Directors school at the National

This year the National Theater is set to implement an ambitious plan which has several aims and, even if only some are achieved, this will have beneficial effects on Greek theater as a whole. The architect of this plan is the director, actor and drama teacher Stathis Livathinos, chosen by the theater’s director, Nikos Kourkoulos to head the Experimental Stage of the National Theater starting this year. The director of attractive productions who is well known for his care in guiding actors, over the past few years Livathinos has spoken openly about the need for a directors school in Greece. Here, the figure most responsible for the production will be taught ways in which to approach and guide the organ, which is none other than the actor. When the director of the National Theater put the proposal to him to take on the running of the Experimental, Livathinos spoke of the things which annoy me and my worries about the theater. He said, I spoke mainly about how I see the problem of theater education, which, because I believe that the two things are bound together, is of equal if not greater interest for me than is theatrical practice. Livathinos continues: I spoke to him about the need for the creation of a directors school in Greece, not just because there is a need for one, but because I think it will lead to a great chain of developments in the theatrical world. This will happen from the moment the director has a different kind of education and, especially, a different kind of contact with the actor – since it is from the actor that everything else starts. Kourkoulos has shown great interest, which encouraged Livathinos to take on the Experimental. I found myself in front of a person who was generous, open to ideas, says Livathinos. We have talked much and want to do many things. Among these are some dreams I have about the repertoire, which are difficult to achieve in other theaters. Does he intend these productions to be experimental in nature? I don’t think that this title, ‘Experimental Theater,’ has any particular significance. When it comes down to it, whatever is alive and true has within it a grain of experimentalism. But I am not battling to do ‘experimental things.’ In any case, whenever you are trying to do something, you are searching. We should never forget, however, that finding is also a part of searching, as a great painter once said. In other words, you can’t spend your whole life searching without actually ever getting anywhere. At some point you have to show – to yourself most of all – if what you are doing has any meaning, if it is something tangible. I don’t believe in an eternal and infinite search. This is a little bit amateurish. Besides the Adeios Choros (Empty Space) program, initiated by Livathinos’s predecessor, this year the Experimental will be active in two main areas: the creation of an acting and directing workshop, which is a first step in the creation of the directors school; and secondly, the staging of only two productions. We will put on only two productions because I don’t think it is important to do lots of things. There is a lot going on everywhere at the moment. The issue is for that which you do to be unique; for it to be done in such a way that it can’t be done anywhere else, such as with co-productions; and, most of all, for you to have all the time you need available to you. In reality, time is not measurable in terms of quantity but in terms of quality. It is a luxury to have lots of time for rehearsals, not because you have a lot of time, but because the rehearsal becomes more difficult, more demanding. The first person he invited to collaborate was the director Socrates Hatzakis. He suggested that they put on something with which he has been occupied for a long time: a synthesis of Sophocles’ two Oedipus plays in one unified performance, in collaboration with Lydia Koniordou and five other actors. This will be the first production and will open in January. The second, Love’s Labour’s Lost by Shakespeare, will be directed by Livathinos himself. For this production we got together a team of 18 young actors who were chosen after long auditions, he says. I have worked with some of them in the past and have great hope for them, for example Dimitris Imellos. There are also some actors who are in great demand and who preferred to work with us, such as Maria Navpliotou and Yiannis Mavritsakis. This is a total of 18 actors and constitutes a team which I hope will remain here as a core. The play opens in April, but we begin work on October 1. ‘Just a first step’ The Experimental’s other main activity, the educational side, also starts in October with the Acting and Directing Workshop. This is a workshop for both actors and directors with joint teaching, and this is precisely where my philosophy on the whole thing lies, says Livathinos. There was great interest from many young actors and directors to register for the workshop, but unfortunately we could only take on 30. They were all selected through auditions; some for directing, others for acting. They are all graduates of drama schools and here they will do a fourth year of training, so to speak. The directors will learn about the theater through working with professional actors, because it is only through working with actors that a director can truly approach directing. They will be here for eight months, without paying or being paid, daily, for at least four hours a day. It will be a complete post-educational training center and the teachers include two people from Russia who are very much in demand and who are coming here specifically to help launch this thing. They are Nikolai Karpov, who will teach movement, and Irina Promdova for voice training. The other teachers are Thodoris Abatzis, music, Mariela Nestora, movement, and I will teach acting with help from Dimitris Imellos. All the above is just a first step in the creation of a directors school, notes Livathinos. We will pay great attention to the seeds that are being sown now. Because things of substance take time… If everything goes well this year then the likelihood is that a second year will be added next year, and in this way the Directors School will gradually be established. I want to be involved in this, even if it means sacrificing some of the work I need to do in order to put on plays. It is not any less pleasurable for me, he says.

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