CULTURE

‘Educating Rita’ on the stage

Although Giorgos Kimoulis has founded his own theater and drama school, he occasionally returns to the mainstream theater world. Hence, this season he is staging Willy Russell’s «Educating Rita» at the Vretania Theater, prompting many to wonder why he chose to do a romantic comedy at the age of 50. «Educating Rita» is about a middle-aged university professor whose career has gone downhill and who is struggling with alcoholism. So he decides to turn young and uneducated Rita into a respectable member of society. For Kimoulis, the story is very interesting and touches upon a variety of issues. «Can today’s education, which focuses on specialization, create alert citizens? Or does this focus on specialization just produce people who are pawns? In a teacher-student relationship, who has the power and who is the one being dominated?» he says. Kimoulis gives his answers in the form of questions and when asked why he left his own theater this season, he gives a sharp answer: «I’ve done that before. It depends on the kind of play I want to stage. I don’t believe that the plays we produce are always for these kinds of theaters [commercial theaters], but each one of them has its own story which must be respected and put in context. ‘Educating Rita’ is a contemporary ‘boulevard’ play, which can last longer at the Vretania, because it is a theater that has a long history in boulevard.» Could it be that, other than the Vretania Theater’s history, you were also attracted to [the play] because of its audience? The concept of the commercial theater center exists on such stages. You can’t really categorize the audience. The differences lie mainly between the people, not between groups. Differences used to be sharper, but things have changed now. What about the audience? It doesn’t seem to have the same distinctions it used to. That applies to all of us. Is that good or bad? I honestly don’t know. As I am living in this era, I cannot pass judgment on it and I cannot judge the audience either; it would be silly. But one can judge things that fellow artists do and the way that art is brought to the market and I can’t say it thrills me. It is harder to shine in theater today? It appears easier but that only concerns the means, not the location, although few people are interested in that. You sound rather disappointed. Not at all, we have learned to count the passing of time like politicians, in four-year terms. Have you ever felt that what you have been doing the past few years has nothing to do with others? It is very difficult at the age of 50, when you consciously make choices, to consider yourself isolated. But I can describe myself as a person with obsessions. A lot has changed in theater. Even the term «mainstream theater» is vague now. A lot of things are imposed now too; for instance, intervention has become more important than the actual plays. People do not have the critical eye they used to, because that requires time and they are short of time. So they just adopt other people’s judgments, which are usually the results of various interests. It didn’t always use to be like that. Of course there used to be groups of friends, protective of their own, but now it isn’t just about these groups. There are other kinds of interests. Such as? Definitely not the feeling which used to unite and protect friends. Things are no longer that innocent, a lot is involved. Why did you choose to stage a romantic comedy? I found the theme interesting; convincing somebody to do something. It is about our need to transmit any kind of knowledge, not just in an educational context but in our daily lives. Our need to change others, either because we are afraid of something different or because we want to reproduce what we represent, leads us to deadlocks. You cannot convince anyone to do something unless he or she really needs to. You have been running your drama school for 11 years and have produced many talented actors. How do you feel as a teacher? Talent is not what nature gave us. It is what we pay for. The word is also derived from talanton (ancient Greek coin). We pay for our arrogance at a time when nobody gives their soul away. Given your 30 years of experience in theater, is there something you would like to do or change? Not regarding the plays. I could have changed my attitude toward others, but it is too late now. Some say you are very impulsive and create contradictory feelings of love and hate. I could have been more clear-cut with the people I care for. The distance I may keep from them is out of intense politeness and not contempt, which is what I haven’t managed to show. «Educating Rita» is being staged at the Vretania Theater (7 Panepistimiou, tel 210.322.1579), at 9.20 p.m. Thursdays to Sundays, as well as 7.20 p.m. on Wednesdays and 6.20 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.