CULTURE

Versatile Mania Papadimitriou

Mania Papadimitriou is diminutive of figure, but the deep voice does not leave her much room for roles as an ingenue. One could place her among the dames if her adolescent presence did not remove her from this category. How would one define the actress? How would one classify her? «I’m a strange type,» she herself says, and her 20-year theatrical career confirms this. Tragedy, Aristophanic comedy (she has played Kinesias in «Lysistrata»), femmes fatales, ingenues, typecast roles, students and mature 40-year-olds, tragic and comic figures, even hermaphrodites: Papadimitriou’s resume includes all sorts. Rich, varied, unbeaten. Her fluidity allows her to test new things constantly, to evolve, to avoid labels. It liberates her, but it also ties her down as she is obliged «to show each time that I can play this role as well.» But this year is her year: winner of the award for best actress for her role in Katerina Evangelakou’s film «Think it Over,» praise for her part in the exceptional production of Brian Friel’s «Translations,» directed by Antonis Antypas at the Aplo Theatro. This has been a year with important roles and distinctions. Was it coincidence, or an achievement that comes with time? Most likely the latter. The pleasant coincidence is Brian Friel and Katerina Evangelakou. When Katerina chose me for her film, I was playing in another of Friel’s works, «Molly Sweeny»! Is an actor’s development a result of hard work, or does it come with time and life’s experiences? Both. You need to work in order to incorporate life’s experiences into the theater and turn this into action, theatrical action. On the other hand, there are actors who take some time out and then return. They also put this experience to use. Personally, I am always working, but not every season and not always in lead roles. I prefer to choose a support role with a director whom I respect or with the colleagues whom I want. The theater is collective work, and not the product of lead actors. When you grow up in the theater, do the anxieties also grow? A happy artist is the artist who is chosen by those he or she has chosen. If this doesn’t happen, then anything else is only comparatively fine. Of course, the situation today means that you should be pleased just to have a job. It is difficult, however, for my generation to think like this. Have you sacrificed anything in order to stay true to your choices? Some say that I have sacrificed things. But what might seem like a sacrifice to others was for me a conscious choice. With the way things are now, the only way to react is to rally around with the «strengths» that are found in your camp. You look for allies. You are an actress without a specific age, without a specific «identity.» I was never something specific. Maybe I’m a strange type. This was the problem from the beginning, but it also has its charms. In each role I play I feel that I should show that it can be done like this, that I can play it. This makes things difficult for me, but it can also make it easier for me to accept other people’s fluidity. It opens my mind. We should not categorize things into little boxes. Everything in the theater is a question of combinations. The theater is not a monologue. I see myself more among the strange things, such as Orlando, which I played, and Andromache as well. Is the heroine in Katerina Evangelakou’s «Think it Over» strange? She is strange because she never played life’s game. She gave up early on fighting for love, and so lost 20 years of her life. Now she is 40 years old, pregnant by a man much younger than her and doesn’t know what to do. The finale is of course optimistic. If the meaning of life is love then, yes, it can start over again. You studied at the Theatro Technis. What mark did Karolos Koun leave upon you, as a student at the school? First of all, I’d like him to see me now so that he could see that it was wrong that he never let me read for tragedy. I felt a little hard done by at the Theatro Technis, and that’s why I left. Koun was a strange character. He would inspire awe and wonder in me, yet also rage because he would categorize people. Of course, I knew him when he was already very old, but even then the stigma and identity which he left people with still followed them throughout their whole lives. All of us who graduated from the Theatro Technis have something in common: We focus more on what we call the mystical relationship with the theatrical work. We learned that what matters is to keep what you are doing alive and the relationship you have with your fellow actors. Friel’s «Translations» is a passionate defense of the rights of peoples to speak their mother tongues. What are your thoughts on the issues that are raised in the play? «Translations» is a play with 10 actors, although it really has 11 actors. The 11th is the language. It puts the audience into the position of deciphering the language. In England it’s played in English and Irish. Yet, in other countries, where it is performed in translation, the audience itself must fill in the «empty spaces.» There is a line in the play that I believe is very important: «It is not the actual events that shape us but the impression we have on them as they are shaped by language.» When a people is torn from its language, it is as though you are removing a large part of its history. If a society wants to preserve its traditions and history, then it must have a way of stating this demand. When you hear Leonidas Kyrkos talking about politics or Papavassiliou about the theater, then you are able to understand something which on your own you are not able to put into some order. Not just knowledge, but a narrative talent. To be able to find the right words. There is a difference between having information and being able to state it, to position it, to put things in the right order. To hear a language correctly means being able to communicate with precise meaning. To be able to speak nicely requires more than just talent; it is a mirror onto the soul. It provides relief to all those who hear it. Aplo Theatro, 4 Harilaou Trikoupi, tel 210.922.9605.