Thessaloniki and the theater: Half a century of rich history

Thessaloniki’s relationship with theater has always been unique, ranging from dry periods, whether before or after the founding of the State Theater of Northern Greece, to extremely productive times during which numerous small and stimulating theater groups made their appearance. Now that the city’s theater life seems to be going through a revival, when a few years earlier it could only boast the State Theater of Northern Greece and the Experimental Stage of Art, a new and interesting edition has just been published, giving a brief profile of the city’s theater history during the second half of the 20th century. «Theater in Thessaloniki: 50 Years, 1953-2003,» in a bilingual edition (Greek and English) that covers 316 pages, was jointly published by the Friends of the Melina Mercouri Foundation and the Ministry of Culture to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of Melina Mercouri’s death. Eleni Lazaridou, the edition’s editor, said that the aim was to follow theater’s striking progress in Thessaloniki over the past 50 years and to honor those who preceded and structured that effort, as well as the restless theater groups which enriched theater with their daring choices. The greatest milestone in Thessaloniki’s theater life was the founding of the State Theater of Northern Greece in 1961. Theater expert Yianna Tsokou mentions in the edition that the progress made by groups founded upon private initiative indicates that many troupes were created between the end of World War II and the ’80s which left their mark on the city’s cultural life, despite their short tenure. She adds that most of the groups that began performing in the ’80s are still prominent. She goes on to say that from the ’50s and up to the mid-’70s, one encounters personalities like Kyriazis Haratsaris, Angeliki Triandafyllidi and Roula Pateraki and the troupes they put together, as well as collective initiatives, such as the Theater Workshop and the Cafe-Theater. The Experimental Stage of Art, the New Theater of Thessaloniki, the Search Theater and the Parathlassi Theater made their presence felt from the 1980s onward, while recently Thessaloniki’s theater life was enriched by groups including Lyki Vythou, Nees Morfes, the Nemesis group and Aktis Aeliou. The edition includes a chapter on the predecessors of avant-garde theater, with special references to the Theatro Technis’s regular presence in Thessaloniki every summer, to Costas Zaroukas’s New Theater, to Kyriazis Haratsaris’s Free Theater and Gakidis’s Theater Workshop. «About Theater,» another chapter, includes texts by Diagoras Chronopoulos, Vassilis Papavassileiou and Roula Pateraki. «Theater Education» makes references to the State Theater of Northern Greece’s drama school and the Department of Theater at the Aristotle University. Finally, «Theater Groups» deals briefly with all the groups currently in existence. Following the edition’s English-language texts is a list with all the productions these groups have put on stage, except those of the State Theater of Northern Greece.

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