Cultural activities in western Athens will once more reach their peak at the Petra Theater, where the Petra Festival began last Saturday and runs to September 27. «This year’s festival is more important because of the Olympic Games and that is why from the very beginning our aim was to make it richer and more original. We tried to incorporate all kinds of art from major cultural groups and to harmoniously combine amateur creations, which we have been supporting for many years, with professional work,» said Petroupolis’s vice mayor and artistic director of the festival, Nikos Sakoutis, at a recent press conference. Divided into cultural sections, the festival includes a variety of events from groups and artists from Greece and abroad. The great gathering of polyphonic singing which opened the festival only lasted one day, but organizers are hoping that next year it will be a three-day event and that more groups from all Mediterranean countries will participate. For the second year, the Petra Festival will host the Second Croussis Percussion Festival on June 22, 23 and 24. Major groups like Japanese drummers Yamato and the Indian Punjabi as well as the Greek Krotala and Hecate’s Fingers will take the audience on a global journey via percussion music. Fans of foreign music are also bound to head up to the theater a few times, since there are various tempting propositions on offer. Instigator of theatrical rock Alice Cooper will play on Wednesday (see page 6) and representatives of British hip-hop Cypress Hill on July 5. Rock legend Iggy Pop, along with the Stooges, Madrugada and Stellastarr**, will bop away on July 6, while former Police drummer Stewart Copeland will play on July 13 with his band, and Argentina’s Adriana Varela will bring over the magic of tango on July 1. Greek music will also feature prominently. Alkinoos Ioannidis will play on June 25, Orfeas Peridis on June 28, Eleni Vitali on June 29, Michalis Hadziyiannis on June 30, Nikos Papazoglou on July 14, Vassilis Papaconstantinou along with Evridiki, MIKRO and others on July 19, Lavrentis Mahairitsas and Christos Thivaios on July 23 while Marinella will perform on September 13. A tribute to Vassilis Tsitsanis, commemorating the 20th anniversary of his death, will take place on July 21. Grigoris Daravanoglou and the Typaldos Children’s Choir will interpret some of the great composer’s unforgettable songs. Highlights of the theatrical performances include Carmen Ruggeri’s show «Heracles, Founder of the Olympic Games» on June 17, «Seven Against Thebes,» with Giorgos Kimoulis on July 16, «The Taming of the Shrew» by the Municipal Regional Theater of Kalamata, directed by Yiannis Kakleas, on July 18, «Iphigenia at Aulis» with Karyofillia Karabeti on July 22, «Eumenides» by Anna Synodinou’s Greek Stage on July 29, «Plutus,» starring Lakis Lazopoulos, on September 3, and Xenia Kalogeropoulou’s «Deer King» on September 9. There will also be performances by young people’s amateur dance, music and theater groups.