Leaving the rat race far behind

At the age of 55, actor Dimitris Piatas is finding more interesting work than he did as a young man of 20. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that he is feeling more relaxed. The roles he has filled recently are proof that his career has taken a turn. Straight after appearing in the film «Chariton’s Choir,» he jumped into consecutive roles in «Ithikon Akmaiotaton» (Peak Morale) and the most recent «Wedding List.» The past 12 months have indeed seen Piatas in a very broad range of roles. In the first film, directed by Grigoris Karantinakis, he plays a criminal associate of Al Capone. In the second, by Stamatis Tsarouchas, he is a psychologist who meets up with his friends of old and in the third, directed by Takis Portokalakis, he plays a 50-year-old who sees himself as something of a player. The work he is doing on stage is also remarkable. Here he has transformed himself into a cunning plotter for the Greek National Theater’s production of Michalis Hourmouzis’s 1830s play «The Clerk,» directed by Costas Tsianos. What do you like about the role of the overly ambitious, ruthless civil servant you play on the stage? He is cunning, shameless, embracing all things European and snubbing everything Greek. He finds anything that has to do with revolution against the powers-that-be banal; an insult to his sense of aesthetics. The play has sociological interest because on a bureaucratic level, Greece today is facing a corrupt system of public administration and we have several examples: the judicial trial-fixing ring, doctors taking kickbacks, probes into corrupt ministers, etc. This just proves that it is all a very old story that stems from the very establishment of the state. The play reminds me of things I encounter every single day. It says a lot about the nouveau riche of today. Costas Tsianos has turned the focus of his directorial approach onto this theme. How does the prose of the 1830s differ from that of today? It was more primitive and more comic. Prose today is more dangerous because it is masked. Those who govern us and want to keep us underfoot – be they religious leaders, politicians or presenters who control the media and who appear quite serious and pose as representatives of the people – are much more corrupt. They are, therefore, much more dangerous because they can talk, they have access. The others, who still have some sense of decency, are the ones who remain quiet. Is that how they react? Silence is the only solution. Isn’t that like accepting a fact? It is not that easy to take to the streets. The only thing you can do is save yourself and find a small sanctuary. That’s the cycle of life. History has proven that dinosaurs and other rare species are the ones that die out and it is the cockroaches and rats that survive. You have to choose whether you will be a cockroach or that small ant which carries the wisdom of the world on its back in the hope that one day spring will come and he will be able to throw it off his back and watch it blossom. What have your professional experiences been these past 30 years? I have served every type of theater and have experienced the spring, birth, change, spring again and old age of Greece’s cultural life. I wouldn’t like to become one of those people who see themselves as fodder or leaders or accusers. That’s all too cafe philosophy for me. The point is that you have to be committed, to fight, to maintain your sense of dignity, your clarity. Silence is not the product of cowardice. It is a philosophical stance, a way of life. Your career has had a somewhat backward course: You started out at the Greek National Theater, served as one of the founding members of the Spyros Evangelatos Amphitheater in 1972 and then joined the Free Theater. The 1980s saw you starring in commercial theater and now you appear to have gone back to your roots. I learned a lot of things in the commercial theater. I participated in the efforts of businessmen to marry the old theater status quo (Vlachopoulou, Vengos, Gionakis, Moustakas, Constantinou, etc) with young actors from my generation. I gained knowledge and I had a good time. Then I went on to create my own mode of expression with my partner. I wanted to take an artistic turn and to serve the theater, not from the point of view of the businessman who wants to know how many tickets are selling, but a change that would put forward a proposal. This was in the 1990s, when I performed in several noteworthy plays. What was it that put you off commercial theater? I couldn’t stand the cold, hard competition. You can’t enjoy your success as an artist in that climate. You are always being eaten away by thoughts of what will come next. I was terrified by this anxiety throughout the next day. Are you anxious about what your next success will be nowadays? Honestly, no. I no longer try to take matters into my own hands. I am just open to suggestions that will meet my needs. Does this stance have to do with maturity? Certainly. When we’re young, we’re insatiable and impatient. No, I want to choose and be chosen. It is like the relationship you have with your partner: You want to love each other equally. Do you get along with young actors? Let’s cut these young actors some slack. They are not living in the best of worlds. There are a lot of ideas out there, a lot of young people, a lot of troupes that want to express themselves, that want to be given a voice. If this voice carries a little bit too much TV in it, it is not the fault of the young. That’s what we gave them. Let’s let them express themselves.

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