A French door for the Greek theater scene

French theater director Jean-Michel Ribes – the founder of the Theatre du Rond-Point who is currently in Athens for a short visit – demonstrated how we can shake things up here in Greece in a way that will matter. He impressed everyone in meetings with local artists and at a recent press conference, not by the breadth of his encyclopedic knowledge, but by his profound understanding and knowledge of the French theater scene and recent initiatives that have taken place, such as the foundation of the Theatre du Rond-Point. Ribes is in the capital for a series of meetings with Greek artists, organized within the context of celebrations for the French Institute’s 100th anniversary. Ribes will be taking part in closed round-table discussions with directors Vassilis Papavassiliou, Michail Marmarinos, Stathis Livathinos and Xenia Kalogeropoulou, actress Katerina Didaskalou and others. Tomorrow he will hold a discussion, open to the public and titled «For a Theater Policy,» at noon, which journalist Nikos Bakounakis will coordinate. «Stage directors were the dominant personalities of the theater for some 40 years and they wielded great power. We reached a point where we had almost forgotten who had written ‘Hamlet,’» said Ribes, explaining the beginning of the fascinating history of the Theatre du Rond-Point, which changed the French theater scene. Ribes, who apart from being a director is also an actor and a playwright, explained that in France, 82 percent of theater production were of plays written by writers who were already dead, and only 8 percent were of contemporary works. In 2000, Ribes spearheaded a project, which he describes as a «movement of those of us who are still alive. We rallied behind the project like true Zapatistas and came together to create a theater that would stage plays by living playwrights.» The group located an abandoned building on the Champs Elysees and following a request to the City of Paris and to the French Ministry of Culture they took over the venue and received confirmation of financial support. The result was something that, by Greek standards, was totally unexpected: A lively arts complex was created, with its own bar, restaurant and library, that hosts spectacles, readings, discussions (in collaboration with newspaper Le Monde) and performances that start daily from 10 a.m. and run well into the evening. «It was as if the public had been waiting for something like that for a long time,» said Ribes. «The City of Paris and the ministry meet 44 percent of our expenses today. The remaining 56 percent comes from our own funds, ticket sales and the like. We employ 45 people and we have a similar number of collaborators. The aim of these meetings in Athens is a possible future collaboration. In a couple of years we may welcome Greek artists at the Theatre du Rond-Point,» he said.

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