Rod Steiger plays Socrates in world premiere in Athens

Amid the array of celebrities steadily flying in and out of Greece this summer, Oscar-winning Rod Steiger is coming to Athens on business. The veteran actor takes on the role of Socrates this week, in the world premiere of The Dawn of Civilization, a multifaceted performance combining ancient drama, music and intricate visual effects. Based on Plato’s Apologia, the performances will take place at the Kallimarmaro Stadium tomorrow and Thursday. The American actor is not alone in facing the challenges of such a production. The burden is shared by German director Bernd Kammermeier, who has attempted to develop a synergy of music, special effects and ancient drama, while composer Andreas Vollenweider agreed to write the original musical score which he will then interpret on stage. Complementing the team is German archaeologist Michael Pfrommer, a consultant for German television, offering his advice as a specialist. The performance will be filmed and travel to Germany and Britain, while discussions are currently being held for a possible broadcast in the United States. Where could Socrates’ thoughts meet up with those of the contemporary world? In an attempt to provide an answer to this question, The Dawn of Civilization begins with images depicting the creation of human life. All the tools of the stage from set design to music, through special effects, are used in an attempt to revive an era and trace its development leading to the creation of a society. Throughout the spectacle, the main focal point remains Socrates’ own tragic fate. For Steiger, whose rich filmography includes parts in Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront, Norman Jewison’s In the Heat of the Night and David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago, this is not his first venture into an historical role; he has already interpreted various figures such as Pontius Pilate and Napoleon Bonaparte (though he did turn down the title role in the movie Patton). Yet it is the actor’s own history which gives him an even more powerful background: At the height of his fame, Steiger fell into a severe depression from which he emerged a few years later. His return to the limelight has been a personal victory. The production at the Kallimarmaro is organized by the Hellenic American Union, under the auspices of UNESCO, with the support of the Ministry of Culture, the German Embassy, the Goethe Institute and the Athens Municipality. Sharing the stage with Steiger is Greek actress Maria Lambrou, along with six dancers. The production’s concept was developed by Tassos Alexopoulos and Bernd Kammermeier and the script is by Kammermeier and Michael Pfrommer. Light design is by Egon Werdin. ‘The Dawn of Civilization’ at the Kallimarmaro Stadium tomorrow and Thursday. Performances at 9 p.m. Tickets: Hellenic Festival box office, 4 Stadiou, tel 322.1459, Virgin stores, Hellenic American Union, Massalias, 22, tel 368.000. Reflecting the band’s ability to render atmospheric music, Air was commissioned to pen the score for Sofia Coppola’s film, The Virgin Suicides, released early last year. The group’s third full-length outing,10,000 Hz Legend, appeared last spring.

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