Theater out of the shadows as Karaghiozis goes digital

Hear ye, hear ye, o Englishmen, Frenchmen, Portuguese and the rest of you Europeans! Karaghiozis (the famous Greek anti-hero of shadow puppet theater), the Sycophant, the Stammerer, Giovanni the Italian – among the cast of puppet characters that take part in the famous series of plays – invite you to a performance with a difference. In a global first, the traditional art of shadow theater is recast in an electronic form, a CD-ROM (published by Kastaniotis-interactive) that goes both before and behind the curtain to come up with pictures and performances in both black and white and color. A taste of the CD-ROM, «Karaghiozis, the Magic of Shadow Theater» (Karaghiozis, i Mageia tou Theatrou Skion) was given at the Municipality’s of Athens Cultural Center on Monday, February 4, with speakers that included Malcolm Yates Knight, of the Scottish Mask and Puppet Theater, Michalis Meraklis, professor of Athens University, and Dorina Papaliou, author of the texts and editor of the CD-ROM. Veteran shadow theater player Yiannis Dagiakos, who assisted in collating the material (unpublished until now), gave a performance specially for the evening. Pressing on a dragon or a mini-curtain will produce information on shadow theater music, the first shadow theater players, the schools and their pupils, the first unions – on all of Greek shadow theater and the birth of Karaghiozis himself, in short. Also on the CD-ROM are the sketches themselves, both comic and heroic. Best of all, children can make up their own shadow puppets and write their own performances. Dorina Papaliou has coupled research with photographic, audial and videotaped material. «As an oral art, the shadow theater player, like the traditional storyteller, maintains a two-way, interreactive relationship with his audience. As the audience changes, so does the style of play,» she told Kathimerini. «If anything has changed, it is that the audience is now composed of children, not adults. There are large numbers of young shadow theater players and Karaghiozis performances are multiplying,» she added. The CD-ROM contains 50 minutes of original performances on video, 27 minutes of original audial material and over 300 unpublished photographs from the archives of Karaghiozis players Manthaios Athinaios and Mimis Manos. Where to begin may seem a formidable question, if one lacks the time. Dorina Papaliou replied, «It (the CD-ROM) is not to be read from beginning to end like a book, but in extracts, which is what makes it lively. Some young people, who would be unlikely to buy a book on Karaghiozis, might find it attractive in its digital form.»

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