CULTURE

An athlete-turned-actor shines out in ‘True West’

Up until the age of 22, Yiannis Kotsifas expected to become a gym teacher. At least that’s what he thought in his fourth year at the Athens Sports Academy, which he never completed, opting instead to jump headfirst into the theater. Kotsifas is now acting in Sam Shepard’s «True West,» directed by Dimitris Mavrikios, at the Theatro Technis Basement Theater. Alongside established lead Nikos Karathanos, the fledgling actor, in the third role of his brief career, shines out with a strong interpretation of the younger brother. Kotsifas was born and raised in Amaliada. A good student and athlete (volleyball was his preferred sport), he entered the Sports Academy and moved to Athens. «I was moving along in my studies at a steady pace,» he said in a recent interview. «I was in my final year and had already gotten my specialization. I was not very happy at the academy. I was looking for new interests. I chose swimming and the university choir.» It was in the university choir that Kotsifas met fellow actor Dimitris Daskas (then studying law), who suggested he sign up with the university theater group which was short of male talent. «This is what I want to do with my life,» he said when he joined. Later, he enrolled at the National Theater School and studied under some of its finest professors. «I found it really hard at first,» he admits. «But I began to loosen up. What helped a lot was when I worked with Dimitris Mavrikios on ‘Elektra,’ staged by the National Theater. That was also my first big experience as an actor.» Three strong roles followed under the direction of Mavrikios, and today Kotsifas is enjoying a leading role. «I was terrified at first, even though I felt confident at having Mavrikios and Karathanos by my side, both of whom I had worked with before. I worked a hundred times harder than before, but I was still scared. Even moments before the premiere.» The performance has proved the young athlete-turned-actor wrong.