Theater learned the hard way, but with a lasting, provocative result

Her productions always steer clear of flattery and passing trends. Ever since making her entrance into the world of theater in the early 1980s, Angela Brouskou has been clear about her objectives. Her interest lies in research, in getting down to the core of things, in being poignant and certainly «not syrupy.» Brouskou has achieved just this with the Theatro Domatiou (Chamber Theater), which she established in 1993. There, she has presented works by a variety of playwrights, including Jean Genet, Moliere, August Strindberg, Euripides, Sophocles, Sarah Kane and Margarita Karapanou. The fact is that her productions are the kind that you either agree with or don’t. They certainly don’t leave you indifferent, and the recent announcement that she is directing Tennessee Williams’s «A Streetcar Named Desire» for the Sfendoni Theater begs the question: «What will her Blanche DuBois (played by Olia Lazaridou) look like?» Brouskou spoke to Kathimerini about how she approached the classic American play. Why did you chose this particular play? There have been so many legends woven around it that I wanted to look at the subject through the perspective of what America is today – of how it is and of how we have been influenced by it. From our way of life to everything else that stems from it. The play is very much about this; it is not just about the actors. The social environment that develops through these influences serves as a study for «Streetcar.» Have you added any new characters? They are all the same, though they have an extra role to perform. Have you deviated from the original play? Mostly I have followed it exactly, though there are some comments that come across as action and I have not used the picturesque scenes of New Orleans. The Blanche most people know is very sweet. What can we expect from your Blanche? Blanche represents America to me. She embodies the decline, the failure, the collapse of the American dream. America does not forgive failure. And this is one of the key concepts of the performance. We have two worlds: Tennessee Williams’s America and Hollywood’s America at its most syrupy – and we like it, just as we like Coca-Cola. Williams puts the debris of American society on a pedestal where everything seems charming. But there is always a different aspect and that is today’s image of America. I must stress that I refer to the America that we [Greeks] know and admire, but I have tried to give the characters a more realistic dimension. Kowalski, for example, is a Polish immigrant who rapes his wife’s sister; he is not Marlon Brando. Who is Blanche today? The neurotic woman who’s afraid of everything. The one who will go into depression. Who can’t make it. Who can’t stand up in the world we live in. She is the woman who goes to the shrink, the woman denuded of feathers and perfume. You also designed the sets and costumes for the production. Is this because you wanted complete control over the result? The space looks like a half-finished set or maybe a film studio. It is not a reconstruction of reality, but it does have certain realistic elements. Everyone is squeezed into a small house, which can, however, be removed. The space can be transformed. The fact that I undertook these parts of the production is not about control. I still haven’t found the right person to work with on sets and costumes. I need a person who will attend rehearsals, try out new ideas, reject them. Most set designers, because they are busy with other projects, give you something and then you have to take it. So, it is not that I don’t want to work with them, it’s that I need something more. I need teamwork. Has your team ever let you down? Yes. I’ve seen young actors leave over nothing or because they wanted to appear on television. That’s where they become mutated. How did you get into acting? Completely by accident. I used to want to be a painter, but I went to the Theatro Technis theater. I wasn’t looking at it as a career choice; something simply drew me to it. I later realized that it was not the magic I had dreamed of; it was a lot of hard work. Discovering theater was one of the most important experiences I have ever had. When did your turn to directing? From the very beginning. But first I had to learn the ropes. That is where the acting comes in. I wanted to have my own theater company when I was 20. I did it, but it is like it is costing me my life. The state does not encourage these kinds of initiatives. It’s still a lot of trouble; I’m still waiting to hear from the Culture Ministry about funding. Normally we should be throwing ourselves off balconies. Sfendoni Theater, 4 Makri Street, Makriyianni, tel 210.924.6692. The play premiered yesterday and further performances will be held Wednesdays-Saturdays at 9 p. m. and Sundays at 7 p. m.