Minister, artists agree it’s high time for theater center

An informal meeting that took place recently between Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis and a group of artists reiterated a pressing need for a national center of theater and dance. A draft law already under consideration in the Greek Parliament would give such a center complete autonomy, while the board of directors, though appointed by the culture minister, will be allowed complete freedom in the decision-making process. The meeting took place on the occasion of the draft bill’s presentation to Parliament’s plenary session some time later this month. The participants at the meeting, all significant personalities in the Greek theater and dance world, were: Lefteris Vogiatzis, Theodoros Terzopoulos, Vassilis Papavassileiou, Yiannis Houvardas, Antonis Antypas, Vangelis Theodoropoulos, Nikiforos Papandreou, Apostolos Vettas, Spyros Evangelatos, Deni Efthymiou, Apostolis Papadamaki, Efrosini Protopapa, Zoe Dimitriou and Fotis Nikolaou. Voulgarakis was the first to address the issue. He underlined the need for a comprehensive body that would look at Greek theater from all angles, including in terms of politics, finance, sponsorship and policy involving the other departments of the Ministry of Culture. The minister added that the government’s plan for the center is designed along similar lines to the already-existing National Book Center and the National Film Center. «These mechanisms operate in a complementary way to the ministry and have yielded some very positive results. I am not saying they are perfect, but they have worked very well,» he added. «We have thought of creating a theater center along the same lines and have incorporated dance into it, because dance is a very important issue that has not been properly approached so far. I am hoping that at some point dance may have it own center as well,» said Voulgarakis. The artists present had one claim to make and in it they were unanimous: that the government give the plan its full support and that the center be created as soon as possible. Houvardas insisted on the need for the center’s autonomy, asking for the minister’s pledge to this end. Evangelatos referred to the appointment of the board and suggested that the members should be esteemed personalities of the theater and dance world, but he also stressed that these personalities should not be artists who have been active in their fields in the last five years, meaning, as Theodoropoulos went on to clarify, board members should not have any interest in particular projects, groups or sponsorship sources. On a different note, Papavassileiou asked that the country’s regional municipal theater also be included in the centers charter. The center also holds a lot of promise for the Greek dance world, which faces numerous problems, as Papadamaki stressed: «About 50 percent of all funds received by dance companies go toward renting out theaters. Then, another 10 percent goes toward equipping the theaters with, for example, a floor that is suitable for dance.» Her comments underlined the dire need for specialized dance venues. «The funds should be going to the people who work in the field, to the dancers,» she added. In conclusion, Voulgarakis said that the national theater and dance center is indeed in a nascent phase and that headquarters for it were already being considered. The center, he added, «will put some order in a field that until today has been all over the place.»

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