Stoa Theater celebrates 30 years

Precisely 30 years ago, in December 1971, in Zografou in Athens, a new venue opened which placed itself at the service of Greek theater and aimed to become one of the country’s few creative drama centers. Thirty years calls for a celebration, and in this case, the success of a non-central venue, with a solely Greek repertoire, is quite an accomplishment. We succeeded in serving the cause of Greek theater, which was our initial purpose, said Thanassis Papageorgiou, the animating spirit of Stoa Theater. We are happy that we managed to establish it and bring Greek theater to the fore. For us as people and artists, however, the struggle continues. (Over the years, Papageorgiou has collaborated with Lida Protopsalti, his wife from 1965 to 1973.) Can Greek theater really not exist without Greek plays? A lack of Greek plays means that there’s no consciousness, no identity. Back when we started there was so much desire for foreign plays that it was rare to see a Greek play, apart from a farce. But in a country which lacks productions of local plays, this can only lead to a loss of identity. You had a lot of difficulties with the various playwrights, isn’t that so? That’s normal. No playwright is ever completely satisfied when a play of his is staged, and no director will ever say, He or she let me do whatever I wanted. I do believe, of course, that when an author chooses a director he trusts, he ought to give him the necessary freedom. We directors can take the play a few steps further, not necessarily further forward, but further. Nevertheless, I understand how difficult it is to work together with someone. What I don’t understand, however, is when you are not pleased with the members of a troupe which turned the play into a success. That seems to me entirely irrational. The greatest clashes have involved playwrights of successful works. How did you manage to work in the same theater in the last 30 years, without actually owning it? All you need is state aid, an audience, and proper bookkeeping. That is not to say that we did not encounter great difficulties, because we did… Let’s just say that our salary, even today, is not even double the basic salary, in other words, it is not even 500,000 drachmas. How much would an actress like Lida Protopsalti make somewhere else? Anyway, that’s how we survived… …But with the feeling that you created something, and without sulks. None whatsoever. This season, the troupe has 16 actors and four crew members. In the last decade, the average has been 12 actors. If you start sulking, everything will be reduced to sulking. In the last 30 years, the Stoa has staged 49 Greek plays, two ancient dramas, seven foreign plays and 10 plays for children. Is there anything you would have changed if you could? I wouldn’t change a thing. I put on a few mediocre productions, but I also put on some great ones. I learnt from everything. What I would like to do, however, is to run a drama school with Lida in order to teach Greek works, the works which have been completely overlooked in drama schools. This desire stems from our fear regarding the future… What have been the most important moments in the last 30 years? Right from the start, the public rewarded our commitment to Greek theater. During the period 1975-1985, anything we staged became an overnight success. There’s also our collaboration with Marios Pontikas – one of our most prominent writers. Another one is Bost, who we discovered very late… Have you neglected Papageorgiou the actor? I would like to have paid a little more attention to him. There are depths I never explored, because I didn’t have the time. The overall responsibility of running a theater does deprive you of quite a lot. It did, however, give rise to the director, the theater man. The one who allowed the talent of Lida Protopsalti to shine. If there is no talent, then there’s nothing at all… My encounter with Lida was godsent.

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