Theater exists but is within narrow limits; what is missing is a more open attitude

In Greece, there is no shortage of theater performances – in fact, there are dozens of theaters and hundreds of performances each year. Every year there are a few very good productions and many others that satisfy a demand for entertainment that is much appreciated by a public prepared to line up for tickets or to reserve seats days in advance. What is missing from Greek theater, especially in winter, is a more open attitude to what is happening beyond our culturally provincial borders. Not only are major international events absent, so are performances by major foreign artists and famous theater companies, as well as any kind of foreign performance that could bring us into contact with international culture – making our own that much more fertile. If we did have more regular – or more frequent – contacts of this kind, we would not be hearing about «landmark years,» such as 1985 when Athens was the Cultural Capital of Europe and Melina Mercouri brought us productions by names such as Peter Brook, Ingmar Bergman, Giorgio Stroehler, Peter Stein, Peter Hall and Luca Ronconi, among others. This was repeated on a smaller scale in 1997 in Thessaloniki, during its term as the Cultural Capital of Europe, and this summer when, thanks chiefly to the «Cultural Olympiad,» we saw performances by major foreign artists in Athens, Epidaurus and Thessaloniki. Unfortunately, it has not been possible in Greece to have an international theater festival such as those in other European countries (including Turkey, where an excellent one is held in Istanbul). This «eye on the world» is missing, so we will only see performances by foreign troupes occasionally, such as in summer during the Athens Festival and once in a while at Epidaurus. In winter, these are rare. We might possibly see something at the Athens Concert Hall (although even these are becoming fewer and farther between) if they invite a foreign theater company (this happens every three or four years), at the Dimitria Festival in Thessaloniki or, more regularly in recent years, at the State Theater of Northern Greece, such as the year before last when Diagoras Chronopoulos organized a small but extremely interesting festival of performances by the European Union of Theaters or, more recently, just a few days ago, when coaches were chartered from Athens to take audiences to watch «Mnemonic» by the wonderful Theatre de Complicite. The Experimental Art Theater and the Theater of Spring also organize interesting performances by various small European companies. Otherwise, theater in Greece goes into hibernation until the rare performance in spring or summer.

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