CULTURE

Theater gains new playwright

The new playwright Antonis Nikolis from Kos is a relatively recent discovery, heard of just a few months ago because acclaimed actor/director Stamatis Fasoulis announced he would be staging his play «To Spiti Fevgei» (The House Departs) at the Dimitris Horn Theater. The latter had also appeared previously in another of Nikolis’s plays, «Mr Emmanuel» and «Roidis» in the Monologue series of the Cultural Olympiad, during which he was nominated for the playwrights award of the Union of Theater Critics. The son of a Kos doctor, Nikolis left his island only to study. He started at the Ioannina University School of Medicine and graduated from the Philosophy School of Athens. He lives on Kos permanently, surrounded by his parents and brothers «and the aura they emit, like a shield,» he says. His first play, «Roidis» met with widespread acclaim, but Nikolis has been taught to feel uncomfortable when he is praised. «I feel the need not to appreciate myself too much,» he admits. Writing plays was something that came about rather surprisingly. «I had tried many different things, but no theater, and achieved very little. I felt so bad that for a while I just threw myself into my work. I worked up to 80 hours a week at the frontistirion (private tuition school)… In 1994, we staged an amateur production and then another of my own writing – I also played in it. That was when I realized that I could express things through theater. And I began to write.» «The House Departs» and «Roidis» are only his two most recent plays. Nikolis has written another five. «As soon as the bulbs in my garden begin to flower in the spring, a play comes to me. I finish it by the middle of summer,» says the writer. This was also the case with his most recent play, though Fasoulis has told the playwright that he ought to start writing in the fall as well. «I feel complete awe for Fasoulis,» says Nikolis. «I am certain that he is not an intellectual artist. He is a sensitive, emotional man, whose talent and power can be seen through his acting.» When Nikolis came to Athens and spent his weekends watching as many as four plays, he never imagined that he would soon be writing plays himself. When he did start writing, he would show his plays to actors and directors and ask them to give him their comments. Some were interested, but his real recognition came with Fasoulis. «Fasoulis uses the stage to cure. He heals that uncertain feeling – predominant in our times  – over male identity. A man who is initially weak but who succeeds, eventually and through a lot of effort, in standing on his own two feet. This is an issue which is rarely discussed despite the fact that it is so prevalent. It is an issue which seems to run through all of Fasoulis’s work and one which has preoccupied me a lot as well. The role of Andreas in ‘The House’ also addresses this. Fasoulis soothes this anxiety in both men and women.» His first meeting with Fasoulis happened on New Year’s Day in 2001 when Nikolis went to the actor’s dressing room and showed him two of his plays. He called him six months later. Fasoulis had lost one of the two texts yet they spoke for over an hour and half about Nikolis’s work. Several months went by and in January 2002, Fasoulis started calling all the time with questions. «I will write a play just for you,» said Nikolis, and when the bulbs in his garden started sprouting, he put pen to paper and began «The House Departs.» «I would send every act I completed to him. His presence is very intense throughout the play. He directed me, taught me the dynamics of theater language. I learned so much from him that I feel I have to rewrite all of my previous plays,» admits Nikolis. A passage of time «The House Departs» relates the story of a middle-class couple (played by Fasoulis and Pemi Zouni) who are trying to make their fragile 20-year relationship work. A young woman from the former Soviet Union is found dead in their basement and they don’t know if she has been murdered or has committed suicide. Her boyfriend (Alexis Georgoulis), a man both vulgar and innocent, turns up – and turns their life upside down. «The play is about the passage of time,» says Fasoulis. «The three characters – one is well into his 50s, the wife is in her 40s and the younger man in his 30s – often talk about things which happened 20 years ago, in the 1980s, a pivotal time for Greece. «Back then they lived in the age of innocence. Now they are all adults in a land they don’t really recognize. One does not know how to grow up and become a man, the other cannot admit that she has a child old enough to be at university and the third sees old age looming ahead him. He loses his composure and starts altering the house, thinking that in that way he can change the world.»