Evangelatos takes on Chekhov

Despite his 40-year career in theater, director Spyros Evangelatos had never tackled Chekhov until now, with the staging of «The Cherry Orchard» at his Amphi-Theater. He admired Chekhov from early on and had not hesitated to take on works by playwrights of the caliber of Shakespeare, Goethe and Strindberg. «I didn’t feel mature enough [for Chekhov], I felt I had nothing original to say that could just jump out of the characters, the notions and the atmosphere of the play,» he said. But he has dared to do so now, at a time when things have changed considerably in the Amphi-Theater after the passing-away of his beloved spouse and collaborator, actress Leda Tassopoulou. Yet he is not alone, since a new presence has been added to the historical theater in the shape of their daughter, Katerina Evangelatou. «She has a lot of talent and a powerful personality, to the extent that I can be objective,» said her father. «Her first productions as a director give the impression that she has great experience, whereas of course she has none. That is the instinct she has.» Do you see her as a competitor in the Amphi-Theater? It would be the utmost satisfaction for me if Katerina did more than I have in life. Given that I have set a high standard, if she can go higher it would feel like the best gift a parent can receive. Are you hoping that she will succeed you at some point in the Amphi-Theater? I don’t even know if she wants to and I don’t want to put any pressure on her. When we happen to talk about it, she says she doesn’t know. Going back to Chekhov, it is strange for me to hear you say you felt immature to take on the playwright. Although I was ready to jump on any classic playwright from a very young age, something held me back with Chekhov. It could be because I realized that his work can’t be toyed with. There are many traps. Chekhov claimed that «The Cherry Orchard» was a comedy and had publicly disagreed with Stanis-lavsky who had directed it as a drama. What do you believe it is? I think it is something in between. There are intensely dramatic scenes, so it would be foolish to turn it into a comedy, but on the other hand there are humorous elements that are very difficult and have to be highlighted. What made you believe you had matured enough to take on Chekhov? My experiences and the sense of humor that my friends claim I still have, I felt I could tackle the play’s underlying plot. Because in all great plays, especially Chekhov’s, what is important is not what is being said but what is being suggested. Have you come up with «something original» to say? I think I can follow a certain style of the humorous alternating with the lyrical and dramatic while at the same time respecting the play’s meanings. The main reason I decided to stage Chekhov was that I put together a very good cast. It is an interesting combination of older and younger actors who are Petros Fyssoun, Dimitra Hatoupi, Nikos Haralambous, Giorgos Velentzas, Niki Touloupaki, Thanassis Kourlambas, Giorgos Bougos, Marina Aslano-glou, Vassilis Poulakos, Gioulika Skafida, Elina Malama and Lefteris Polychronis. Why «The Cherry Orchard»? It is most representative of my mental disposition. Could the death of Leda Tassopoulou have influenced you in tackling a playwright who was greatly concerned with the bittersweet aspects of life? Maybe it did, subconsciously. I haven’t thought about it, but it could have something to do with it. The performance is intensely emotional, but has intertwined humorous elements that spring out of the play itself. So your direction follows the text closely. It remains very faithful to the flow suggested by the text. In Chekhov, even sentences that appear to be nothing special hide such tension that you would be useless if you didn’t uncover it. With the actors we have worked very hard on clearly stating what is being suggested. Does the setting bring to mind Chekhov? No, it is a contemporary, abstract setting designed by Giorgos Patsas, based mostly on Melina Mascha’s lights. The costumes, also by Patsas, are modern but not provocatively so. What is your opinion about «modern» stagings of Chekhov, both Greek and foreign, like the ones we saw recently? Nothing is forbidden in art. What is important is whether it will succeed or not, whether there is a reason to do it. That is why I avoided staging Chekhov for so many years. You can’t fool around with Chekhov, because you destroy the play.