By Iota Sykka
An inauguration as brilliant as that of the Acropolis Museum in June 2009 but at a cost more in keeping with the current economic climate is what the artistic director of the Piraeus Municipal Theater is hoping to achieve for its official opening.
With 10-minute video projections on the building’s facade, special lighting, music and tours, the aim of the grand opening is to tell the story of this historical building: from the start of its construction in the port city’s Korai Square in 1883 to the glorious inauguration that followed 11 years later, with Piraeus’s philharmonic orchestra playing classical music in the courtyard as the crowds arrived in richly ornamented carriages or on public buses that had only just made an appearance on Greek city streets.
“It is a celebration of the building,” artistic director Takis Tzamargias told Kathimerini ahead of the October 15 inauguration, without revealing too much about what the public can expect.
Tzamargias’s main concern, once the fanfare of the opening has died down, is “for the theater to become a part of the life of the residents of Piraeus and the broader area. These are the people we have to win over first; to show them that the theater is an integral part of their city and to bring them through its doors. We want to fill the building – from the auditorium to the foyer and the cafe – with the city’s young people.”
The October 15 inauguration will be attended by President Karolos Papoulias, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Piraeus Mayor Vassilis Michaloliakos.
Acclaimed choreographer Fokas Evangelinos will be supervising the main theme of the event, which will be a retrospective covering the theater’s history and some of its greatest moments. In the days following the opening, there will be special introductory tours, exhibitions and events staged for the public to get better acquainted with the theater. Concerts featuring popular Greek singers and some theatrical events by local groups are also on the cards, though details will be announced at a later date.
As much as a celebration is a good way to get the theater off the ground and back into operation, the management’s real concern is how it will survive afterward.
Tzamargias has already hired a very experienced technical director to supervise that side of things. Costas Haralambidis has worked with the Athens Concert Hall and the Greek Festival. He has also formed a group of volunteers to help out on a day-to-day basis, but the program he has in mind for the theater’s first few months of operation may not pan out as delays in its inauguration may mean that he will be unable to book the theater groups and actors he had hoped to. Another issue that is certain to create problems is that the Piraeus Municipal Theater is not independently managed and all decisions must go through the Culture Ministry.
“I would like to see the space used to host all the different trends in the art world in general,” explained Tzamargias. “And even though the architectural style of the building is baroque, we will make room for young groups as well.”
What has been booked is a run of Stathis Livathinos’s acclaimed “Iliad” at the end of October, which will also be performed for local middle and high schools on Wednesday. A performance by the Camerata Orchestra is also on the program, along with a Christmas production of Mozert’s “Magic Flute.”
Another production that Tzamargias hopes will come to fruition is “Ek Pireos,” a performance based on a book about the city by Dionysis Haritopoulos.
A director himself, Tzamargias does not plan to stage any of his own work at the Piraeus venue. During his career since the 1980s, Tzamargias has never opted for the glamorous part of theater, but has preferred to focus on his backstage role.
He was also born in Piraeus and has dedicated a large part of his life to teaching a diverse set of students, from inmates at the capital’s high-security Korydallos Prison to community and municipal theater groups, as well as private companies and state-run organizations.
“Theater in Greece has an identity; it is multifaceted and covers many different age groups and tastes,” Tzamargias told Kathimerini. “This is certainly a difficult time, but there are enough niches where artists can express themselves.”