CULTURE

Theater scene took great leaps in 2007

If anybody had claimed two years ago that the Athens Festival would change so completely that the Herod Atticus Theater would cease to be its trademark, people would have laughed. Yet this is what has happened. Pireos 260 It all started with George Loukos’s stint as the festival’s artistic director in 2006, but became a well-established fact in 2007. The revamped Athens Festival made its presence felt mostly along Pireos Street, where the Scholeion, the Benaki Museum’s Pireos Street annex and, above all, the Pireos 260 venues are situated. Pireos 260, the former Tsaousoglou industrial complex, is where a 600-seat theater was constructed in 2006. In 2007, a 500-seat theater was added, resulting in Pireos 260 becoming the «soul» of the festival, with shows almost daily at both theaters of performances that appealed to many people. Spectators of all ages, but mostly young people, filled the venues of the former industrial complex, abandoned until very recently, living proof of the festival’s rebirth. The Herod Atticus Theater is still the main venue for events, but it is no longer the only venue nor is it the best representative of the festival’s new style. Neos Cosmos Theater Ten years ago, the Neos Cosmos Theater sat idly as a depleted storage facility holding barley and other ingredients for the nearby and now-defunct Fix brewery, but it has since developed into one of the capital’s most intriguing venues. Besides offering worthy non-mainstream plays, the Neos Cosmos Theater has stood as a venue that is open to innovation, challenge, new artists and unconventional ideas. Founder Vangelis Theodoropoulos can’t have any complaint since launching the three-stage theater a decade ago. From early on, attendance figures were consistently above satisfactory. But this last season – which began in October with «One in Ten,» a play based on immigrants’ life experiences – has proven to be an overwhelming success. It’s not just the sight of sizable crowds before shows that impress, but, more importantly, the feeling that over the past 10 years this venue has surely and steadily made the right moves in terms of the choices of repertoire and associates to acquire solid artistic stature in an otherwise colorless part of town. This relatively recent venue is already building a tradition. The Neos Cosmos Theater has succeeded in turning personal aspiration into dynamism and imaginative cooperation. Houvardas at the National Following a highly creative, prolific and often angst-ridden 17-year stint at the Amore venue, where he based his Theatro tou Notou, founder Yiannis Houvardas made the difficult decision at the beginning of the year to leave it all behind for the helm of the National Theater as successor to the late Nikos Kourkoulos. Houvardas, a graduate of the esteemed Theatro Technis, has taken over a financially healthy establishment with the objective of elevating it to still higher artistic ground. This does not imply that under Kourkoulos the National Theater lacked artistry. Its former director was aware of such concerns while also making sure that the box-office figures were sound. As its recently appointed leader, Houvardas believes that the time is ripe to take certain big steps and transform the state-run theater into an artistic front-runner. Kourkoulos provided the foundation – literally, considering the renovation and extension work he oversaw at the National Theater. Judging by his actions so far, Houvardas appears determined to upgrade the state-run institution into a more modern and daring theater company.