“THE ARTIST HAS A DUTY AND A MISSION”

THE ARTIST HAS LEFT 15 YEARS BEHIND IN HIS CAREER. HE SAYS IN RETROSPECT THAT HE HAS ATTAINED HIS GOALS BUT THERE IS STILL DISTANCE FOR HIM TO COVER.

He first appeared as a bold and an idealist engineer in the TV series “The Bridge” in which the late Mr. Recep Yazıcıoğlu’ lifestory was told. Nowadays, he is starring a malevolent prosecutor in ATV’s popular series ‘Karadayı’. Who are we talking about? Of course, Yurdaer Okur…

Yurdaer Okur was born as the first child of the Okur Family in 1974… He attended different schools in different cities because his father was a health officer. After he graduated from Bafra Super High School, he entered Akdeniz University, Department of Tourism Management. Tourism was a rising sector at the time and Yurdaer Okur had gone to a city where everyone wished to study and live. However, he took a decision that surprised everyone and left school when he was in his junior year. He headed for Ankara to become an actor: “Instead of a career in tourism, I decided to do the job that I loved and would make me happy and therefore I took the necessary exams. When I succeeded in the exams, I informed my family of this as a fait accompli. My decision was indeed a huge challenge. It was a real challenge to life and a challenge in terms of my efforts to survive. As a matter of fact, many people, our elders, our beloved ones said, ‘son, come to your senses, don’t do that’. Eventually, when they realized that I would not change my mind, they respected my decision.” Well, why had he taken such a decision in the first place: “Indeed, I had had an interest in theatre since my high school years. After I started my education at Akdeniz University, I developed a very strong liking for poetry. With Nazım Hikmet, Edip Cansever, Ahmet Arif and others, I discovered a very different self in me. I began to derive a very different pleasure from life with poetry and literature. First, I read and then I began to share what I had read. We began to organize poetry sessions in Antalya. As a I began to take to the stage and get strong and favorable feedback and acclaim from people, that is as I began to enjoy my self on stage, I came to the conclusion that art was what I wanted to engage in.”

He left Antalya and came to Ankara. He passed the exams for The Ankara State Conservatory Department of Drama. Now, he had a totally new life. He was a disciplined, hard-working and agreeable student. At the boarding school, he engaged in drama even in the evenings. Drama was now the single most important reality of his life. He met the person who would change his life in this period. Genco Erkal, the doyen actor, watched the play in which he acted at his graduation. Okur says, “That day, I learned that he was preparing a new play. I applied for the auditions immediately and was admitted. We acted in the play ‘Barefooted Socrates’ together. Thus, my Istanbul story began in 1998…”

He was not on the permanent staff but he played the lead role
He took part in many successful productions at the Istanbul State Theatre although he was not on the permanent staff. This is not something frequently observed under the stage lighting: “I was not on the permanent staff yet. In the theatre circles, it was unusual for an actor not on the permanent staff to play the lead role. And a huge challenge at the same time… They had confidence in you and gave you the lead role… You have to be successful, very successful… You are under heavy pressure and stress… You go on to the stage and play your part without caring about that or betraying any emotions …Then come claps and congratulations… These are all a part of an actor’s destiny. The actor is always in a state of challenge and test. Each play and project is a test. You pass the tests one by one and each test is harder than the previous.”

The project that brought Yurdaer Okur widespread recognition among the masses was the TV series ‘The Bridge’. Adapted from famous author Ayşe Kulin’s novel, ‘The Bridge’ tells the life story and struggles of Recep Yazıcıoğlu, the late Governor of Erzincan. ‘The Bridge’ was well received. Playing a young and idealistic engineer in this series, which had the audiences glued to the screen, Okur began to win the hearts of audiences through his performance. “A significant portion of the actors and actresses in the series was not famous at the time. Yet, since the story and the message were powerful, people regarded as real heroes. We were all proud of being a part of that project…” says Okur.

Yurdaer Okur left 15 years behind in his career. In retrospect, he thinks has attained a significant portion of the goals he set for himself, but he is aware that he still has to cover a long distance and says: “We, actors and actresses, are very delighted by the huge interest the Turkish TV series has received abroad in recent years. This indicates that we are a step ahead of those countries. This pleases us a lot. However, we are also faced with a bitter reality; players of a series do not receive any payments from the showing of the series abroad. We face this adversity due to the current copyright laws. Yet, this has also indirect benefits for the players. For example, if a film or a series will be made to be shown abroad, you may be the first one that might come to their mind and get a part. This may help you go global. I feel as if something like this will happen…”

Okur offers a different profile from the players we have so far seen. He is an idealistic actor who believes that art is for people. You can infer this from his words below: “As an actor with the State Theatre, I believe that we have other missions as well. I think we must convey the fame and accumulation of experiences we have gained through TV series to the public. In the past, I taught drama courses to young people from Diyarbakır. While they learned from us, we also learned from them. There were people among them who later became doctors or teachers. Even today, they call us and say ‘we are now conveying to our students what we have learned from you’. This is a really different feeling. You take a step and then see that it is turning into an ever expanding circle.”

Okur, who believes that actors and actresses have to contact and constantly interact with people, says: “Doing something worthwhile for society is one of the greatest virtues for me. We are born, live and then leave this world. We must leave something behind. Art is like this… If you are able to change an individual’s life through a play you stage, a work you produce, a book you recommend or a film you have them watch, it means you have done something great. If you leave a permanent mark in their world that will guide their lives, if you make them believe that they will succeed, it means you have accomplished a lot. The more we integrate into society, the more benefits we generate for society. For example, when you set up a workshop and work one-to-one with people there, you change not only their professional careers but perhaps the course of their whole lives. For example, a young man who is afraid of making public speeches overcomes this fear through an education in theatre and gains self-confidence. He expresses the emotions emanating from his heart enthusiastically. In this way, the life of an individual changes thanks to a play or training. The change in his life triggers other processes just like a pebble thrown into the sea. Thus, you cause a change in the whole cosmos with one move. As I have said, we have a mission to contribute to this process …” 

A pleasurable journey in sleeping cars
“The Bridge” in which Erdal Beşikçioğlu played late Recep Yazıcıoğlu, left many indelible and fine memories in his mind: “The series was being shot in Eskişehir. I was living in Istanbul. So, I had pleasant journeys in sleeping cars. It was a great luxury to relax and then go to the series set or Istanbul. Moreover, I met many important and valuable people in dining cars and had pleasant conversations. Fine memories of those days still linger in my mind and, when look back, I experienced things that still make me happy today…”

“I accepted the part of “malevolent prosecutor” to be different”
Okur, made a transition from the well-intentioned and brave engineer in the series ‘The Bridge’ to an ill-hearted prosecutor. Although this move has surprised his fans, he seems to be quite happy with his preference: “The more flexible and strong your nature is, the better you can play a character. As a player the biggest danger comes from playing the same kind of characters and types. If people like you due to a certain character you play and you begin to enjoy the situation, then this means the process of your decline begins because your chances of further developing your talents and staging challenges come to an end automatically.”

He will bring Cahit Sıtkı to life
“I have a project. There is a house belonging to Cahit Sıtkı Tarancı in Diyarbakır. And there, a long while ago, I had brought together 100 of Cahit Sıtkı’s poems and made them into a one-man play. Now, I am thinking of presenting a more comprehensive performance. Our culture house is affiliated with the Provincial Directorate of Culture. I wish to make a deal with the Directorate and stage plays there in favorable weather.”

Okur in five words
Yurdaer Okur describes himself with the following words: Calm, level-headed, brave, determined and sensitive. 

He directs a play at Diyarbakır State Theatre
In addition to his involvement in TV series, Yurdaer Okur is directing a play by Murathan Mungan called “Taziye (The Condolence)” at The Diyarbakır State Theatre this season. Okur makes the following remark about the play, in which requiems in Kurdish will also be voiced: “The Condolence tells the story of two people who challenge the traditions with their love.” He points out that the play, which Mungan wrote 31 years ago, reflects all the magic of Mesopotamia.