A small gem stands out among more commonplace festival fare

Among the numerous festivals that take place every summer throughout Greece, many of which have programs that seem to be carbon copies of one another, there stand out a handful of smaller events that boast a distinct identity of their own, such as the one held on Naxos. The Naxos Festival, now in its seventh year, is held annually at the Bazaios Tower. Built in 1600 on the Agiassos Plain and serving as a monastery until 1900, it was renovated by the Bazaios family – which has owned the property for over a century – at its own expense. This year’s program, which organizers claim is the «most representative yet,» includes an exhibition inside the tower held in collaboration with the Cycladic Art Museum and a series of events in the tower’s courtyard, such as plays (Italo Calvino, Luigi Pirandello and Dimitris Dimitriadis) and musical soirees (with soprano Sonia Theodoridou, folk/world music singer Savina Yannatou, the Carousel Ensemble and a tribute to Cretan writer Nikos Kazantzakis on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his death, featuring Aleka Paizi and Maria Farandouri). There are essentially two people behind the Naxos Festival: Stelios Krasanakis, a stage director and doctor who specializes in drama therapy and is also artistic director of the event, and Marios Bazaios, the tower’s current owner. The organizer of the event is the Aeon Cultural Center, which is run by the two men and which operates as a professional drama therapy training center. «The festival came along later,» explains Krasanakis, «on the one hand because we were always interested, as individuals, in organizing such an activity and on the other because the tower lent itself beautifully for something of the sort.» The artistic director notes that the cornerstones of the endeavor were Angelos Delivorias, director of the Benaki Museum, and Maria Farandouri, the celebrated Greek singer. The islanders, he says, «have embraced it very warmly. This is one of the main reasons why we continue holding it. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for the municipal authorities on the island, who see the festival as competition and hold their own events in response. When we first started, one of the municipalities gave us funding of 1 million drachmas (approximately 3,000 euros), but since then we have received nothing at all and have even had our water supply cut. The municipality above us says it’s because we are too far away and the one below says we belong to the one above. This is how they choose to deal with an event that has benefited the island overall, by boosting its image as a tourist and cultural destination. We are hoping, however, that this attitude will change in time.» The money for the events comes out of their own pockets, with the exception of a few small grants. Yet the cost, say organizers, is covered by «the public which flocks to the events and the artists, who we must admit, come for much smaller fees than usual.» For the first time this year, the Ministry of Culture granted the Naxos Festival a sponsorship of 25,000 euros. This allowed them, explains Krasanakis, «to build a mobile stage and to organize a few independent productions and a more substantial cycle of events on Italian art, focusing on the 800th anniversary of the establishment of the Duchy of Naxos.» Future objectives include further independent productions as well as joint productions – regarding which Krasanakis and Bazaios are currently holding talks with Hellenic Festival director Giorgos Loukos. «We would like to be able to present certain themes as fully as possible; we are not interested in growing out of sensible proportion. The possibility of an open-air amphitheater somewhere on the property surrounding the tower is something we can begin thinking about, but even if this happens it won’t change the philosophy of the festival,» says Krasanakis. The program The remaining events of the festival are as follows: Tonight, Elena Tiblalexi directs «Invisible Cities,» a play based on Calvino’s work of the same title and which tomorrow will be presented in a production especially for children; on Friday, Sonia Theodoridou will perform 17th century Italian arias; on Sunday and Monday, Roula Pateraki will star in «Insenso,» a new play by Dimitris Dimitriadis inspired by Luchino Visconti’s «Senso» and directed by Krasanakis; a play titled «Six Characters in Search of Mr Pirandello,» inspired by the Italian playwright’s «Six Characters in Search of a Writer» and adapted by Lorenzo Amato for the Drama Therapy – Aeon ensemble; and, lastly, a tribute to Nikos Kazantzakis on August 20, in which Aleka Paizi will read extracts from the Cretan writer’s works and Farandouri will sing Hadjidakis’s «Captain Michalis.»