Written by Sinan Ünel

What does it mean to be Turkish and how did modern Turkey come in to being?

From the final days of the Ottoman Empire, this epic play charts the political and cultural changes which have created modern Turkey. Pera Palas, the name of a famous old international hotel in Istanbul, focuses on three defining moments of Turkish social, cultural, and political history: 1918-1924, the end of World War I to the birth of the Republic; 1952-1953, the height of American influence; and 1994 when an Islamic revival challenged seventy years of official secularism.

Through three relationships the play explores the broadening scope of what is considered an acceptable relationship in Turkey, particularly the emancipation of women, the acceptance of homosexuality and the evolving relationship between Turks and Westerners.

Written by Sinan Ünel

The Women behind Pera Palas
Pre-performance discussion
Saturday 23 June 2007, 6-7.30pm

Join playwright Sinan Unel and Professor Reina Lewis to discuss the women behind Pera Palas. The two first met in 2000 when Reina, realising that the British traveller Grace Ellison was the inspiration behind the play’s central character Evelyn, decided she had to find Sinan. With the revival of Pera Palas in London coinciding with the reissue of Ellison’s 1915 travelogue An Englishwoman in a Turkish Harem, the Arcola Theatre re-unites these two colleagues and friends for a very special pre-show discussion on Saturday 23rd June, 2007.

The event offers a unique opportunity to discover the history behind the play, to learn about the women and men who lived through the tumultuous changes that brought about modern Turkey, and to explore contemporary gender and sexual politics both in Turkey and internationally. The pre-show discussion starts at 6pm, with time for refreshment in the café/bar before the performance at 8pm.

Grace Ellison’s An Englishwoman in a Turkish Harem (1915) is re-published by Gorgias Press with a new introduction by Reina Lewis and Teresa Heffernan. For a full list of the Cultures in Dialogue series of women travel writers see 4.aspx Reina Lewis is Artscom Centenary Professor of Fashion Studies, London College of Fashion.

Sinan Unel lives and works in the US, as a playwriting fellow at Huntington Theatre in Boston and teaches at Emerson College, Boston.  His plays have been produced all over the world, including The Lark Theatre Company (New York), The Gate Theatre (London), Landestheater (Tübingen, Germany), Theater Kosmos (Bregenz, Austria).  His new play The Cry of the Freed will premiere next Season.

“a piece of virtuoso construction, (Pera Pelas)…shows how time changes things and doesn’t…Ünel knows exactly where the flash points are when cultures clash, and he understands the springs of motivation, the agression and insecurity that turn emigration, internal or external, from personal liberation into a political act.” – The Times

“Hugely ambitious . . . (Pera Palas) pulses with passion and questing intelligence.” – NY Times