Protecting Memories for the Future: The Necessity of Establishing a Theatre ArchiveTuğçe Gözde Pelister
The attempt is made within the context of today’s theoretical studies to understand history through different perspectives using memory studies. Meanwhile, theatre inherently carries the journey of humanity from past to present by means of performance. In this regard, theatre plays are said to be the unofficial documents of history. Archives are the stores of collective memory and also the places where the things that are worth remembering are transferred from the past to present. Western culture has a very rooted archival tradition. Keeping records of social and political events is helpful in understanding the past. Turkiye also has a strong archival tradition with roots in the Ottoman Empire. Although Turkish theatre has an archival nature, to say that a modern archive nature is present which answers not only the needs of theatre companies themselves but also the needs of researchers is unfortunately difficult these days where the number of independent theatre companies is increasing. Protecting the collective memory and legacy of theatre in this digital world is obviously very important. The aim of this article is to present how important establishing archives is for protecting the Turkish theatre’s legacy in terms of the relationships among history, memories, and archives, and this is done using the example of the American Theatre Archive Project (ATAP) that was started in the United States in 2009.
Gelecek İçin Belleği Korumak: Tiyatro Arşivi Oluşturma GerekliliğiTuğçe Gözde Pelister
Günümüz kuramsal çalışmaları kapsamında tarih, bellek çalışmalarıyla farklı açılardan anlaşılmaya çalışılmaktadır. Tiyatro ise doğası gereği insanın geçmişten günümüze olan yolculuğunu performans dolayımıyla sahneye taşımaktadır. Bu bağlamda tiyatro oyunlarının, tarihin resmi olmayan belgeleri olarak korunması önemlidir. Tarihin en önemli kaynağı bellektir. Arşivler ise tarihsel belgelerle kolektif belleğin depolarıdır. Arşivler hatırlanmaya değer şeylerin geçmişten bugüne ardından da geleceğe taşındığı mekanlardır. Özellikle batı kültürü köklü bir arşiv geleneğine sahiptir. Toplumsal ve politik olayların kayıtlarının tutulması geçmişi anlayıp bugünü anlamlandırmaya yardımcı olmaktadır. Türkiye’de devlet arşivi, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu dönemine uzanan güçlü bir geleneğe sahiptir. Türk tiyatrosunun ise, depolama alışkanlığına sahip olsa da özellikle bağımsız tiyatroların sayılarının arttığı günümüzde, gerek tiyatroların gerekse araştırmacıların taleplerini karşılayacak çağa uygun bir arşivleme alışkanlığına sahip olduğu maalesef söylenemez. Bu bağlamda tiyatroların sahnelediği oyunlar ve tecrübeleriyle toplumsal arşivler oldukları söylenebilir. Toplumsal bellek ve tiyatro belleğini korumanın dijital çağda daha da önemli hale geldiği açıktır. Bu makalenin amacı, tarih, bellek ve arşiv ilişkisi bağlamında 2009 yılında Birleşik Devletler’de başlayan Amerikan Tiyatrosu Arşiv Projesi (ATAP) örneği üzerinden Türk tiyatrosunun belleğini korumak için tiyatroların arşiv oluşturmalarının önemini ortaya koymayı amaçlamaktadır.
History, memory, and theatre are three different disciplines that have been studied through one another over the last century and especially in recent years. Scholars’ valuable aims at understanding history through collective memory have opened new ways of thinking about humanity and societies. Understanding history through memory is not just a vain effort. On the contrary, seeing how humanity’s past is composed of the cultural values and conditions of the era we live in is very inspiring. By means of studies about memory, The things we remember in our personal and collective lives are understood to be very fragile and also very easy to reshape. For most people, the past and memories of it are very important for the present day. This is very normal and acceptable because the things that make humans who we are are our memories. As humans, we keep journals, take pictures, and record ours and our loved ones’ voices in our personal lives. Personal memories intervene with collective memories, which are embedded in history. We remember them as long as we continue to recall them.
Archives involve the things worth remembering nationally and personally. National archives are based on historical documents, while personal archives consist of video records, photos albums, and the testimonies of those close to our own history. Institutional archives are affiliated with some kind of authority. This authority decides which documents go in and get archived and which do not. As such, the presumption can easily be made that this authority is based on politics. National archives are also used for cultural and political consolidation as a source of traditions and social values. Theorists also interrelate archives with human communications. These communications occur between the past and the future. Unlike non-verbal actions and rituals, physically durable documents and objects can establish stronger bonds between different times. Archives also protect a society’s social and historical legacy.
As a performative art, theatre is similar to a ritual. However, theatre also involves very strong verbal communication. This communication takes its source from society and, as a natural consequence, from history. After all, theatre uses these sources again to communicate with society. Theatre is a collective act that is shared and felt together with the audience. No matter how big or small, theatre companies are groups that have their own history and memory. As such, they need to establish and keep archives to protect their own legacy. In theatres, Not only are real historical plays staged in theatres, history itself is also place on the stage. When one thinks about the past as history itself, stage where the past is borne into the future.
Turkiye has a strong archive tradition with roots in the Ottoman Empire. Theatres also have archival practices, but these days, having a well-designed and sustainable archive is very essential in order to be able to protect the legacy of Turkish theatre.
The aim of this article is to think about the relationships that history, memories, and archives have with one another in terms of the need to establish an archive for future generations. Studying the theoretical approaches regarding these three facets will help in understanding the connection between authentic archival memory and archives as an ingenuine memory. With support from the American Society for Theatre Research, the American Theatre Archive Project (ATAP) was started in Austin, Texas in 2009, and looking at this case can shed light on the deficiencies in the Turkish theatre’s archival tradition. ATAP is a very active society all around the United States. With their website, they are able to help theatre companies outside the United States as well. Their site also has a free manual for theatre companies who want to get ideas about establishing an archive. ATAP works with theatre students, graduate students, scholars, and retired stuff. They have also had hard times finding grants and donations. Money is a big problem everywhere. However, looking at what ATAP has done up to the present can be very inspiring in terms of performing the same things to carry the past of the Turkish theatre to the future.