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Genco Erkal and the Dostlar Theatre Win the 22nd Vehbi Koç Award

To keep the values alive that Vehbi Koç, the founder of the Vehbi Koç Foundation, adopted as principles throughout his life, the winner of the Vehbi Koç Award, which is presented every year to encourage extraordinary people or institutions who have supported or developed our country in the fields of education, culture and health, has been chosen.

On behalf of the Vehbi Koç Board of Directors, The Selection Committee, chaired by Prof. Filiz Ali and composed of Prof. Dikmen Gürün, Ersen Gürsel, Prof. Ahu Antmen and Alin Taşçıyan, chose Genco Erkal and the Dostlar Theatre as winners of the 22nd Vehbi Koç Award among the nominations put forward. Genco Erkal received the award from Koç Holding Board of Directors Chairman, Ömer M. Koç in a ceremony held at the Divan Hotel in Kuruçeşme on May 4, 2023.

At the ceremony, Ömer M. Koç began his speech by reflecting on the February earthquakes and paying homage to the victims: “Coming together for this meaningful ceremony, organised three years after the pandemic, I would very much like to have been able to address you without sorrow. However, the pain of the dreadful earthquake disaster that we experienced in February is still very fresh. Once more, I wish for God’s mercy on those who lost their lives in this terrible event, give my condolences to their loved ones and wish a speedy recovery to the injured.’’

Ömer M. Koç announced the recipient of the award by saying, “It is with great pleasure and pride that we present the Vehbi Koç Award in such a meaningful year to a lover of our homeland who is considered a veteran in the field of culture and art, and to a highly valued art institution of which he is one of the founders. Our selection Committee found our esteemed theatre artist Genco Erkal and the Dostlar Theatre worthy of this year’s prize and I heartily congratulate them.” Ömer M. Koç continued, “Besides his 64-year artistic career which has delighted us all, Genco Erkal has been one of the staunch defenders and standard bearers of democracy, human rights and freedom of thought. He has never deviated from the truths he believed in. He has never compromised his socialist rhetoric. The Dostlar Theatre which Genco Erkal founded in 1969 together with Mehmet Akan, Şevket Altuğ, Atilla Alpöge, Ferit Erkal, Arif Erkin Güzelbeyoğlu and Nurten Tunç, who are like himself valued theatre actors, has become one of the exemplary artistic institutions in our country. The Dostlar Theatre, which will celebrate its 55th anniversary next year, has, in spite of all difficulties, kept its curtains open for more than half a century, preserved its critical approach to oppression and censorship and has succeeded in bringing together large sections of the public through the light of the theatre.”

For his part, in his speech at the ceremony, Genco Erkal said “Here today, such beautiful things have been said about me that I felt proud and all that remains is for me to say ‘Thank you’. Thanks also to the friends who praised me to the skies far more than I deserved in the film for the Award. I owe a big thank you to the members of the selection committee who recommended me for this Award. The biggest thanks go of course to the Vehbi Koç Foundation. I sincerely thank the Vehbi Koç Foundation for finding me worthy of this very valued and respected award.”

About Genco Erkal and Dostlar Theatre
Genko Erkal, who has been on the stage for 64 years, began his acting career with an amateur group called Young Actors. Dostlar Theatre of which he is a founder, will celebrate its 55th anniversary next year. Genco Erkal and Dostlar did not compromise their socialist discourse in theatre life and stood on their own feet without help from the state. Previously, it operated with a staff team and in the 1980 coup period it of necessity adopted the concept of a “Production Theatre”. Genco Erdal and Dostlar Theatre, who opened their curtains without interuption throughout, always maintained their critical stance. In 2023, audiences will be able to see Polish writer Ryszard Kapuscinski’s anti-fascist play The Emperor (The collapse of an autocrat).