by Valentini Anagnostopoulou
ATHENS, July 30 (Xinhua) -- Vangelis Theodoropoulos received the call to assume his duties as the artistic director of Athens and Epidaurus Festival (Greek Festival) on April 4, only two months ahead of the official opening.
"I said yes, primarily because having the Festival cancelled would be a defeat for all Greek artists. I am not a person who only likes to criticize, instead I prefer to look at hard situations through a creative prism," Theodoropoulos told Xinhua in a recent interview at the Festival's Athens premises.
The annual summer celebration of the performing arts has hosted since its inauguration in 1955 artistic figures of the magnitude of Maria Callas, Luciano Pavarotti, Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn.
"I am interested in a Festival that is poetic and popular at the same time. A festival that is not confined within itself and aimed only towards a specific audience (of art lovers and critics)," he stressed.
One of the primary goals of the new artistic director is the establishment of the "Epidaurus Lyceum," an International Summer School for Ancient Drama, which will be aimed at young actors and drama school students from around the world.
The camp will give 300 students every summer the unique opportunity to practice in the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus, in southern Greece, a monumental theater of 14,000 seats and exceptional acoustics.
"(In order to play in Epidaurus), the actor must turn into a well prepared - phonetically and physically - instrument. How can one perform on a stage that lies between the earth and the skies? It requires a different scale (of acting) and ancient drama itself imposes this different scale," the veteran director asserted.
Theodoropoulos, great admirer of Chinese theater, used the example of China to highlight the importance of intercultural exchange.
"China is a great ancient civilization, which we share so much with, such as the strong presence of theater through the centuries. I have particularly noticed the common form in Chinese performances I have watched. There is a meeting point there and we would love to explore it with students from China," he suggested.
A deeper understanding of art seems to be among the Festival director's top priorities. In this direction, he has designed workshops and round tables where artists, whose work is hosted at the Festival, will be able to meet with their audience and their peers.
"Let's say we have a performance from China, directed by a distinguished Chinese director. Watching his good performance is not enough, we cannot remain spectators, we - artists and audience - need to learn his method, we need to understand more about his work," he illustrated his point.
In a country hit by a devastating economic and social crisis, one would wonder: who does this festival concern? Isn't culture a luxury in such extreme conditions?
Numbers show that in recent years the arts, and especially the theater, are doing surprisingly well, following a called-for reduction in ticket prices. Athens is the city of more than 147 stages that boasts a phenomenal average of 1,500 theatrical productions per year.
"In times of crisis, culture is a relief," Theodoropoulos told Xinhua off camera before leaving his office for Epidaurus.