Getting in touch with the senses

The lights go down and the performance kicks off, as would be the case in any other theater. Yet this time things are different. The audience consists of toddlers, from 18 months to 5 years old, who are sitting on large comfortable cushions on the floor, between their parents and friends. Their eyes are glued to the children’s production «My Umbrella.» The performance is a journey to the very early senses, to memory and to the sweet things that accompany us for the rest of our life. It is a theatrical piece for babies and young children. For a year now, the Artika cultural company, founded by Katerina Alexaki, Emilia Zafeiratou and Marilena Triantafyllidou, have been staging shows for toddlers and kindergarten-age kids at their venue in Moschato (29 Aghion Saranda, tel 210.482.8431) every weekend. It is a kind of theater that the contemporary Greek scene had lacked. «It is not pantomime and it is not puppet theater. It is like all theatrical performances, it has sets, costumes and lights and it is adapted to the themes appropriate to these ages. It is about autonomy, the senses and exploring the world. It is a direct theater. You talk directly to the child, without all the codes that adult theater contains,» says Alexaki to Kathimerini. Alexaki is the director of «My Umbrella,» but she also directed the new production «A Wondrous New World,» which will open on December 8 and is addressed to children from 1-4 years old. The play has no text, but is instead based on lights, movement and music. «Performing for children is difficult and at the same time liberating. You never detect anything critical in their eyes, maybe because they are unbiased. On the other hand, they will not give you their attention unless what you do interests them,» said Marilena Triantafyllidou, who plays in the shows along with Emilia Zafeiratou. The entire company – which consists of the three actresses, musician Tania Yiannouli, set designers Maria Bacha and Gay Stefanou, choreographer Daphne Stefanou and lights designer Panayiotis Psychas – traveled to Iran at the end of October, where they presented «My Umbrella» at the Children and Young Adults Theater Festival in Esfahan. The group is also scheduled to travel to Spain in October. «The performances are a truly special experience for us, but also a challenge,» said Zafeiratou. «It is important to search for the deeper meaning of what we do,» added Alexaki. «Our main feedback is the comments of our audience, both adults and children. We need it to go on.» Shows at 6 p.m. on Saturdays and at 11 a.m. and 1.30 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is 12 euros.