‘A backward national anthem’ for the stage

Often referred to, despite being relatively recent, «I Am Dying Like a Country/Theseum Ensemble,» a play which has been called «an alternate national anthem for our land» by the stage director Michail Marmarinos, ranks as one of the country’s few modern Greek classics in literature. The work is being staged for the Athens Festival by Marmarinos, an innovative artist, with his regular cast of collaborators, including composer Dimitris Kamarotos, set designer Kenny MacLellan and costume designer Dora Lelouda. The second of two performances is scheduled for tonight. Though it is not being presented for the first time, the latest staging of «I Am Dying Like a Country/Theseum Ensemble,» a multilayered play that has previously been staged both domestically and abroad, arguably rates as the most thorough attempt to date. This assertion is supported by the active involvement of its playwright Dimitris Dimitriadis among the project’s 200-member team. It includes over 20 actors, both seasoned and newcomers, numerous volunteers – a heroic effort considering this summer’s repeated heat waves – as well as a veteran Greek pop singer Beba Blans in a highly anticipated non-singing role. «I Am Dying Like a Country/Theseum Ensemble» has been described as a static procession of people that seems to spring from the first texts of the Old Testament and continue, without end, up until the present day. Commenting on the project, Marmarinos explained that no stage is used in the production: An enormous queue comprising hundreds of participants will stretch from outside the venue into the venue. «But the audience will be able to observe what’s happening along the entire line via live footage. The queue moves only slightly. It doesn’t parade… You can’t talk about a country without the necessary masses… a large entity of people on which the laws of history, society, collective behavior, mankind and lineage is imprinted,» explained Marmarinos about his highly unorthodox approach. «This is the image I had from the beginning, before I even began studying the text closer… It’s impossible for me to imagine any other way of staging this play.» Marmarinos rates the play’s text as fundamental reading «for various reasons, especially because of its profundity in terms of what we call the darker side of a nation – not the brighter sides, the gloomy ones. I think the more we know about our bleaker side, the greater our chances of achieving consummation… This play is a backward national anthem for the country.» The stage director added that this play and its writer made him feel proud to be «living in a country that’s dying, but possesses people like Dimitriadis and certain others…» Today, 9 p.m., Pireos 260, Stage D. Tickets from the Athens Festival box office (39 Panepistimio).

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