How much can this great monument take?

Every year the Herod Atticus Theater is in greater demand. Audiences cause wear and tear, as do heavy sets used in productions such as the Greek National Opera’s «Aida,» and the monument has been increasingly subject to unsuitable treatment and uses. Acropolis Ephor Alexandros Mantis has sounded the alarm: The Herod Atticus Theater needs conservation and restoration work. Having banned chewing gum and high heels from the theater, the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) is now trying to decide who should be allowed to perform there. High demand The biggest problem comes from events not associated with the Athens Festival but approved by the Culture Ministry. Even though the festival’s director Giorgos Loukas has encouraged the use of other venues such as Pireos 260 for experimental productions, the Herod Atticus is still the most in demand. Every year it’s the same. Last week KAS found itself unable to refuse popular singers Anna Vissi, Dimitris Mitropanos and Costas Hatzis. And how can they refuse when some of the events are for charity? The charity problem Events to raise money for charity are another problem. Eleven out of 20 have requested use of the theater for free, asking for the fee (3,000 euros to use the theater, 1,500 euros for rehearsals) to be waived. Since its official role is not the content of performances but protection of the monument, KAS reluctantly gave its approval. The Artistic Committee, which reports to KAS, judges appropriateness. When one KAS member protested that allowing Mitropanos to perform would turn the theater into a nightclub, others asked whether Mitropanos was any less «serious» than George Dalaras, Haroula Alexiou and Manolis Mitsias, who have already performed there. In the absence of official criteria, it’s hard to decide who should be allowed to perform. Loukas shortened the Athens Festival but the Culture Ministry didn’t follow suit, leaving KAS in a tricky position as dozens of popular performers demand a chance to perform at Herod Atticus Theater, which would look good on any CV. As geologist and KAS member Nikos Mourtzas said, «singers who perform in nightclubs all winter can’t demand in summer to be baptized anew at Herod Atticus.»