CULTURE

Revolving Calatrava stage to host ancient Greek plays

This time next year, during the Olympic Games, Irene Papas will be presenting a trilogy of ancient drama at a large venue, possibly the former Hellenikon airport. Each play will be performed in a different language: «The Trojan Women» in Spanish, «Hecuba» in Italian and «Agamemnon» in Greek. The production, which will feature music by Vangelis Papathanassiou, scenery by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava (who redesigned the Olympic Stadium in Greece), and costumes by artist Marina Karella, has been maturing for three years. The first part, «The Trojans,» was performed in September 2001 at Sagundo in Valencia, and the second, «Hecuba,» will be performed in Italian in Rome together with «The Trojan Women.» The trilogy will be completed next year in Athens with the addition of «Agamemnon,» and Papas has already talked to famed architect Frank Gehry about designing the set for that production. This colossal production has the support of the Greek Culture Ministry through inclusion in the Cultural Olympiad program, and of the governments of Spain and Italy and many organizations in the latter countries (ministries, universities and municipalities). It also marks the creation of the theater schools network, which is being set up in the three countries on the instigation of the famed Greek actor. The Spanish school went into operation last year and the establishment of the Italian school at Tor Vergata University is being announced now with the upcoming production. In Athens, Irene Papas, as artistic director of the consortium and of the three schools, is establishing the Greek school in a former factory on Pireos Street. The Italian school comes under the aegis of the Tor Vergata University in Rome, which has the largest campus in Europe. The buildings will be erected on the campus, on the site where «The Trojan Women» and «Hecuba» are to be performed, with Papas as director and playing the leading roles. The premiere is on September 10 and there will be several more performances through September 19. A revolving theater – inspired by Manos Perakis’s design for the theater to be built next year in Athens – has been set up especially for this production. The theater revolves, together with about 1,000 spectators, around the stage, so there will be no need to change the sets between the two plays. The two sets designed by Calatrava have been set up at opposite sides of the theater. When «The Trojan Women» ends, the performance continues, with the actors, playing the part of refugees from conquered Troy, leaving. They go from one set to the other along the side of the theater while the audience is swung round on the revolving platform where they are seated. By the time the actors reach the other set, the platform has finished turning and «Hecuba» begins. It is the first time Calatrava has designed scenery for the stage, and the two sets he created for Papas bear the stamp of his architectural style. Grand, impressive compositions, they are dynamic and clever. The sets for «The Trojan Women» have 16 steel pipes 8-10 meters long, weighing 25 metric tons altogether, while for the «Hecuba» sets, Calatrava has created a semicircle 16 meters high and 36 meters across, using 8.5 kilometers of cables. Papas plays the role of Hecuba in both tragedies, though she speaks Spanish in one and Italian in the other, as do the other actors. The other parts are played by Spanish and Italian actors respectively, all of them chosen by Papas as the director, and in cooperation with the Fura dels Baus theater group from Barcelona for «The Trojan Woman» and G. Berlinguer for «Hecuba.»