‘The eternal play of theater in life and life in theater’

Most performances are born of a set play and evolve through rehearsals. On the National Theater’s Experimental Stage, however, there is a play currently playing that was both born and developed in rehearsals, and it continues to evolve every night as the actors, director, writer – and audience – add or subtract little nuggets from the core theme. Weird? Maybe, but certainly intriguing and potentially very amusing. «Viomageia» (Biomagic) is the collective work of director and actor Dimitris Lignadis, writer Marianna Kalbari and two young actors, Evita Zimali and Andreas Kontopoulos. «I thought we could do a play that would come out through rehearsals. Using simple theatrical means. Something that would excite us and could be done nowhere other than on the Experimental Stage,» explains Lignadis. The process began with what the director describes as a «non-play,» but as the group began working, he realized things were not that simple. «We saw it wasn’t possible. Improvisation is very hard when you don’t have something to work around. So, we each put forth some ideas about the things that concern us in our own lives,» he says. «We discussed the eternal play of theater in life and life in theater. We talked, we worked hard for a long time, Marianna [Kalbari] would occasionally bring around some material based on the work we were doing and our improvisations, and then we would work on that, gradually building up the play.» The basic plot line revolves around an average young man who visits a TV psychic and asks her to change his boring life. «She asks him to describe a simple, recent event,» elaborates Lignadis. «He mentions a night when he went to the Experimental Stage, but got bored and left before the play started. A young woman sitting next to him asked him something very run-of-the-mill. That’s basically it. Then, the psychic says: ‘Let’s go back in time and I will make some magic for that night.’ She revives the night and adds lights and music. He says: ‘Wow! That’s beautiful!’ Something very mundane has suddenly acquired new interest, like a brief conversation with a girl could have evolved into a friendship or a love affair. ‘I know how to make your dreams,’ says the psychic – meaning theater. ‘But, this is all a lie,’ remarks the young man. ‘So, you want reality back? Here it is!’ retorts the psychic. The young man is disappointed. ‘This is awful,’ he says. ‘If you want something different,’ answers the psychic, ‘then come to Viomageio every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.’ These are the nights of our performances,» says Lignadis. The director hopes the audience will understand the spirit of the play and take an active role in its evolution. He envisions a play in which the experiments never end. «It’s like I’m running an experiment,» says Lignadis. «I’m holding an explosive and it can either be beautiful fireworks or blow up in my face. «It might not interest some people, but it can have a lot of truth, a lot of spontaneity. It might even be fun. Then again, it might flop, but that’s the nature of experimentation, the risk.» National Theater Experimental Stage, 22 Aghiou Constantinou, tel 210.522.3242.

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