimes challenge.

GENIUS #CHOPIN is a Theatrical Concert about the genius of the celebrated composer and the genius within us, with six scenes in six different times & places with 13 characters telling the story of one composer.
Concept by Classical for All
Music: Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)
Pianist: Emir Gamsızoğlu
A Play by Ege Maltepe
CAST: Thomas Lester , Rüya Koman , Steven Hitt , Cihangir Duman , Valentina Giovannini, Ege Maltepe
FEBRUARY 21st, 2016 – 4:00pm 
Greenwich House Music School – Renee Weiler Concert Hall
46 Barrow Street, New York NY 10014
TICKETS: http://www.geniuschopin.eventbrite.com


Op.53 – Polonaise in A Flat Major, “Heroic”
Op.64, No.2 – Waltz in C Sharp Minor
Op.66 – Fantasie Impromptu
Op.7, No.3 – Mazurka No.7 in F Minor
Op.10, No.12 – Etude No.12 in C Minor, “Revolutionary”
Op.10, No.5 – Etude in G Flat Major, “Black Keys”
PARIS 1840
Op.28, No.15 – Prelude in D Flat Major, “Raindrop”
Op.23 – Ballade No.1
Op.68, No.4 – Mazurka No.49 in F Minor, , “Last composition”
Nocturne No.8, Op.27, No.2

My Fall of Theater

Privatopia in rehearsal!

The season started in full swing; First with music through our Classical for All concert series in Greenwich Village, then PRIVATOPIA ; a new play I’m taking part in as an actor! This was a chance to go back to one of my artistic homes; LaGuardia Performing Arts Center where I have premiered one of my first plays; “TEA for 3” back in 2012.

By the acclaimed writer Maria Efstathiadi, Privatopia is a multi-layered text about the increasing fear of “otherness” and the obsession of exclusivity in modern societies. After being shaken by the horrific news about the refugees fleeing from war in Syria, I think there can’t be a better time for the world premiere of this play. 

From the very first reading I was startled by the discussions among the board members of the “gated community”. 

“Everyone is talking about alternative lifestyles, we turned it into reality”

I’m playing one of the privileged characters living in this secure, gated community, where everything is in private hands, the food is organic, and the doors are sprayed with cyclonytode to prevent outsiders from entering. And yet, a strange cat was able to get in and even give birth to six kittens! 

Gated Community of Privatopia
Gated Community / Privatopia in rehearsal

While the board members are discussing this critical issue of what to do with this CAT, on the other side of the wall refugees are sharing their stories with the audience. The stories that most of us only hear from newspapers.

To me, Privatopia is an absurd, funny and poetic “clownery” opening a window into our own fears. I find fear to be a very distinct feeling that everyone in our modern world of comfort and technology is constantly promoting to sell us stuff like insurance, drugs, and even wars. 

What are you afraid of?

Come see* Privatopia at LPAC and let me know what you think after the show!


Thu Nov 5, 2015 | 8:00P
Fri Nov 6, 2015 | 8:00PM
Sat Nov 7, 2015 | 8:00PM
Sun Nov 8, 2015 | 3:00PM
Wed Nov 11, 2015 | 2:30PM
Thu Nov 12, 2015 | 8:00PM
Fri Nov 13, 2015 | 8:00PM
Sat Nov 14, 2015 | 8:00PM

*LPAC is offering $8 tickets for the friends of the cast . So, if you want to come, fill the CONTACT form on the website and I can put your name on my list. Then all you’ll need to do is to mention that you’re on Ege’s discount group list at the box office. And wink 🙂

Click HERE for ​more info.
​How to get there: http://www.lpac.nyc/directions

My interview with Eve Ensler & listening to Women's Voices

Vagina Monologues_dvdWhen I heard about the auditions for The Vagina Monologues that would be produced in my Upper West Side neighborhood, I thought, “How convenient!”  Then I learned that one monologue was about a Bosnian woman who was raped during the civil war. In my little actress mind, I thought I’m a great “cast” for that part. This was in 2010. I hadn’t read the play or seen it but I was already judging it by its name. Just like many others, I was thinking how irrelevant it is to be talking about our vaginas.
During the audition, there was a group of women, explaining that this is more than theater, or acting, this project is about raising awareness about violence against women and girls while raising money for groups which serve survivors. Then the leaders started talking about making cupcakes and selling raffle tickets… I was lost. I didn’t know how to make cupcakes! I Ege-Eve_2011still don’t, but now I know a thing or two about raising awareness and money for women’s issues.
I met Eve during my second year working with 4thU V-Day. By then, I had witnessed the strength of her work and the power of community theater. But still I was expecting to see a self-centered person, considering that she is a global heroine. On the contrary she was normal–a nice, direct and encouraging person and yes, of course, a global heroine. “What a smart woman!” I remember thinking. 

Bu yıl yönettiğim prodüksiyon 'Kadınların Sesleri'
March 27 &28 th at 160 CPW

Here I am, in my sixth year working as an “artivist” with 4thU V-Day of the Upper West Side of New York. I co-directed The Vagina Monologues for three years in a row and performed several different parts as an actress.  
This year for our 2015 production I am curating/directing a compilation of different female playwrights’ works titled “Women’s Voices” * , which will open at the end of this month. This will be the opening act on another evening of fundraising and consciousness expanding embodied in Eve Ensler’s musical, “Emotional Creature.” (For details & tickets: http://www.4thu.org/v-day-2015/ )
This year, the growing number of victims of violence in my home country, Turkey, highly alarmed me. I wanted to do more to combat this trend. By now I was becoming familiar with turning to Eve for guidance so I went to interview her. The resulting conversation was inspiring and appeared in one of the biggest newspapers in Turkey (Click to read the interview in Turkish). Here I would like to share some of this inspiration from Eve’s vision that created V-Day and One Billion Rising, with her own words.
I am personally fascinated by the idea of doing something positive to create the change that you want, instead of solely complaining about things. I asked Eve what she thinks about the power of arts in creating social change. Here’s what she said;

“Art allows us to get out of the duality that keeps us separated. Brings us to a whole new level of consciousness where we connect with our hearts in our spirits. Dancing allows women to release their trauma and claim public space. I think when we move our bodies it creates an energy that shifts consciousness. And I think drumming is so powerful, symbolizes the rhythm of revolution, it’s the heart beat of life; it connects us all.”

Eve Ensler - photo by B Lacombe
Eve Ensler – photo by B Lacombe

Many people may think that violence is such an overwhelming problem. “What difference would it make if I create something in my little world?” I wondered what would be Eve’s answer to those questions.

“Any individual who does shift consciousness and stands up against oppression, changes the world. And I think we have to really believe that we are that powerful and what we do is that important. This capitalist bubble, this patriarchal structure that we are under makes us believe that we don’t matter, our beliefs and actions don’t matter but I actually think the opposite is true. When you do anything, whether it’s in your home, your village, church, synagog, or in our place of work, it begins to shift consciousness. And we saw that. First year there were men who rose with us, the next year there were many men, this year there are a lot of men. That’s change. And I think it begins with one person, it begins with you.”

V-Day’s spotlight campaigns for the last 17 years were all around the world; Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan, New Orleans, Haiti… And Eve has been traveling the globe to coordinate and connect those communities of resistance, strength and hope. Based on her vast experience, I wondered if she was able to see a pattern that invites violence against women.

“As long as patriarchy is the basis of human existence and consciousness, violence will always be used to sustain it. It’s the methodology that sustains patriarchy.”

Violence has many faces, sometimes it’s physical, sometimes verbal and sometimes it’s behavioral and very subtle. We face it everywhere. In some cultures we get used to it which, I think leads to the worst consequences–raising the new generations who finds violence against women “normal”. I am devastated whenever I see a new product that prevents a woman from getting raped such as Undercover Colors, Anti-Molestation Jacket, Anti-Rape buckles and bras ( http://www.oddee.com/item_98705.aspx ). We are living in an age that everything is a finger tap away but we still need to buckle to prevent ourselves from being raped??As much as I do not want to believe it, these are real life stories that keeps happening all around the world. So what do we do?

“What we have to do is to keep reconstructing patriarchy. That means, giving boys and men a chance to re-perceive masculinity and manhood, women standing for their rights and speaking up the truth, breaking the silence, and all of us rising to say that there is another way of behaving on this earth which isn’t about domination and occupation and violation.”

I believe there certainly is another way to share this world without trying to dominate, occupy or violate. To me this is not just feminism, this is about humanism.

*“Women’s Voices” curated & directed by Ege Maltepe

Featuring plays & playwrights;
“Infestation” by Mia McCullough
“Life Refused” by Maia Brami“Continental Us” by Brenda K. White
“Natural Novice” by Siobhan O’Loughlin“Yes I Touch Myself” by Poppy Liu 
“TITS by Prof G” by Ege Maltepe
“A Change of Heart, So To Speak” by Kitty Chen
“To The Woman Who Screamed at Her Child” by Sarah Diamond Burroway
“Ultimate Girls Getaway” by Hillary King 
* Special thanks to Eve Ensler, V-Day team, the team of 4thU V-Day, and Milliyet Newspaper.

Ensler & 4thU VDay before opening night of Vagina Monologues - 2011 Photo: www.jlaphotography.com
Ensler & 4thU VDay before opening night of Vagina Monologues – 2011 Photo: www.jlaphotography.com