New phase for National Theater

The coming season is one of change for Greek cinema, theater and the music scene, with most of the country’s main institutions moving their headquarters, experiencing sweeping changes to their boards and waiting for new policies to come into effect. The Greek National Theater is no exception and this coming year, starting this fall, will see parts of the company housed in rented spaces while awaiting reconstruction work on its traditional headquarters on Aghiou Constantinou Street to begin and, eventually, end. The New Stage and Experimental Theater – the National’s two newest troupes – will see their artistic activities disturbed by the move, as it will affect the company’s already threatened finances rather considerably and will mean relinquishing the company’s theater directing school. The National Theater has already let the Hora Theater in Kypseli for the New Stage (headed by a group of select young artists chosen by Nikos Kourkoulos) and the Apo Michanis Theater in Metaxourgeio for the Experimental Stage, headed by Stathis Livathinos. Work on the building on Aghiou Constantinou has not started despite assurances that it will not take long to complete. It will, however, be some time before anyone can say when work will begin. The committee in charge of assigning the renovation project has been considering three proposals for quite a while and is expected to announce a winner shortly. But the two companies that will lose out have reserved the right to lodge their counterarguments with the National Theater’s board and discuss recommendations – hence, it will take even longer for the work to be given the go-ahead. Next, the issue will have to be tabled before the new board of the National Theater, which, however, has not been assigned by the Ministry of Culture, though the existing board’s tenure ended last February. Should the composition of the new board be much different than that of the present one, it will take time for new members to be brought up to date on the company’s developments – meaning still more delays for the construction work. Compounding the problems being faced by the National Theater is the company’s dire financial situation, which has already forced it to postpone, if not scrap, significant improvement projects. Among these is a decision to transform the company’s old warehouses at Rouf into rehearsal studios, classrooms and a permanent home for the Experimental Stage. The biggest blow, however, was the company’s forced decision to abandon plans for a theater directing school, which has been operating on a trial basis for the past three years – with excellent results – under Livathinos. Another plan that has been scrapped is for a workshop on ancient drama, which was to be headed by veteran actress Lydia Koniordou. So far, the government has not expressed any solid interest in backing these projects (which are included in the National Theater’s annual budget), while the company itself is not willing, nor in any position, to go out on a limb. «We are facing such huge financial pressure on so many fronts that I can’t make the decision [to run these programs],» said Kourkoulos. «I am waiting to see what stance the ministry will take; to see whether we will be able to realize these projects, which are, after all, the reason why we are in the National Theater. If you have a budget of 12 million euros and receive 7 million in the middle of the season, inevitably you have to cut back on everything.» As far as the company’s repertoire is concerned, it will rerun Brecht’s «Causasian Chalk Circle» for a period and then present Michalis Hourmouzis’s «Clerk» at the existing Kappa Stage on Aghiou Constantinou, while the Kotopouli Stage will show Shakespeare’s «King Lear.» The New Stage and Experimental Theater, playing respectively at the Hora and Apo Michanis theaters, are still drawing up their programs and are expected to present them to the National Theater’s director within the next few days.