Frintzila goes back to the start

If you’re planning to attend Markos Antonios Foskolos’s «Fortounatos» at the Greek National Theater’s Ziller Building – Nikos Kourkoulos New Theater, you’ll have to wait a bit, as the play’s performances have been suspended this week due to Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations. They are set to resume on April 21. During the three-hour show, audiences get the chance to see one of the first ever plays of modern Greek drama in a fresh production that incorporates excellent acting and inspired costumes (thanks to Angelos Mentis) all made of cheap towels. Written by the Cretan playwright sometime around 1652, the comedy’s original manuscript is a national treasure. Commissioned by the Greek National Theater to present a play stemming from the modern Greek repertoire, director Martha Frintzila read a number of plays that had been suggested to her, but wasn’t thrilled by the idea of working, once again, on a play dealing with people’s self-absorbed dead ends. «I suggested one of the oldest works in modern Greek drama because I wanted to go right to the beginning, to this rather naive approach to things dealing with real dead ends,» said Frintzila in an interview with Kathimerini. How did the cast react to the play’s original language? «They freaked out,» said the director. «During the course of the first reading, we all held onto one another. In the beginning, it was an absolutely unknown text. But it soon became clearer. I believe that what helps sometimes is the iambic heptameter. It’s in our DNA; it suits us.» The director was after something like a folk theater production, envisioning a performance similar to those acted out at village squares in the past, with the lively participation of the locals. «That is how my assistant, Camilo Betancourt, and I tackled the play. Camilo has a profound knowledge of Commedia dell’arte, and together we worked on improvisation.» Frintzila would have liked to have more money to spend on the production – for some live music. But, she says, the theater company is going through some tough times. So was Mentis’s towel gimmick a solution, considering the absence of funds? «I don’t know, perhaps this crazy kid Mentis thought, «I don’t have money for velvet, I’ll go for the closest thing, a towel,» said the talented musician and director, whose great confidence in the costume designer resulted in her seeing the finished costumes just a week before opening night. Greek National Theater – Nikos Kourkoulos Stage, 22-24 Aghiou Constantinou. Due to a rotating repertory, viewers are advised to contact the box office for the exact time of performances on 213.032.4848. Performances run to May 17.

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