Groundbreaking Athenian theater prepares for the final curtain call

In a few months’ time, the Amore Theater will be history. Founded in May 1991 by Yiannis Houvardas, the groundbreaking venue and company will complete its life cycle this coming May. Without doubt, it was a rich life, one that was creative, restless and multifaceted in terms of trends and repertoire. A friend who has worked at the Amore for 15 years admits feeling mournful and moved just thinking about the venue’s end. «We grew up together over this period of nearly two decades,» she said. That’s no exaggeration. Running theatrical groups is demanding. They require enormous devotion that greatly exceeds the demands of the average job. Balance, endurance, open-mindedness, good planning, and adroit promotion are all prerequisites. The Amore Theater took a chance on a mundane local circuit that had little to offer in the way of innovation. There was a broad aesthetic approach, new collaborations that established and nurtured actors who now dominate, a repertoire that combined classical and contemporary work. Overall, the theater served to overturn the expected. While there may have been some reservations about the results, many believed that theater at the Amore was the real thing. Over the years, the venue’s numerous associates, temporary and more permanent, experienced plenty. There were sudden and expected deaths, marriages and births. It was a complete cycle, but could have been an even longer one, which would have led to attempts at other novel ideas and further artistic exploration. But the property’s owner – the Amore Theater was a tenant – had other plans. Last Sunday, the venue’s foyer was jam-packed. «Metamorphoses +,» a current production directed by Thomas Moschopoulos that is based on Ovid’s «Metamorphoses,» justifiably stands as one of this season’s theatrical hits in Athens. Now entering its final dates, the play is attracting capacity crowds on a nightly basis. Over the play’s two-and-a-half hours, this significant theater walks a fine line between two worlds. Modern-day stories of neurotic realism are interrupted by Ovid’s more lyrical writings. Violent stories, envious deities, fatal passions and hideous solutions weave their way through the production’s fabric. The spectacle is risque, offers suggestions and raises questions. On the way out, on a stand in the foyer, theatergoers may view a letter signed by 15 state-subsidized theaters. It reads: «With every day that passes, we ascertain with greater clarity the relegated place of culture and the state’s true priorities (the state has yet to submit its subsidies for 2006). With every day that passes, we feel increasingly concerned that the cultural products which will soon exist in Greece will be the productions of a handful of major companies or big-budget spectacles offered by entertainment sector entrepreneurs.» We walk out and I look back at the theater. No, this is not the past. It is – and will remain – a bastion of now.