The art of the actor is ‘only feeling’

Ilias Logothetis is from another age and would have fitted in perfectly during the age of the Enlightenment, with the philosophers and scholars of the 18th and 19th centuries. A man and artist who lives and creates at «high temperatures,» his thoughts pour out of him, they gallop. Prior to ending up at the Theatro Technis, under Karolos Koun, he studied law, mathematics and music. «From my mother’s brother, I received thought and patience, and from the ordinary people of Lefkada allegria [something like ‘jauntiness’]. I am one of the intuitive people.» He has trodden many kilometers upon the stage this past half century. «The art of the actor is an erotic statement; it is not about precision, only feeling. I learned this from the great musicians and pianists. Art is not about shaping morals, rousing the masses or fixing society.» His relationship with the cinema is eclectic, and he has come to identify with the roles he has played. As recently, for example, in Lakis Papastathis’s film «The Only Journey of His Life» (To Monon tis Zois tou Taxidion), based on author Giorgios Vizyinos’s short story (The film opens at cinemas on Friday). Although the award for best male actor was not included in the seven that the film won at the National Awards, Ilias Logothetis feels that the double role (as Vizyinos and the grandfather) was one of the greatest emotional experiences he has ever had. «Something happened, something happened,» he keeps repeating. This fanatical smoker has even given up cigarettes. After the interview, before parting, he mumbled to himself. «Now I’m going home to play a little guitar, I’ll water the flowers and then read my book, which has just swept me away.» «What book?» I ask. «By John Rawls, ‘A Theory of Justice.’ A wonderful philosopher, of great range.’» You are rarely in the public eye. I am in the public eye when I am acting, just as a journalist is in the public eye when writing. Two important professions which could have saved humanity from ignorance and ugliness, but haven’t managed it. Life requires new aesthetic experiences, sudden changes to the brain’s neurons. Here we have the phenomenon of no aesthetic experiences, thought makes no leaps forward. I don’t believe in longevity, but in the present. All agree that you are a great actor, but also a little peculiar. I don’t accept these characterizations. For all actors, there is a certain number of roles which they are good at. The most basic thing for an actor is a good «reading» of the text. Texts are rarely read well. Take Beckett, for example; when we put on «End Game» at the Theatro Technis, we didn’t read the text properly because the troupe had other things on their minds. The reading took place during the performance because the director allowed us a great deal of freedom. Don’t you believe that to be an actor requires a great deal of discipline, daily persistence, practice, and exercise? Is there more exercise and precision than the person who struggles on a daily basis, waking up at the same time each day to go and work in a factory? The work of an actor is personal, with himself, closed in his room. It’s personal expression; it doesn’t shape society. Greece is in a terrible state, but it has many theaters, Parthenons. Civilization is something else, it’s personal relationships. Yet, in order to interpret the role in Papastathis’s film, you even had to practice knitting! Artistic expression requires a religious order to things. For me, my participation in Papastathis’s film was of a religious order. Revelatory. I am not under supervision. The audience will understand, I believe, a lot of things because the heart of the actor is what is externalized. I described this role as a «dangerous mission.» Like when I played Titus Andronicus. As for the knitting, I’ve knitted during a play before, I finished a pullover, using just two needles. Here, I had to knit a stocking with five needles, without looking down at my hands. It requires great skill. Therefore, discipline is required and you have to practice. Of course. Do you remember the film «Farewell, My Concubine»? It was a bit like that. I would go to the filming without having slept at all. A different environment, different conditions, shooting in Turkey. You are walking on different soil; another body in another land. It was, however, a magical adventure. Comparable only with the travels of Melville’s characters. I don’t think that I’ll do anything more difficult than this. I should really have changed profession after this film. Perhaps I should go and study insects! Is it just a coincidence that after Vizyinos you are thinking of staging «King Lear»? It’s the same standard of madness. Wittgenstein was right when he said that Shakespeare sang like a bird. You cannot easily communicate with him. Shakespeare is a musician. Word and music are totally bound together. The «only journey» that the grandfather in Vizyinos’s short story goes on is that of death. This is something I had within me as a memory. My uncle, my mother’s brother, traveled only once. He came to Athens and died. It was for him, too, the only journey of his life. I fell asleep in the scene where the hero dies. The set designer woke me. Do you think about the «end»? No. Because death is not a part of life. It’s something else. It’s a journey. ‘You go mad only when you are not loved’ «It would be difficult to repeat what I did in the voice-over in Vizyinos. Even when I heard it, I was shocked. The best part of my role was that I was turned into a musical instrument. I am a person who experiments. For me, Vizyinos was a revelatory role. This is why I can’t watch the film on screen. It was another side of me. I was a bit like a guinea pig. Something happened. The text was too breathtaking to be expressed via the camera. The voice is like a concerto, which I had not worked before. Something happened,» says Logothetis. What did you draw upon for the scenes of madness? The best definition of madness was given to me by a genius madman: «It’s as though you are being bathed in a white light.» I experienced it at the Dromokaitio (asylum). I saw the truly mad and those who pretend. For surely, when we talk about the mad, we are talking about the most beloved creatures, the most innocent and most intelligent. It’s easy to go mad. What’s difficult is to stay that way, as Beckett says. Many are born mad; very few people remain so. What is preoccupying my thoughts now is putting on «King Lear.» I believe that people go mad only when they are not loved. True madness doesn’t come from any malfunctioning of the brain, but from the emptiness of the heart. I must confess that the atmosphere at the Dromokaitio was much better than in the streets of Athens. The people are calm there. The mad people with the crazy outbursts don’t exist any more – science has taken care of that – only some people who protest within their loneliness. But what’s Dromokaitio in comparison to a tax office or an urban sprawl or a personal relationship? What is Dromokaitio next to the lines at the social security office?

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