Ayhan Hulagu’s acquaintance with traditional arts, and specifically Karagoz, started in high school years. He took part in school plays. His interest in Karagoz took a more professional turn when he went to university. He immersed himself in theatre, various forms of art and Karagoz at college years. His career since then evolved in that direction, steeped in many forms of art. He founded the theater group called Hayal Perdesi Oyuncuları in 2005 while continuing his education at Pamukkale University (PAU) in Turkey. He later launched the PAU Theatre Festival; an annual showcase performed by a group of teenagers and college students with a 12-year successful run.
After obtaining his college degree, he joined the Studio Players in Istanbul, an established theater group, to further advance his acting skills, and continued his career as a stage artist.
Hulagu developed an interest in shadow puppetry and started performing professionally soon after completing a course in shadow plays offered jointly by the Turkish Ministry of arts and culture and International Puppetry Association (UNIMA) in Istanbul, in 2011. After Karagoz, the traditional Anatolian shadow play character was included in UNESCO’s list.
Hulagu staged a number of shadow plays in various parts of Turkey. In 2015, he launched the Karagoz Trilogy, ‘Karagoz in the streets,’ ‘Karagoz on the Road, and ‘Karagoz Returns Home.’
Hulagu brought his artistic experience to the U.S. where he staged many plays across America. After a successful run of Karagoz plays, he established himself as a promising young artist, offering something authentic and traditional to the American audience with exhibited passion. His success and strong display of his commitment to advance this art form, new to the U.S. audience, allowed him to obtain the Extraordinary Ability Visa (Einstein), which is only granted to prominent and distinguished figures of great talent who established themselves in their respective fields either in science or art.
He found Karagoz Theatre Company in the U.S. in 2017. His shows debuted in Washington, D.C., and were played in Miami, Iowa City (Iowa), Virginia, Minnesota, Maryland and New York City. As part of his projects in the U.S, Hulagu organized workshops and exhibitions to win new fans and audiences for puppet play. He taught short courses and offered training on this traditional play, which has been added to the UNESCO’s list of Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Hulagu received invitations from a number of organizations to perform; Great Plains Puppet Train, National Puppet Festival, and La MaMa Puppet Festival, to name a few. He frequently receives such invitations from similar organizations in the U.S and Europe.
Hulagu made history as the first artist to introduce Karagoz character —in its nearly 700 years history– to Broadway.
He is a member of UNIMA USA.