Enjoy the show, with no heels

There’s a new motto in Athens this summer: No more high heels at the Herod Atticus Theater. Women might make up the bulk of audiences, purchasing most tickets for cultural events, but it turns out that they are also responsible for a number of problems at this particular venue. Though there has been talk about prohibiting them in the past, high heels continue to cause damage to the ancient theater. This year however, women wishing to try their acrobatic skills on 10-centimeter spikes by walking up or down the theater’s narrow steps will be requested to change their habits. The Central Archaeological Council (KAS) has decided to take a number of measures and the Hellenic Festival has been asked to raise public awareness by informing the public through its program, advertising material and tickets. But the problem is not only high heels. Archaeologists back up their arguments that chewing gum is equally guilty by pointing to last year’s collection of 27 kilos of gum, mainly from the upper tier. Apart from prohibiting the use of mobile phones, the making of illegal recordings, smoking and the consumption of food and soft drinks, the pre-recorded list featuring the voice of Alexis Kostalas will now include the two latest enemies – high heels and chewing gum. KAS did not decide on more radical measures, given that the focus of efforts will be on educating the public. There was talk, however, about excessively high decibel levels, the setting up and dismantling of stage props, nails hammered by technicians into ancient parts of the theater and refuse clogging manholes. A few years ago, archaeologist Alexandros Mantis found himself experiencing a true nightmare, when the ancient theater flooded at the same time that Prince Charles was being shown around the Acropolis by Evangelos Venizelos, then minister of culture. From now on, a representative of the Culture Ministry’s department of ancient monuments will be present when stage sets and props are erected or dismantled. However, the sheer volume of stage sets remains an issue. Suffice it to note that the National Greek Opera’s opening production of this year’s Athens Festival, «Carmen,» includes a car. More issues Other longstanding issues still to be resolved include the Hellenic Festival’s debt to the Archaeological Resources and Expropriation Fund, with respect to the fees paid by those performing at the ancient monument. This year’s fees have been set at 2,000 euros per performance and 500 euros for each rehearsal. The problem, however, is the outstanding debt of 814,022 euros up to last year. While a ban on high heels may prove to be inevitable, all this talk simply illustrates the ministry’s inability to effectively manage its affairs. This may be even truer now that the Hellenic Festival has been placed under its supervision.