Trying to make the dream real

The Greek National Theater’s Experimental Stage has already seen numerous changes this season and, under the directorship of Stathis Livathinos, is steadily evolving into one of the country’s most creative groups. Leaving behind the two basement theaters it used to occupy in the back of the National Theater headquarters on Aghiou Constantinou Street, the Experimental Stage is now housed at the two small, cozy theaters of the Apo Michanis Theater in Metaxourgeio, which the National Theater has leased as its own building undergoes extensive renovation work. The smaller of the two theaters at the Apo Michanis is presenting a performance of three works by young Greek playwrights, while the larger stage is showing August Strindberg’s «Dream Play.» The performance is directed by Livathinos and features the core cast of the Experimental Stage, all of whom have already made their mark in 18 top-class performances with the company over the years. Strindberg’s «Dream Play» opened on Saturday to a full house and rave reviews. Why the choice of this play? «Because it is a play about people’s dreams and the price they pay to have them realized,» said the director. «At first I was put off by the play: the haphazard narrative, the chaotic structure, the incredible freedom of it and the impunity with which the writer handles handles the characters, the situations and ideas. But then I read an introduction to the play written by Strindberg and my eyes were opened to what he was trying to do: He is trying to imitate a dream, explore its form, which has neither time nor space, which is led by its own rules. He is taking on a huge challenge here, setting the foundations for the most explosive and liberated expression you can demand of art. This play is, in fact, the first ever written in the history of the theater like a dream.» Through the dream structure, Strindberg tells the story of an angel (played by Natalia Stylianou), who, according to Livathinos, «makes the journey of her own life through other people’s lives.» The angel opens «with the hope-filled beginning of a young woman’s life, experiencing the joy of love and the pain of loss before ascending to heaven once more. It is a journey seen through the magnifying glass of a dream. It is a play that talks about the value of harboring dreams and trying to make them real no matter what the cost,» said the director. The 30 characters in the play are performed by 15 actors, who include the core of the Experimental Theater’s cast as well as a few newcomers, such as Dimitris Imellos, Nikos Kardonis, Despina Kourti, Dimitris Papanikolaou, Stathis Grapsas, Aris Troupakis and Vassilis Andreou. The translation is by Giorgos Depatsas, the sets and costumes by painter Alekos Levidis, the music by Thodoris Abazis and the choreography by Cecile Mikroutsikou. The lighting is designed by Philippos Koutsaftis. Season’s woes However, after having to move, adapt to new premises and prepare for «Dream Play,» the theater company has been feeling the strain. «That’s how it is. To make a dream, you sometimes have to go through a nightmare first,» Livathinos said. The artistic director of the Experimental Stage has another reason to feel disappointed this season. After the successful operation of the three-year Director’s Workshop at the Experimental Stage, the Theater Director’s School which Livathinos was hoping would be opened this year is a no-go. According to National Theater director Nikos Kourkoulos, an absence of funds is the main reason why the school will not be put into operation, even though it is a part of the National Theater’s charter and is needed in a country which has no such school. «If there is one thing that gives weight to the work we have been doing all these years, it is our educational activities,» Livathinos said. «And all this valuable experience is going to go to waste if we do not build on it and if we do not invest it in an institution which is, after all, so necessary for Greek theater.»

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