CULTURE

Komninou inhabits Clytemnestra

She has played a slew of enviable roles from ancient drama and in the few cases where she seems to have initially missed something – such as with Clytemnestra in «Iphigenia at Aulis» which she is currently performing with the Thessaly Theater – it is because she didn’t pursue it. Filareti Komninou is the first to admit that she has never had a comfortable relationship with this play, Euripides’ last. When she was first proposed the role, she was skeptical because, she says, it is normally played heroically. «It bugged me because both Iphigenia and Antigone are usually portrayed as symbols of patriotism and heroism.» But extensive research changed her mind. «This, of course, also has to do with the director of the production, Sotiris Hadzakis.» But, Clytemnestra has always held a certain allure for the seasoned actress. When playing Electra, she was seized by the idea of playing Clytemnestra. «In the clash between the two, you can never really decide which of the two is right,» she says. Hadzakis has focused on the rituals of the play, the details, which in this case are underscored by the ritual of death. The production’s cachet is further enhanced by percussionist Petros Kourtis, who performed the drum display at the Athens Olympics Opening Ceremonies, as well as by Savina Yiannatou’s music and Dimitris Sotiriou’s choreography for the Sinequanon dance company. Komninou is pleased with this synergy and is also happy that her ties to ancient drama do not seem to be ending: «They just change with time.» She notes that she is not interested «in a role in ancient drama as much as playing in an ancient drama performance.» This distinction is also something she likes to teach her students at the National Theater’s Drama School. Komninou has further cause to be happy: She was recently elected an honorary professor at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki. As far as teaching is concerned, the actress enjoys it because it «revives my interest in the theater and also introduces me to a new generation of actors.» As a teacher, she remarks that many young people are thirsty for easy success and fast money. «But this goes for most professions,» she adds. «There are many kids who are different: They are smart, they are greatly informed, talented, sensitive and restless. My generation didn’t enjoy the privilege of information. We were lost in a much more fluid situation. Things flowed at a slower pace.» Komninou entered the world of acting in the 1980s because, she says, life pushed her in that direction. «It couldn’t have gone any other way. I was aiming for an academic career, but a series of coincidences led me to theater despite the reactions of my family. I couldn’t resist something that I first saw as a new experience at university and later realized was the only place where I felt completely at ease. I felt so good when I performed that I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. It gave me a sense of equilibrium.» Now that she is older, Komninou believes that everything happens for a purpose. «Life took me by the hand and led me to the stage. I believe that if I had not become an actress, I would have made many people around me unhappy. I realized this when I played Hedda Gabler. I tried to find the key to her psyche, to see why she made people unhappy. That’s also how life operates. If you rob someone of their dream, sooner or later it will come back and it will punish someone nearby.» The actress has lived in Athens for the past 11 years, though she frequently visits her hometown of Thessaloniki. She lives in the capital with her son, Giorgos Papageorgiou, a student at the National Theater Drama School. Now she is looking forward to his stage premiere this coming winter at the Neos Cosmos Theater. In the 27 years that she has been on the stage, Komninou admits to having gone through many different phases. One was bourgeoisie theater, or «chichi» plays, as her son says, teasing her. «He doesn’t want me to play roles like that. ‘I want you to be cool,’ he tells me.» What is most important to Komninou right now is to play in performances that are truly avant-garde. «I don’t want pseudo-modern or trendy shows. I’m trying to reach out in other directions. I’m looking for group projects with young actors and an inspired director. I want to shake things up, to get out of my comfort zone.» She is well aware, and wary, of the fact that what is often presented as innovative is nothing more than a bluff. «There’s a lot of sham talent hiding under the umbrella of innovation. Innovation to me is what the Kretakor theater [of Budapest] does. The Hungarian troupe came here to Greece and threw ‘The Seagull’ in our faces, without sets, without effects, with nothing but its actors. It was unique,» she says. The object is not to plump up her resume, but to seek out new synergies. «Often, when I used to feel that the environment around me didn’t have the magic or inspiration of true theater, I would embrace my role and try to salvage it. But an actor cannot give a great performance by using these defense mechanisms. In the early days of their careers, actors behave in a self-centered manner and only later seek something new and different,» she says, adding that there is little she regrets in life. «I am grateful to life, for my good luck and my guardian angel.» «Iphigenia at Aulis» will be on tour around the country this summer. Komninou performs alongside Alexandros Mylonas, Arto Apartian, Alexandros Moukanos,Tamilla Koulieva and others.