Nonika Galinea’s double bill: Stage and memoirs

Nonika Galinea is currently experiencing a case of double identity, that of writer and actress. Her autobiography, a large edition, will be presented at the Athens Concert Hall on November 8, while after six years she is making a comeback as a regular on stage and is now playing the part of Empress Zoe Porphyrogeniti in Angelos Terzakis’s «Emperor Michael,» a State Theater of Northern Greece production that opened in Thessaloniki last Friday. Her autobiography, which she described as «the baring of my life, a life which resembles a fairy tale,» came about easily because she has a way with words, something she has already partly proved with 16 translations of theater plays. «It was like a machine gun inside me that had to erupt at some point. So I started writing and couldn’t stop.» It took her 25 days to write about the events of her 40-year career in the theater and personal experiences from her close contact with artists who have left their mark on Greek theater. «What was very important was, first of all, the childish enthusiasm that I still have in life and the ease I have in writing. Another factor was my certainty that the book would be interesting, and then it was my life itself… Considering that over the past 40 years that I have been serving the theater I had close personal contact with all the ‘monstres sacres’ in the field, most of whom are no longer living, this is the narration of facts written with humor. I don’t consider anything so serious that it has to be written in a dramatic way. I see it all as part of a game of this life, which I am trying to face with as much humor as I have.» In these 356 pages, her life chronicles a chapter of history in the theater and at the same time flows like a fairy tale. «This is not some sort of postmortem autobiography, but the autobiography of a woman who actively continues. I did not want it to acquire historical significance. I was lucky to spend my life with the people who have influenced theater (Karolos Koun, Myrat, Dimitris Horn, Katina Paxinou, Alexis Minotis, Aliki Vougiouklaki, Elli Lambeti, Manos Katrakis, Melina Mercouri, Alekos Alexandrakis, Minos Volanakis, Dimitris Papamichail, Nikos Kourkoulos and others). I write about my experiences and I testify to the truth. Truth is proved through the demystification of oneself.» Is this the reversal of a myth and an image? «My life has happened to be a fairy tale, but fairy tales lead to the baring. People see what the media establish as the ‘image.’ I am not denying responsibility for the image I have put forward. Yet reading this book you will understand more about my life…» What taste does the book leave? «Optimism. I am not ungrateful, I live in a country where people do not resort to psychiatrists and I am engaging in creative work that I love, it has not betrayed me but gives me balance, security and love. My work has given me back everything that I have put into it and proves to me on a daily basis that it is the most important thing in my life…» Her book contains the milestones in her life: Koun – «through the Art Theater I realized the extent of my love and respect for that work» – and Alexandrakis, «the man who made me; without him, I wouldn’t be what I am today.» The role of Zoe Porphyrogeniti that she plays on stage is a tragic one. She was an unscrupulous woman who did not hesitate to kill for a younger man, whom she really loved. «The optimism and the strength are such that even through the pain and her misery she does not deny life…» It is a part that director Vassilis Nikolaidis saw exclusively in Galinea’s face. She accepted the invitation, «honoring the place that invited me but also the new artistic director, Nikitas Tsakiroglou, who proved, with his ethics and experience, that if you don’t love this work, you die.»