CULTURE

Maria Skoula tackles challenging role in close-to-home monologue

For Maria Skoula, a formidable actress who emerged from Crete as a young and aspiring talent in the early 1990s, the nature of her latest role feels very close to home. Cast for the solitary role in «Prasino mou foustanaki» (My Little Green Dress), a one-act play by Lena Kitsopoulou, now playing at the Kefallinias Street Theater (16 Kefallinias, Kypseli, 210.883.8727), Skoula feels that the insecurities and issues examined reflect her own life. «The character I portray is my age, 36. She is well, as she says, never starved, does not have problems. But, through a frenzied speech, she unveils how her bright life becomes dark,» Skoula said in an interview with Kathimerini just days ahead of the production’s premiere. «In other words, all the things that turn us into victims and oppressors… how others intervene in our lives, those insidious forms of power, how we learnt to live in a protected world, death, illness, loneliness, nobody taught us how to confront these things,» she continued. «My Little Green Dress» is being presented along with «Teleftaia Martha» (Last Martha), another one-act play, by Alexis Stamatis and starring Christos Sterioglou, under the umbrella title «Krypsones» (Hiding Places). Skoula, commenting on the challenges of performing alone on stage, described the set-up as «not easy.» «You have the audience looking at you at all times. When I’m performing, I don’t focus on one person. There are performances where I don’t see anything, like I don’t have any visual contact. Other times, you want to lean on something, like one of the sweeter glances in the audience. Monologues need this. It’s like talking with somebody. You want this person to listen to you, not be absent-minded,» said Skoula. «In her monologue, the woman talks about all the things that make an individual of today want to blow everything to pieces, to change the status quo… it’s an extreme reaction. There are people who want to destroy everything, including themselves. I didn’t believe it. I researched the subject on the Internet. They need specialized help. You can’t find redemption when you’re there,» said Skoula. «It is possible to reach this stage. It doesn’t take much – life’s pressures, the weight of expectation and perfection.» The actress, who moved to Athens from Crete in 1990 as a 19-year-old and enrolled at the National Theater, where she studied for three years, described her upbringing as trouble-free. At school, she said, she was shy, introverted and experienced uncomfortable teenage years. There were no revolts and no restless tendencies, she added. «At high school, I wanted to be a journalist. I liked the dialogue involved with people, the research, trips to other worlds and atmospheres. I more or less felt the same way about acting,» she said. The actress says she did not become an avid reader until she enrolled at the National Theater’s drama school. «I discovered the world of books at drama school. I would go to its library and take it all down. I gradually began to find my equilibrium. I first read Dostoevsky when I was older. I read ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ when I was 30. Nowadays, because of the children, I enjoy reading in the summer,» said Skoula. Working with the esteemed stage director and actor Lefteris Voyiatzis was «like continuing my education,» said Skoula. «They were five demanding years – rich, good years – during which I absorbed a lifetime’s supply of experience,» said Skoula, who performed in three productions by Voyiatzis. «I don’t know if I acted well or not, but they contributed to my maturing process. Voyiatzis tries to break you and enter your internal world. This was a period of tension, crying, laughter, difficulty and happiness. I wouldn’t trade my experiences at the Kykladon Street Theater with anything… Lefteris is like a relative, a father, to me. Of course, I’m not comparing him to my father.» She described the working relationship with stage directors as a mutual give-and-take situation. «The director sets the boundaries. I don’t believe in the model of absolute directorial control, but I accept that the director sets the terms,» remarked Skoula. «I like others to prepare the space that I will access… That’s why mutual trust is needed.» Recalling her seven-year bond with the groundbreaking Amore Theater, which is expected to shut permanently at the end of this season, Skoula described the experience as «liberating.» «I don’t know how it would have felt if I were there to hear the news about the end. I spent seven equally superb years at the theater, not as tough [as elsewhere] because this is a softer environment,» said Skoula. «I felt an equality with all. The Amore isn’t exactly a team. People came, went, and came back again. Dedication is earned, like in friendship,» she concluded.