National Theater shines again

The colors are bright and imposing and for all to see. The rose-tinted windows depicting angels and birds, the velvet seats and the large chandelier all command visitors’ attention at the listed building designed in the 1890s by Ernst Ziller for the National Theater on Aghiou Constantinou Street. Meanwhile, expectations regarding tomorrow’s reopening are mounting. Everything looks different at the theater which is about to begin a fresh chapter in its history, featuring contemporary European standards, in sync with the present while maintaining the elegant charm of the past. Following a 30-million-euro restoration, the theater’s main stage now boasts a capacity of 650 seats, while the company’s New Stage is equipped with 300 seats. This is the optimistic side of the country’s first national stage, for the reality beyond the walls of the building is quite different, given that day and night, the resilience of passers-by is put to the test on a daily basis with incidences of theft, for instance, just a few meters from the area’s police station. The truth is that this neighborhood in Omonia has gone through several transformations since the day the theater shut down pending renovation. The only element that remains unaltered is the deserted Church of Aghios Constantinos across the road. What does the National Theater’s returns to its home base signal after eight-and-a-half years? «To begin with, part of the National Theater’s present scattered energy can become focused again,» Yiannis Houvardas, its director, told Kathimerini. The most important hurdles Houvardas faces, however, are of a financial nature. In the case of the Ziller building, for instance, the theater’s operative costs have yet to be determined, making it difficult to set a budget. For the time being, however, Houvardas remains rather upbeat. «I feel that the theater’s operation will prove an incentive for the area’s general upgrade. Even the nonstop service at the theater’s cafe will help.» In the meantime, known for planning ahead, Houvardas is already developing the program for next season, regardless of the fact that his term at the helm is ending. «Given my limited time, I do not have the right to prepare the program,» said the director. «But I cannot leave the theater in a power vacuum, so programming is already under way.» Would he be willing to serve for a second term? «I have put forward some conditions, with the financial questions at the top,» said Houvardas candidly. «I don’t believe that I have completed my work here. Under normal circumstances, I would like to carry on, but these are difficult times. If things change, if I manage to persuade and be persuaded, I would like to continue.» The National Theater reopens tomorrow with Dimitris Papaioannou’s sur mesure performance «Nowhere.» «Nowhere» will be on stage at the National Theater (22-24 Aghiou Constantinou, tel 210.528.8170/171) to December 6.