Nascent dramatic talent gets an opportunity from behind the scenes

For the fifth year running, the high-caliber Notos Theater company in Athens is offering aspiring theatrical talent the opportunity to present their work as part of a small-scale experimental drama series, dubbed «Rehearsals,» at its home base, the Amore Theater. So far, the festival has helped nascent writers showcase their work, get new actors on the stage and prompt established actors to make attempts at directing and writing. Such is the case this year, too. The agenda comprises four plays. Three were written by actors who have also taken on directorial duties, while the event’s fourth production was prepared by a film director. Akillas Karazissis, who has been writing for years without ever going public, opened the «Rehearsals» series on Wednesday with «Adventure in Town and Countryside.» Running through May 13, it is well-worked. «It contains autobiographical elements, but is an effort at personal storytelling,» said Karazissis. «I’m trying to address the post-junta generation. For those of us who are not in our 20s or 70s, but who lived in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. In other words, three different versions of Greece.» The play is propelled by adventures of metaphysically intertwined worlds: a German hill in the heart of Thessaloniki; Heidelberg along the Halkidiki coast in northern Greece; Athens within the vicinity of Gevgeli in FYROM (the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). The play’s overall context reflects the writer’s own experience. Karazissis was born and raised in Thessaloniki, but studied and worked in Germany between 1985 and 1991. «It’s a very personal setup,» he remarked. «Bits and pieces of [personal] history that make up a mural… I wanted to make a kind of family production using personal material and my people,» he continued. The play includes the writer’s wife and sister. Poetry and fiction rank as his favorite disciplines, said Karazissis, who began writing for theater in 1995, for himself. «I don’t mind if my attempt is deemed unsuccessful. When you expose yourself, there’s always the other side,» said Karazissis. «I don’t write to be liked by others, but to communicate.» Panayiotis Larkos, 26, is the youngest writer taking part in this year’s «Rehearsals.» «Agleoras and Evridiki Bondy’s Friends,» which he directs, is the writer’s second project following «Three,» which was staged at the Neos Cosmos Theater in 2004. This latest project by Larkos, playing between May 18 and 28, comprises 11 monologues. «They’re unrelated, without any common thread, and were written to make the recipient feel good. All the texts exude a feeling of joy,» said Larkos, who began writing after graduating from the National Theater’s drama school. He wrote «Agleoras and Evridiki Bondy’s Friends» while performing a part in his own play «Three.» «Writing is like therapy – to recuperate from work,» said Larkos, who indicated that directing was probably his favorite of all the drama-related disciplines.» It’s nice to sit in a chair and tell others what to do,» he quipped, while adding that he was particularly interested in making the audience understand his intentions. His cast for «Agleoras and Evridiki Bondy’s Friends» comprises Makis Papadimitriou, Pantelis Dentakis, Christos Malakis and Dimitris Daskas. Long associated with the Amore Theater, Argyris Xafis, who studied at the National Theater’s drama school, is being put to the test, both as a playwright and director, for the very first time with «Phi,» to be staged from tomorrow to May 14. Xafis, who co-wrote «Phi» with Vassilis Mavrogeorgiou, said he was driven by the need for self-expression, and the goal of presenting the outcome. «I’ve always looked for ways that make it easier for actors to function on stage,» said Xafis, who accepted the festival’s offer without having any play that expressed his current state of mind, so he created a tale. «It’s a story about a young girl whose father is an overprotective academic,» said Xafis, who brought in a circle of friends to assist him with the project. «I always seek to be with friends when I work. The security offered by our similarities is important.» The production includes co-writer Mavrogeorgiou, Costas Gakis for the music, Kyriaki Tsitsa for stage design, as well as the actors Anna Kalaitzidou, Katerina Mavrogeorgi, and Anna Kalaitzidou. Despite his plunge into writing and directing for this project, Xafis appears determined to continue with acting. «I’ll be very fortunate if I’m able to express myself like this in the future. I won’t pursue it with a career in mind.» The «Rehearsals» series ends with «The City to its Knees» by Michel Fais. The project takes its title from a photography exhibition and a pictorial that had proven controversial several years ago. A photographer wonders around the city taking shots of homeless people, and accumulating stories and experiences as part of his documentation of a peculiar world, and, moreover, as the writer noted, «to stand on level with their lives – just above the asphalt, and just below death.» The play’s director, Thanos Anastassopoulos – who, until this project had focused all his activity on film directing – captures this desperate state of the homeless. The 40-year-old Anastassopoulos, who is in charge of the Thessaloniki Film Festival’s Greek section, has so far directed three shorts and a feature film. «I got into theater by accident,» said Anastassopoulos, attributing his involvement to the interesting proposal made by Fais, the work’s writer, and the «increasing production difficulties in our field [film].» The Amore Theater is at 10 Prigiponnisson, Polygono. For further information, tel 210.646.8009.