A collector’s album of rare posters from the Epidaurus Festival

Journalist Vassilis Kavvathas is from Epidaurus and he has always felt that his hometown provided him with a secret energy. Epidaurus is, indeed, an important place: It gave birth to one of the greatest centers of worship and healing in the ancient world, as well as to the legendary amphitheater that is still one of the area’s landmarks and one of the country’s most fascinating sites. Kavvathas has been affected by this special energy from Epidaurus in many ways: He stated that during his long career in journalism, while he was covering major events in Greece and abroad, the one thing that remained unchanged for him was the truth in Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus that he was taught at the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus. «I came across it,» he said. Therefore, it was natural for Kavvathas to become involved with the posters for the Ancient Greek Drama Festival in Epidaurus and the performances of tragedy and comedy that are presented there every year. He has been collecting the festival’s posters for about 40 years, which is no small task. He usually has to detach them from walls where they have been subject to a lot of damage, either from the weather or from other posters that have been stuck over them. An exhibition of the posters in this valuable collection was recently held in the main square of the village of Palaia Epidavros and was followed with the publication a very interesting large 200-page edition, which contains many of the posters as well as re-compositions that the collector has carried out himself by gluing and drawing surviving bits of posters. The edition bears witness to a long-standing event, since the Epidaurus Festival celebrates its 50-year anniversary this year. The «Wall Paintings of Epidaurus» is published by Kaktos Publications. Its few texts, comprising mainly Kavvathas’s introduction in which he recounts his experiences and memories from Epidaurus and performances, as well as his efforts and intentions concerning his collection, are in both Greek and English. The edition includes general posters advertising the festival and posters from specific plays, mostly from the 1980s and 1990s. There is also much older material, such as posters from Maria Callas’s shows at Epidaurus in 1960 and 1961 and the National Theater production of «Hippolytus,» directed by Dimitris Rondiris and starring Alekos Alexandrakis, the show that opened the 1954 Epidaurus Festival. An even older poster, from the National Theater production of «Electra,» directed once more by Rondiris and starring Katina Paxinou in the title role and Eleni Papadaki as Clytemnestra, is also included. Finally, the edition also contains posters from the Musical July Festival, organized every summer at the Little Theater of Epidaurus, the small ancient theater situated in the village of Palaia Epidavros which has been restored and put in use in recent years. Maria Skoula, the book’s editor, was also the curator of the exhibition held at Palaia Epidavros. Kavvathas pointed out that his collection could form the basis for the creation of a gallery of Epidaurus Festival posters. «My aim is for all that material to be housed in a gallery and used as a point of reference. After all, the posters contain all the information one needs and no additions are necessary.» He said that in no case was he going to keep the posters for himself. «I will hand them out to local shopkeepers so that they can hang them on their walls,» he said, describing another one of his dreams. «I would like to see the Epidaurus shops and houses decorated with posters instead of other decorations. Provided they remove anything that is offensive to our sense of good taste.»