Artist tries hand at direction

Following his extraordinary work in the Klepsydra, the seductive parade of the opening ceremony of the Athens 2004 Olympics, Angelos Mentis is now entering a new stage in his art and work. Taking off from artistic makeup, he ventured successfully into the world of theater costume design and has now turned to set design and directing. Mentis is currently working with eclectic actress Anna Kokkinou, who some deem «difficult» in her collaborations, in Bertolt Brecht’s «The Good Person of Szechwan.» A theater classic, the play takes a look at how one manages to be a good person in a world far from perfect, money-oriented and divided by class. During the early stages of production, the play was marked by the departure of several collaborators, with the director, set designer and cast changing more than once. Though initially entrusted with the play’s costume design, Mentis in the end was handed the play’s direction. Besides directing, he also took on set design and makeup – eventually leaving the costume design to artist and costume designer Maria Ilia, a friend and close collaborator. Turning to directing was not a conscious decision for Mentis: The production was undergoing constant changes and he was eager to help. «I find it very interesting, of course, but as much as I enjoy it, as much as I’d like to, you can only decide to deal with something once you’ve proved that you’ve got the ability to do so. As far as I’m concerned, even if this effort proves to be a success, I don’t think I’ll be able to say, ‘OK, this is it, I’ll be director now;’ perhaps it would take five successful productions for me to say so,» said Mentis. Working next to Kokkinou proved to be a great experience as well: «I must confess that Anna was hugely supportive. Not only did she encourage me to take it all on, but she passed on to me things that she herself knows very well. And all along she listened to me, not an easy thing to do,» said Mentis. «Anna is a difficult person, but she is also somebody who adores her work – there are very few people like her around. For me, Anna Kokkinou is a fountain of wealth. You ask her to try something new and she presents it to you in a hundred different ways; an artist with a rich imagination. Naturally, there were different points of view during rehearsals, but we talked it through. Besides, I don’t give up easily. I’ll accept responsibility until the very end.» The set design Mentis came up with resembles an excavation area, while the production features lots of original music composed by Constantinos Beta and based on Brecht’s existing lyrics. Based on a translation by Anny Koltsidopoulou and Mentis’s direction, the play presents people as symbols, as opposed to psychological portraits of the characters. Alongside Kokkinou, the cast includes Electra Gennata, Irini Inglesi, Thanassis Halkias, Katerina Fotiadi, Giorgos Gatzios, Costas Laos, Dimitris Xanthopoulos, Despina Gatziou and Margarita Loumaki. Sfendoni Theater, 4 Makri, Makriyianni, tel 210.924.6692. Tuesdays to Saturdays at 8.30 p.m. and Sundays at 7.30 p.m.