National Theater relocates

Contrary to original plans, the National Theater’s main stage will be relocating to a temporary location this season, not next, while its home undergoes major renovation work. Ironically, Kappa Theater, the downtown filler venue on Kypseli Street, is owned by the National Theater’s own artistic director, the veteran actor Nikos Kourkoulos. This paradoxical solution was reached after the various other options that were made available to the National Theater were, for various reasons, deemed unsuitable by the state theater’s board of directors. When the other options were rejected as either too costly or substandard, or both, Kourkoulos intervened and offered his venue for a symbolic price. According to sources, the popular actor was willing to undercut the most modestly priced offer by over 50 percent. The National Theater had initially decided to disregard the idea of using a temporary replacement for its main stage, and instead to compensate for the loss by increasing the number of productions of its various smaller stages – Kotopouli, Paxinou, Nea Skini, and Peiramatiki. The state-run theater’s main stage was closed last year for upcoming restoration work after the strong 1999 earthquake caused severe damage to the building. The building’s foundations have also been undermined by work on the Athens Metro. After initially intending to plan its schedule of plays in accordance with the total capacity offered by its network of smaller stages, the National Theater eventually decided to find an additional temporary stage as a result of the unanticipated earlier closure, next March, of one of the peripheral stages, Nea Skini, which is also located inside the theater’s main building. Classifieds were placed in the local press inviting owners of other stages to submit bids for usage of their venues. Sources said the offers reached, or even exceeded, 300,000 euros for substandard, outdated venues in need of costly renovation work. Opting for any of these, the sources added, would have generated additional outlays of between 30,000-60,000 euros. The final choice, Kourkoulos’s Kappa Theater, was fully refurbished just four years ago. Two plays will be presented at the Kappa Theater this season; Eugene O’Neill’s «Long Day’s Journey Into Night,» which had been originally scheduled for Nea Skini, followed by an as-yet-undetermined Greek work, possibly of the 19th century. The cast for Eugene O’Neill’s classic, to be directed by Yiannis Iordanidis, includes Vera Zavitsianou, Giorgos Moschidis, Smaragda Smyrnaiou, Constantinos Constantopoulos and Christos Loulis. The undecided Greek play will star Giorgos Armenis and will be directed by Diagoras Chronopoulos. Nea Skini’s revised program comprises two plays, these being Pandelis Horn’s «Sentzas,» directed by Costas Tsianos, and Luigi Pirandello’s «Six Characters in Search of an Author.» No other revisions have been made to the National Theater’s original schedule. Returning to the renovation work, the pace of developments seems to have accelerated following last year’s slow progress, for various reasons. One of these, the financial aspect, seems to have been resolved, if reports claiming the provision of Culture Ministry funds worth 19 million euros as a first installment for the project are true. Tenders by developers have been submitted by bidding firms and the choice is believed to be imminent. The National Theater’s administrative department, also at the main building, has relocated to a neighboring address from which the theater’s financial division has been operating for many years. Adminstrators, however, will not be moving back into the main building once renovation work there is completed. Instead, they will relocate to a nearby neoclassical building that was recently purchased by the theater to house all its administrative divisions. Listed for preservation, the building, which had previously operated as a hotel and is located at the theater’s rear (42 Satovriandou Street), will be restored with support from the Public Works Ministry. At this stage, it is evident that much work and time is needed before both projects are completed. Even clearer is the certainty that the completion deadline, originally set for 2004, will not be met.