A firm believer in teamwork, Maria Kechagioglou has a busy year ahead

Maria Kechagioglou’s performances were among last year’s highlights, but those who have seen her in action – at the theater or the cinema – already know what a good actress she is. She is emotional and flexible no matter what character she tackles. She is also a very low-key person and avoids publicity. At the Neos Cosmos Theater, her performances of «Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District,» directed by Martha Frintzila, were extended. Joining Frintzila once more, she is embarking on rehearsals for Sophocles’ «Ajax» which will go on stage at one of the Greek National Theater’s indoor venues in the spring with a Karaghiozis shadow theater character by Athos Danellis in the title role. In July, Kechagioglou will reprise her role in Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s «Electra,» in which she played the title role when the Kanigounda theater company and Yiannis Leontaridis staged it two years ago. This time, it will go on stage for 25 performances at the Avignon Festival. You are working with the same people again. Are your views so similar? Martha Frintzila is very good for me, because she drives away my fears. Over the past three years I feel that I have matured and that I am more aware of what I want to do in theater and how. My restlessness is shared by people like Frintzila and Leontaridis and I feel very close to them and to their companies. What attracted you to «Lady Macbeth»? A few years ago, Martha gave me a Nikolai Leskov novel and said she’d like to work on that with me. When I read it, I felt like reading Dostoevsky and I identified a lot with the author. So when Vangelis Theodoropoulos suggested a collaboration with Martha, there was no question about it. This was the Street with Trees theater company’s first opportunity to do a regular production. I am not part of the group, but occasionally work with them. Although the play, after a certain point, is a series of murders, other than your dashing performance, what was it that made it so popular with the public? I don’t agree with you, a good performance has a lot to do with the director and the co-stars. I find it impossible to describe a character that I’m playing. It’s like having to write an essay about somebody that I know. She moves me because she is constantly exposed. What attracts you to working with theater groups with a loyalty that one found only in the 1970s and 80s? I caught the end of that era. Most of the performances that have stayed with me are the result of teamwork. Lately I have realized that I can’t and I don’t want to do anything on my own. I don’t want to be alone. I depend entirely on others. Those who don’t want to join a group or use excuses that they are afraid of the group breaking up must have very strong self-confidence. I don’t believe in myself. Are you insecure? I believe that two people are stronger than one. It is like in relationships. For me, theater is like a group contest. Imagine what a football team would be like if everybody trained by themselves. What does the theatrical procedure mean to you? It must include communication, teamwork and be detached from power games. That is what influences my choices. I choose what I believe will make me move forward. I can be moved by a part or a play, but most often it is the people. I don’t care about protecting myself much lately; I accept things that I feel are a lost cause. I want to fight it. How do you work on a part? I always follow the text. My job is to understand it as much as possible. When I have trouble, I always go back to the text; the closer I get to it the more it becomes part of my life. My aim is to tell the writer’s words as if they were my own and to discover his pace. Do you consciously choose different roles every time? I choose what I believe will make me better in my art. The parts are different. You have featured in 10 shorts and seven feature films and have worked with many directors. What different needs do cinema and theater cover? It is all about meeting people. My favorite directors are John Cassavetes and Ken Loach, their films are a slice of real life. That is what I want to see in theater, as closely to the text as possible. I am not interested in theater productions that highlight selfishness or artistic bragging. The closest thing to what interests me is the production of «The Seagull» that we saw by the Kretakor theater at this summer’s Hellenic Festival. How do you see today’s theater? Greek theater is changing. There are many companies and different kinds of productions. The Hellenic Festival has had a lot to do with broadening our horizons. You have had lots of experience, yet you remain cautious. Do excesses and exposure make you uncomfortable? My job is to be exposed in the theater and not to create my public image. You can’t understand a person from an interview and that is not my aim. How did you decide, as an 18-year-old from the small town of Didymoteicho, to get involved with theater? When I got accepted into the philosophy department of the University of Ioannina, I got acquainted with the university amateur theater company and then I made the crazy decision. I got my philosophy degree, but I haven’t used it. I finished the Greek National Theater School. Despite its hardships, this art has won me over.