CULTURE

Stamatis Fasoulis lets life speak for itself

Marking 30 years in the theater this year, Stamatis Fasoulis chose a heavy political season to go on tour for the very first time in his career. A much-sought-after stage director and actor in Athens, Fasoulis suddenly decided to abandon his own Dimitris Horn Theater to try his hand at presenting Antonis Nikolis’s monologue «Mr Emmanouil and… Roidis» around Greece. Are you afraid that the pre-election period will harm the theater? I’m afraid it will bring it to its knees. The theater is already going through a major crisis and this will finish it off. It’s a crazy situation – even when you have a hit. Following the holiday season, there was a steep fall for everybody and everything. To what do you attribute this? And how come you decided not to appear in Athens this year? I don’t know what’s happening… The first sign of change came in February of last year when a well-known colleague’s premiere was attended by fewer than a hundred people. That was unprecedented. I understand a play not doing well, but this was the opening night, even before anything was written about the play. Never before! That night I thought to myself: «I will not act next year. There is something going on with the public. Let them deal with it first… No harm done if you keep away – relax. It’s not the end of the world…» Is that why you didn’t stage «Roidis» at your theater? I wanted to distance myself, to go beyond my theater and beyond Athens. I’m also lowering the level, I’m tired of this obsession of being first, especially when the public is acting this way. All this is very nice at the beginning of your career; years later, however, you feel rusty. This becomes more dominating than the work itself. I don’t want to get stuck on the idea that in Athens I have a certain position that I have to maintain no matter what… While absent from Athenian theaters, you nevertheless directed two plays, Horn’s «Our Little Town» and Dimitra Papadopoulou’s «Kamena Vourla» at the Ivi Theater. How do you choose the plays you direct? There are certain criteria: whether I like something; if I have something to gain from it, and so on, but this is less and less valid as the years go by… I let life speak for itself. The criteria might be a person I like, a glance… In any case, it’s too late to change my career – what’s done cannot be undone. Given that I used to be a very nervous and pseudo-organized man, I now have the luxury to let myself go. I never thought the day would come when I would say: «Let life speak a little, we’ve heard what you had to say! Shut up a little and listen to life!» What do you enjoy in Nikolis’s monologue? In this text, which flows like a musical score, I found something I had been looking for for years – a sort of «poetic realism.» You feel that things are unfolding right now, in a very simple and direct manner, yet through the cracks in the door the audience can detect a poetic landscape. One that does not have television’s creasing, but the wrinkles of real life. What do you think of the regional and municipal theaters (DIPETHE) as an institution? As an institution, it was the right thing to do, yet right from the start there was something wrong and now the theaters are paying for it: The fact that municipalities can intervene on the artistic side is something many may take advantage of. The fact remains, however, that all these different towns now have their own theaters. And one theater amid 20 cafeterias is important. Theater might not change the world, but it can change people, it can be uplifting, just like a poem, a nice piece of music or a song. That is why the DIPETHE theaters have to go on. What kind of relationship do you have with the public in Thessaloniki? We know each other; I have performed several times there, especially in the last few years. It’s a different kind of audience. While they pick things up quickly, they don’t necessarily display their emotions. They are rather laid back in their reactions. Sometimes they give the impression that you’ve lost them, but a little later on you realize that that is not the case – they are following the action. Does the fact that your tour coincides with the period leading up to the elections scare you? Well, yes, I’m a little bit scared, but I hope they will leave us some poster space! In any case, I’m performing in selected towns, I’m not going to get on the bus like the party leaders. What did you think of Simitis’s decision to step down? The reactions sparked by his decision were more impressive than the action itself. Besides, his own people support whatever their leader says. No opponent, enemy or third party realized that for the first time in Greek history a political leader said: «I’m off and passing the torch to a younger guy.» It takes guts to do that. PASOK’s previous leadership was at the Onassis Cardiology Center with four drips and six catheters and still wouldn’t give up power. In the case of Simitis, however, Greeks only see what they themselves would do: «There’s no way he did it in order to change something, he did because he was losing.» So what? Everybody loses! They wait for the elections to be over and resign the day after. Their chances to win are one in a thousand. He doesn’t want to take this. Or: «OK, so he’s doing it in order to take Prodi’s place.» Basically, we never want to acknowledge any kind of behavior that is different from the norm. And the fact that they don’t recognize it in Simitis means that they won’t accept this behavior from you, me, or themselves whenever anyone wants to do something similar in their lives, in their respective field. If anybody ever behaved like that, no one would believe them. In the end, the idea wouldn’t even cross your mind. They strip you of any chance you may have had of doing something differently, of changing something in your life. This kind of reaction, this kind of misery, is what impressed me even more than Simitis’s decision… The unbearable Greek lightness of being Do you think that Greeks feel that the Olympics Games are a source of misery? Yes, very much so. In the beginning, everybody took to the streets, rejoicing. Now they’re acting as if it’s the last thing we need. That’s criticism, you see! The Greeks are the worst when it comes to such things. We imitate the US more than any other European nation; meanwhile, we take the most anti-American stance! What’s more, we are the second most pessimistic country in the world as far as our spending power for this year is concerned. We actually top the list when it comes to the great idea we have about ourselves and the notion that today we should be having a great time. That goes hand in hand with pessimism. We Greeks live in extreme situations and that gives us a godly frivolity. I find solace in Nietzsche’s idea that out of too much shallowness, the Greeks became very profound. That’s why I’m in love with this wicked race of which I’m a member – slaves to love and repulsion at the same time.