On stage and behind the scenes, a Greek actress gives theater her all

Actress Anna Makraki boasts a solid background on the stage: Her 32-year career includes collaborations with significant Greek directors such as Manos Katrakis and Alexis Minotis, as well as with leading actors and actresses. Since her 1981 directorial debut in the USA, however, Makraki has shown an increasing interest in pulling the strings behind the scenes, and her fourth directorial venture, on stage at the Embros Theater on Mondays and Tuesdays, is with Kimon Rigopoulos’s «7,000 Words Exactly.» The performance stars Vlassis Zotis and Betty Nikolessi. What is most interesting, however, is that on the other days of the week, Makraki sticks to acting, appearing in Sam Shepard’s drama «A Lie of the Mind,» directed by Tassos Bandis, at the same theater. «The play,» she says, «is centered on a mother who is of Irish origin and who very strongly resembles a Greek mother. She is overbearing and overprotective.» The only thing «A Lie of the Mind» has in common with «7,000 Words Exactly» is that they are both on at the Embros. Rigopoulos’s play, explains Makraki, «is not really realistic. It has a very particular narrative style that I would describe as ‘poetically significant’ and it is written in excellent Greek. In short, the play is about two characters who, over the time frame of one hour and a quarter, present their diametrically opposed stances to life.» Role reversal However, this only describes the first level of the play, because as the action evolves it becomes apparent that the two monologues begin intermingling. «It seems as if they are responding to one another. We see the male lead character, who comes across as being sensitive and vulnerable, and the female lead, who is a modern woman striving to succeed in a modern world. She is, in her own words, a ‘warrior.’ What we see is a role reversal,» says Makraki. This play, though the fourth directorial venture of Makraki, is the only one in which she does not appear. «I would like to direct more frequently,» she admits. «The fact that I have only done four plays is not because of me. I guess people just prefer to see me acting. Possibly because they think less of me as a director. «Of course, directing and acting simultaneously is complete torture. I have decided that henceforth I will never direct myself again. I was giving my acting the short end of the stick, paying more attention to the overall performance than to my own.» Makraki nevertheless admits that it’s difficult for her to separate the two arts and even when she’s acting, she’s «crypto-directing.» But, she says, «I never second-guess the director, whom I respect absolutely and who, obviously, has the final say. I am more interested in the overall appearance of the play than I am in any one given part I may be playing.» With over 30 years in the Greek theater under her belt, Makraki has lived through all of its ups and downs, and feels that it has achieved a good level now. «The only real problem I can make out is the fragmentation of forces. Everyone wants to set up shop alone and I understand that, at least to a point. On the other hand, I cannot really believe that there are thousands of people in Greek theater today with real vision. If that was the case, then it would be in full bloom. So maybe what we are seeing is the realization of small ambitions.» Modesty is key Serving Greek theater more generally, Makraki also teaches at the Veaki Drama School and runs a drama workshop for young actors. One of her most important rules is that actors have to leave their egos at the door before stepping onto the stage. «When you have to demonstrate a character you must put your ego aside. Indeed, the acting profession is characterized by complete modesty.» Teaching younger actors has given Makraki another viewpoint on the art and profession as well. «I’m not sure whether they are looking to find something from the theater or whether they are looking for something from life itself and are therefore led to theater. «Life doesn’t seem to provide enough emotions, goals and visions. What is there to fight for? What vision and what goal? So they turn to the theater, each for his or her own reasons. This is where, in just two hours, you can feel as if you have attained a goal, experienced a great passion, terrible dramas. They turn to the theater for life experiences, not because they love it. Most of them, especially coming from drama schools, have barely been to the theater, save to see two or three plays, or have read a complete play by Shakespeare or Chekhov.» «A Lie of the Mind» and «7,000 Words Exactly» are on stage on alternate days at the Embros Theater, 2 Riga Palamidi, Aghion Anargyron Sq, Psyrri, tel 210.323.8990.