Mural of 19th century Athens

In late 19th century Athens, in a tunnel dug for the electric railway at Thiseion, a homeless dervish seeks shelter. Shunned by the then small Greek capital, coming from only God knows where, he is looking for a place to spend the night. It is cold and he cannot sleep; to warm his soul he plays his ney. «The Destitute Dervish» is one of the Athenian tales of the celebrated Greek writer Alexandros Papadiamantis (1851-1911). Stage director Thodoris Gonis has taken Papadiamantis’s colorful tale and adapted it for the stage, presenting it for the Hellenic Festival at the the Little Theater of Epidaurus tonight and tomorrow in a production with the Agrinion Regional Municipal Theater. In this story, the dervish is suddenly joined by a group of people, one that represents the knowns and unknowns of Athens, the intellectuals and the rovers, each with his own story, each contributing to the rich mural of Athenian life. Among them are a character described by historian and writer Dimitris Kambouroglou, the artist Yiannoulis Halepas, who brings with him a bas-relief titled «Oedipus and Antigone,» as the blinded king of Thebes and his daughter, a suppliant in Athens, follow behind. Now the stage director has moved back to downtown Athens, taking walks around Monastiraki, Thiseion and Psyrri, he admits to «thinking about the people who have lived in these parts. So I turned to Papadiamantis and his dervish and all the others gradually followed.» Halepas came too. «He disappeared one night from Thiseion, around the time he first became ill, and no one knew where he was. From a wonderful piece written by Stratis Doukas on Halepas in ‘The Life of a Saint’ I learned something about his life when he was making his Oedipus and Antigone sculpture. Someone said to him, ‘Ancient things again?’ And he answered, ‘But this is me and my niece, who brought me here from Tinos.’ That’s how Oedipus joined the gang. I liked the idea of a foreigner, the dervish, inviting a fallen king into his haven.» The text for the play that will be presented at Epidaurus is a composition of texts, some of which Gonis wrote himself. He has borrowed extracts from writer Photis Kontoglou, from Sophocles’ «Oedipus at Colonus» and «Antigone,» from folklorist Nikolaos Politis, from Vladimiros Mirmiroglou’s book «The Dervishes» and even from poet and Sufi mystic Yunus Emre and passages from the Bible. As far as Papadiamantis is concerned, Gonis explains that the play is «attributed to him because of the presence of the dervish. There is also reference to his work in the music, by Nikos Xydakis, and in the sounds; the sounds of the city and of the people living in it.» The set, created by painter Christos Bokoros, is like «a looted graveyard, like a demolished archaeological site. It is a reference to Halepas’s backyard, which was littered with blocks of marble he used for his work,» says the director. The costumes, by Athens Olympics opening ceremony costume designer Angelos Mendis, are simple, in earthy tones. The main roles are performed by Sophocles Peppas, Giorgos Moroyiannis, Giorgos Gallos and Makis Papadimitriou. After Epidaurus, the performance will travel to Petroupolis and Halandri in Athens, and to Oiniades in western Greece. For information and tickets, tel 210.327.2000.

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