A welcome break from vested and entrenched interests

The most important innovation attempted by Loukos was to put an end to any impositions by heavyweights in politics, finance and the arts, who imposed «their own people.» «Abroad you make the program. Here they make it for you. So what’s the point of having a director?» Loukos said boldly in public. «Nobody has forced a performance on me this year,» he said, adding, «and those that tried did not succeed due to the support I had from the prime minister. I received numerous telephone calls and letters. Pressure was also brought to bear. I can imagine what my unfortunate predecessors had to endure.» The breaking off of relations with «intermediaries,» the «artistic agencies» that bring foreign acts to the festival, was also of extreme importance, a bitter and often unpleasant practice which has been stopped. The agencies received 15 percent officially, not to mention the ruthless overcharging that has been a matter of contention for years. «This caused expenses to skyrocket and resulted in a financial drain and expensive tickets for the festival,» said Loukos. «It’s not possible for a ticket for ‘Orion’ by Philip Glass to cost 150 euros in Athens and 50 euros in Paris,» he said. Getting rid of the go-betweens will save the festival 1.5 million euros. «It is the director’s job to see performances, make the choice and then negotiate directly with the producers. This is what happens in all the festivals abroad. Only festivals for the glamour set or cruises for ladies from Dallas apply to these agents.» Another break has been a radical curbing of vested interests, in particular some organizations that have always taken part in the festivals for decades: The Theatro Technis, the Amphi-Theater and Cyprus Theater Organization have been excluded from the Epidaurus program this year as has the Greek Ballet corps from the Herod Atticus Theater. Naturally, opposition has been strong and Loukos was challenged at a press conference when the program was released. «I saw the heads of the three theaters,» he said, «Mr [Diagoras] Chronopoulos, Mr [Spyros] Evangelatos and Mr [Antis] Partzilis. Mr Evangelatos, whom I respect and hold in high esteem, said that he has taken part in the Epidaurus Festival for 35 years, so why not anymore? ‘The fact that you have been taking part for 35 years is good enough reason for me,’ I told him. No organization can take part for so many years in any festival in the world – neither Grotowski nor Bob Wilson, no one. These monopolistic relations are not good, neither for the artists themselves nor the festival. I said the same thing to the president of the Cypriot Theater Organization. With Mr Chronopoulos, we reached an understanding for cooperation on other levels.» Of course, the Cyprus Theater Organization and Amphi-Theater finally gained a production for the Herod Atticus Theater. Other changes: – Various philanthropic events (in particular those that are «social» events) which were willingly incorporated into the program by the Periklis Koukos administration and by their successors are now out. – Financial dealings with the artistic groups are to be redrafted. «I looked at 378 proposals for participation in the festival. The amounts that many of them ask for are incredible. A municipal regional theater was asking for 600,000 euros when we will be hosting Berlin’s Schaubuhne Theater for 20,000 euros a night! We are not only outside the international cultural network, we are also outside the market,» he commented. – Proposals for various concerts of Greek songs that in the past few years have been a major feature of the Athens Festival were not approved for the Herod Atticus. – The new administration is determined to fight off any leasing of the Herod Atticus to various groups that request it. «Everywhere in the world the monuments that host festivals are closed after the events. Monuments of national heritage are not up for rent. Only here in Greece are they rented out. This is not a cultural issue but a national, ethical and political one. Besides, it is our duty to preserve the image of the festival, as otherwise this causes confusion as to identity. It is not possible for the public to know that such and such a singer who appears at the Herod Atticus is not part of the festival events. We have requested that the Herod Atticus not be rented out at least in August, only in September for specific events, such as the Youth Parliament, the National Theater and a few philanthropic performances.»

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