Letter from Thessaloniki

Remember «Tommy»? That apocalyptic and deeply British Isles musical from the ’60s? The one which unwittingly became an emblem of its era? Exactly that one! It was during the time of the war in Vietnam, the My Lai massacre, LSD and pot, the Chicago Seven trial, the Charles Manson murders, when this song cycle by The Who (you must remember: that group which disbanded in 1982. God, how time flies!) told its unglamorous story of a boy who is struck deaf, dumb and blind when, at the age of four, he sees his father shooting his mother’s lover, turning later into a media sensation? Right! «You are cordially invited to the production of the musical comedy «Tommy.» It’s on Saturday.» It was Anatolia College’s president, Richard L. Jackson, who called me last week on my cell phone while I was in London to see some plays – and musicals. (If you belong to the category of restless playgoers, forget the West End and try to get tickets for «South Pacific» at the National Theater next time you are in London. That is, unless you happen to be a Gilbert & Sullivan fan, in which case you should not miss «Iolanthe,» that whimsical story of fairies and peers. More of that, perhaps, in a future column.) Now back to the musical «Tommy,» also known as the Pinball Wizard, which, as some of my generation might recall, was played live at Woodstock. And back to Anatolia’s drama club production, where the orchestra did a fine job considering it was a non-Who performance. By and large, the acting was uniformly good, considering the performers were all amateurs in their teens. I recall the years of «our» drama club and the legendary production of Thorton Wilder’s «Our Town,» directed by E. Hourmouziadis (today professor emeritus at the Aristotle University, and ex-chief of the State Theater in Northern Greece) with Ted Hadzipantazis starring (after studying theater arts in one of the Boston universities, he is presently teaching drama at Rethymnon University). Then it was also that young girl from my class, Lina Lambraki, who is actually one of the most treasured, and mature, leading ladies at the National Theater of Northern Greece. With such undeniable glamour in a scholastic milieu so saturated in the performing arts, today’s young actors should hurry to have agents. On the other hand, as the members of the cast of «Tommy»’ they might as well get involved in politics. That is, if one should consider in earnest the declaration by PASOK’s party apparatchik, Costas Laliotis, on hard rock. Now that I think of it, there are quite a few famous – and some infamous too — Greek politicians figuring in Anatolia’s past yearbooks, although currently celebrated local statesmen such as Evangelos Venizelos, Akis Tsochadzopoulos, and Ioannis Magriotis would be unable to throw tantrums because they can’t find their pictures in them. Life did not deal them Anatolia cards. Being once again in my old school, I could not help thinking that the past don’t get to repeat itself well, not the good parts, anyway. I went to Anatolia, now well into its second century, after having been rejected by Piramatiko, at the time the most prized of all Thessaloniki schools, where my Teutonic-educated parents intended me to go. Anatolia for me was, therefore, the second-best choice. Anatolia College evolved to what it is now from a religious seminary near Constantinople in 1840. It was relocated to Thessaloniki in 1924. A few wars later, that is today, it offers three schools in one (note, at a different tuition each): (a) a high school which today numbers 1,230 students, offering the Greek gymnasium and lyceum curriculum as well as the International Baccalaureate; (b) a four-year liberal arts college with 750 students from 23 countries (mainly the Balkan and Eastern Europe) with accreditation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the accrediting body for Harvard and MIT; and (c) a one-year, English-language Secretarial School. Long after hard rock traded in its UK passport for rehearsal space in America, last year precisely, the United States government has awarded a grant of $2.1 million to the American College of Thessaloniki/Anatolia to conduct training in the transport sector. In partnership with Koc University in Turkey and the American University in Blagoevgrad Bulgaria, Anatolia will use, they say, the funds to educate customs brokers, freight forwarders and truckers working in the region. Quite a perspicacious idea, considering the highly profitable industry of human trafficking presently flourishing along the the Greek-Bulgarian border. FRIDAY

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