‘Iphigenia at Aulis’ — indoors

The summer has ended and the traditional outdoor performances of ancient drama drawn to a close – but this is just when Thanassis Papageorgiou’s and Leda Protopsalti’s low-key, yet efficient, Stoa Theater group comes along and presents Euripides’ «Iphigenia at Aulis» indoors. Setting an ancient tragedy inside in a closed environment no longer surprises us. After the Stoa Theater’s creative production of «Hecuba» three years ago, we are ready to accept such a daring undertaking. «Iphigenia at Aulis» recently opened without too much fuss and publicity. It features Leda Protopsalti as Clytemnestra, Pavlos Orkopoulos as Agamemnon, the young and talented Maria Papastefanaki as Iphigenia and many other actors on stage. «Euripides is the one who decides,» said the director when asked why he chose «Iphigenia at Aulis.» «Euripides is one of the tragedians who has a lot to say. Iphigenia represents a lot of what people are thinking and concerned about today. Her decision to accept her sacrifice provides a refuge for all those who are disgusted with the world’s leaders, whether it be in politics, religion or intellectual life. Because Iphigenia also makes her decision in disgust. She is disgusted with her father, but with Achilles as well, for behaving in such a hypocritical and calculating way. This is an attitude that can be understood by any sensitive person today.» Can modern audiences relate to this kind of attitude? «Yes, I have already noticed that in the very first shows. You can feel that the young people identify with Iphigenia because there are great similarities with events taking place today. How can one not identify – with the Americans claiming that they supposedly want to restore order in Iraq and wipe out terrorism in Afghanistan. It is exactly like saying: ‘Let’s go and recover Helen from Troy,’ while at the same time that they were trying to get Helen back (if they ever did), they took thousands of slaves, did a bit of plundering and razed the city to its foundations. You see how up-to-date Euripides always was because he also had a bit of Iphigenia inside him. He was already an old man when, disgusted, he left Athens to go and settle in Macedonia where he eventually died. Euripides’ anger is very similar to the anger many people feel today at what is going on in the world.» The response that «Hecuba» met with three years ago encouraged the director in his decision to produce «Iphigenia.» «Another reason was that, as you grow older and become more mature, you want to tackle the great texts, those priceless works.» He continues to prefer the mise en scene of an indoor theater, despite the prevailing tendency for tragedies to be performed at outdoor theaters over the summer. «I think indoor theaters are ideal for shedding some light on the details of the text, the sensitivity of those people and the greatness of their problems, which usually are lost in outdoor theaters. We felt justified in this belief by ‘Hecuba’ and that is why Lili Pezanou (who is responsible for the set design and costumes) refused to undertake work for outdoor theaters and musician Nikos Xydakis didn’t produce any either. We are now working creatively together again and the result is great.» When asked whether there are similarities with «Hecuba» in the setting, he replied that he did not follow any specific recipe. «It is the play that leads you; the play directs your imagination, shapes your sensitivity and opens your eyes so that you can look deeply into the text. Alexis Minotis was right when he said that ancient authors are also directors. They included no digressions at all in their works, whereas contemporary plays are full of digressions.» We asked Papageorgiou why it is that «Iphigenia at Aulis» is sometimes staged as a patriotic play, with sacrifice for the homeland, and at other times, with an attitude of disgust toward governmental hypocrisy, which is what we mostly come across in recent productions, like those by Evangelatos, Lazanis and Tsianos. «The patriotic staging of ‘Iphigenia at Aulis’ has ceased to exist for quite some time now. And it is natural for modern directors to be looking elsewhere. One cannot study Euripides without noticing the irony that exists in some of his tragedies. Our society and its evolution also force us to see things in a different light, or to seek different things – or to even look deeper into the essence of every play.» Stoa Theater, 55 Biskini, tel 210.777.0145/770.2830.