Artistic director of Athens & Epidaurus Festival Vangelis Theodoropoulos
presents the 2018 programme

I am pleased to welcome you to the press conference for the presentation of the Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2018 programme, here, at the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) – incidentally, the museum will house an installation this summer as part of our festival, an installation which I think perfectly captures the Museum’s personality. I am deeply grateful to the director of EMST, Ms. Katerina Koskina, for having us here today.

In my capacity as artistic director of the Festival, I decided early on that we would announce the programme much earlier this year and I set out to do so for a number of reasons: an early announcement means more time for preparation and rehearsals, a more tightly organized Festival, more effective cooperation with local and international media, more time to hunt down sponsorships, participation in European programmes. I should note here that some of the Festival productions will be realized thanks to a three-year Partnership Agreement for the Development Framework (ESPA), received from the Attica Regional Operational Programme. 

This year we succeeded in finalizing our programme much earlier than usual; the sooner the better, I say! In November, we announced the Epidaurus programme; in September, we launched a cooperation with the Greek National Tourism Organization and its bureaus around the world; we have been participating in international presentations with the support of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture, which have also been helping us invite artistic directors and programmers of various festivals. Last year, over 20 representatives of festivals from around the world were invited to attend theatre and dance performances by Greek artists; this year, we will extend the invitations for music performances. In addition to the performances held at the two theatres of Epidaurus, which will again come with English surtitles, this year there will be English surtitles for all Greek productions, giving our Peiraios 260 programme a more international flavour. Furthermore, for the first time ever there will be Greek surtitles for the hearing impaired.

Today, we are finally ready to announce the full Athens Festival programme, all the performances scheduled to be held at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Peiraios 260 and the Opening to the City. Our experience last year taught us a lesson. Based on the feedback and criticism we received, we were able to organize the programme more effectively and spread out the performances evenly across venues. Our number of theatre, dance and music performances is smaller this year: 87, as opposed to last year’s 127 performances. A tighter programme effectively means better promotion and press coverage; it also means that our employees can manage their workload; then, there’s the economic factor. Let me note, though, that in 2016 and even more so in 2017 we achieved something rare by the Festival’s standards, without receiving any extra funding: a surplus! It goes without saying that we didn’t achieve it at the expense of the artists and the quality of their work; we have our effective management to thank for that, our successful cooperation with the board of directors, the various co-productions which are now becoming common practice, sponsorships, ticket sales, memorabilia merchandise and so on. This year, we were even able to set up a sponsorship department. We also made sure there will be no overlaps in the programme, meaning that theatre professionals who feel like watching absolutely everything can do so. Our production manager, Nicole Mouzaki and our technical manager, Kostas Politis, were instrumental in achieving this. The Festival’s various departments worked wonderfully together; there was the time for that. My warmest thanks go to them. I must also thank our artistic co-curators: Matthias von Harz (international productions), Georgina Kakoudaki (educational programmes), Dimitra Kondylaki (contemporary Greek theatre and also head of our publishing department), Costa Pilavachi, who recently took over as co-curator of music. Together, they make up a team and I feel safe as part of this team; a festival of such scope and magnitude could never be the work of a single person.

The Festival is held each year between June and August. This period feels like a magical curtain rising and opening up in time; our visual branding this year conveys this sense of the rising curtain. The notion of art as onstage ‘magic’ gave inspiration to our 2018 poster. Performers, musicians, actors, dancers, artists are capable of calling forth transcendental, symbolic and unpredictable worlds. The entity in the poster is a symbol, a curious amalgam of disparate elements: the profile of what is seemingly a bust, the eye as spectator, the three legs standing for diversity, collectivity and movement. At the same time, this singular figure remains ambiguous and open to interpretation – exactly what we were aiming for. Ifigenia Vasiliou and her team created this visual for us, following last year’s successful collaboration.

You may have noticed that this year’s programme is tighter and more focused. This was a conscious decision on our part. We wanted to enhance each venue’s distinct identity: at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a more classic-oriented approach with an emphasis on great orchestras and celebrated soloists; at Peiraios 260, contemporary aesthetics and emerging trends in theatre and dance, featuring internationally acclaimed avantgarde artists and commissioned Greek artists.

The Opening to the City section in Athens and Piraeus is back this year, with new site-specific events and performances, most of them with free admission, encouraging audience participation and diversity. We are especially interested in having emerging artists, including several women, present work which brings together artists and residents/locals in fascinating collaborative projects. I should note there that 2018 marks our second consecutive year of collaboration with the Piraeus Municipal Theatre and its artistic director, Nikos Diamantis.

For this year’s Opening to the City, I am pleased to announce we are launching new collaborations with various institutions, including the National Bank of Greece Cultural Foundation (a few concerts will be held at the Foundation’s beautiful courtyard in the Plaka area) and also the Athens Conservatoire. We will jointly organize music platforms together with the latter: Young Greek Classics, dedicated to fresh talents of the Greek music scene (in cooperation with the Third Programme of the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation) and Aqua Jazz Athens, where jazz musicians will cross paths with Mediterranean music (in cooperation with Ioanian University). Both projects are expected to bolster and support rising voices of the classical music and jazz scene, fostering dialogue with education and research. This connection is emphasized throughout the 2018 programme, through our fruitful collaboration with many prestigious educational institutions. When it comes to Epidaurus Lyceum, we have been working closely together with the Department of Theatre Studies of the School of Fine Arts of the University of the Pelponnese. Moreover, we have been collaborating with Ioanian University (Jazz and Mediterranean music lab) and the Department of Interior Architecture of the Technological Educational Institute of Athens; the latter will be assisting us in the great retrospective exhibition that will be held in honour of the late and great Greek playwright Loula Anagnostaki. We’re also excited at the prospect of working together with the National Bank of Greece Cultural Foundation for a series of publications on ancient drama. A committee appointed by the Festival, consisting of academics Dimitris Tsatsoulis and Kaiti Diamantakou, and literature teacher Giannis Lignadis are already hard at work. I am thankful to them.

Our collaboration with Athens Culture Net of the City of Athens will be repeated this year. Athens Culture Net will be actively supporting Opening to the City and several productions of our contemporary Greek theatre programme tackling the relationship of literature and theatre, as part of the programme Athens – UNESCO World Book Capital 2018. We will also be collaborating with Elliniki Etaireia – Society for the Environment and Cultural Heritage for the second year in a row; expect new fascinating cultural walks/guided tours this year.

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus programme stands out for its high quality and wide range. A case in point is the celebrated Italian Baroque orchestra Il Pomo d’oro that will give a performance of Handel arias and duets with mythological themes.

The famous Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja and the English violin superstar Nigel Kennedy are also among the highlights of this year’s Oden programme.

We are also having two internationally acclaimed orchestras with highly distinguished principal conductors: the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra from Moscow, conducted by Vladimir Fedoseyev, and the London-based Philarmonia Orchestra, conducted by the celebrated Esa Pekka-Salonen.

Greek classical music features prominently at the Greek National Opera, opening and closing the Odeon programme with five Greek orchestras, namely the Athens State Orchestra featuring Martha Argerich; the Thessaloniki State Symphony Orchestra in its first appearance with new principal conductor Zoi Tsokanou; the ERT National Symphony Orchestra; the Armonia Atenea – The Friends of Music Orchestra, conducted by George Petrou, and the Athens Philharmonia Orchestra under the baton of Byron Fitdetzis, re-introducing a major Greek opera, Theophrastos Sakellaridis’ Perouzé, in its first presentation after almost seven decades.

The vast majority of our contemporary theatre and dance productions will be held at Peiraios 260, further boosting the significance of this venue.

Regarding contemporary Greek theatre, we sought a balance between established and emerging artists, focusing on completed works and poetic language; diverse productions, some traditional in form, others more hybrid-like, drawing on the canon of world literature and cinema. The audience will rediscover already established artists through fresh, exciting, ambitious projects. At the same time, the audience will be exposed to new, rising artists already making their mark on festivals around the world. A fusion of theatre and other media (music, poetry, cinema), documentary theatre and projects drawing on classic literature make up this year’s rich Greek programme, with a special emphasis on female identity and the relationship between the private and the political.

Our tribute to the recently departed Loula Anagnostaki, arguably the greatest playwright to emerge in Greece after WWII, is of paramount importance to us. The tribute consists of four parts. First, there will be a marathon performance, not unlike a radio play; a 7-hour performance covering Anagnostaki’s entire body of work, featuring a stellar cast of actors, including the original cast of several adaptations of her plays. Second, Yannis Moschos will present a performance of The City, one of Anagnostaki’s most pivotal plays. Third, the audience will be invited to an atmospheric exhibition, a retrospective about Anagnostaki; visitors will come in contact with unpublished, never-before-seen archive footage, following original research on the part of the Festival. An exhibition catalogue will also be handed out to the visitors. Last but not least, the Festival will hold a symposium on Anagnostaki. Speakers will include persons who personally knew the playwright, artists, directors, actors, writers.

On reading Anagnostaki’s theatre, one has the sense of clandestine networks, desperate relationships and movements, an attempt to escape history in pursuit of individual freedom. Right now, at this exact moment, it feels like we are looking for a new meaning in our lives, especially in relation to the polis and the notion of collectivity. Greek theatre seeks a new poetic voice. It is our belief that the tribute to Anagnostaki will be a source of inspiration and make a mark on this year’s Greek programme.

When it comes to international productions, once again the Festival exposes the Athenian audience to astonishing new artists from around the world. Many of these productions will question the role of art and artists in contemporary western societies. The performances scheduled for presentation share a common interest in contemporary political circumstances, drawing on diverse sources, from Chekhov’s plays to the United States Declaration of Independence. They also cover an impressive range in terms of form: The Three Sisters will be performed in sign language; Hungarian Kornél Mundruczó brings to the stage a hyperrealist, almost cinematic style; Mapa Teatro’s huge puppets standing in for communist leaders wander around a fake forest somewhere in Colombia; Jaha Koo’s rice cookers narrate life in contemporary South Korea. Many of these performances succeed in being at once political and entertaining, a case in point being Pursuit of Happiness, which takes place inside a ridiculous Western saloon. This performance marks the Greek debut of the American Nature Theater of Oklahoma and will kick off this year’s Festival at Peiraios 260 on the three first days of June. Around the same time, Ivo van Hove, one of the world’s leading avantgarde theatre directors, will present two widely praised works of Ingmar Bergman at the Athens Concert Hall. Meanwhile, a familiar face returns to the Festival: longtime favourite Polish director Krzysztof Warlikowski will present a big production, immediately after its world premiere in Warsaw. The young French director Julien Gosselin is also back with 1993, tackling the history of the Channel Tunnel, from its launching in 1993 to the so-called 'Jungle' of recent years, the squalid migrant camp in Calais, a testament to the failed dream of the European Union.

Many thanks are due to the Athens Concert Hall for hosting the performances by Gosselin and Van Hove. In the next few days, a memorandum of understanding will be signed between the Festival and the Athens Concert Hall for exchanging venues and clinching co-productions.

Our selection of dance productions covers a wide range, from large-scale productions, such as Boris Charmatz’s enfant to chamber pieces, including diverse Greek producions, such as Ioannis Mandafounis and Manon Parent’s performance/concert. Let me also mention the street dance/contemporary dance performance of Bruno Beltrão and his Grupo de Rua. This wide range reflects the richness and diversity of contemporary dance styles, the breadth of thought and reflection on the part of the artists. This diversity also reflects our philosophy this year: dance is not just a form of art. It is a field wherein multiple dynamics and choices can meet, where both artists and audience can feel intimate and find whatever it is they seek.

Another discerning feature of our 2018 dance programme is that the works selected for presentation are not ‘dance’ in the strict sense of the term, instead pushing genre boundaries. Projects such as El Conde de Torrefiel’s performance and Arkadi Zaide’s lecture-performance are examples of this expanded notion of choreography. The artists’ perspective sheds light to subtle details and nuances, almost as if they were examining something under a microscope.

Special mention is due to Marlene Monteiro Freitas, returning to the Festival after her Athens debut last year. Having recently received the Silver Lion for Dance at the Venice Biennale, Freitas, one of the greatest talents of her generation, will present one of her earlier works at the Festival, for all those who missed her last year and for those already enchanted with her idiosyncratic universe.

Educational activities on dance will include new Festival collaborations, including a collaboration with Panteion University, inviting audience and artists to share a day full of dancing at Peiraios 260. Open classes, discussions, presentations, food and of course parties; we will contemplate, we will have fun, we will share things.

Epidaurus Lyceum debuted last year and was a smashing success. 121 drama and theatre students from 11 countries from all over the world enrolled and attended its classes. In 2018, Epidaurus Lyceum will be structured in two cycles (2-16 July and 18-1 August), following increased interest by prospective students.

Starting in 2018, the Lyceum programme will be certified by the University of the Peloponnese with 6 transferable ECTS, following Educational Agreements between the University of the Peloponnese and the students’ original schools/universities.

This year’s Epidaurus theme is “Polis and the Citizen,” reflected in the theme of the ancient drama performances to be held at the Epidaurus theatres, as well as the Lyceum’s programme of studies and other related activities, including the Lyceum’s practical and theory workshops focusing on the significance of the chorus in ancient Greek drama, a pivotal aspect of the notion of the citizen.

The 2018 teaching stuff of Epidaurus Lyceum consists of the following: Marta Górnicka, director and founder of the avantgarde group Chorus of Women; Maria Shmaevich, actor, director and biomechanics expert at the famed Russian institute GITIS; Jayachandran Palazhy, the internationally acclaimed Indian dancer, choreographer and artistic director of Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts; Pichet Klunchun, dancer and choreographer from Thailand; Tian Mansha, actor and professor of Chinese opera at the Shanghai Theatre Academy; Enrico Bonavera, actor of Piccolo Teatro in Milan; American director and acting coach Dennis Reid; Roberto Romei, director, theatre teacher and member of the International Advisory Committee of the Lyceum; Sanjoy Ganguly, founder of the greatest social-political theatre network in India; Lilo Baur, a director already familiar to the Festival audience and collaborator of Théâtre de Complicité; and director Georgia Mavragani, to name but a few.

The Lyceum cycles will culminate in two performances, one at the Little Theatre of Ancient Epidaurus and one at the Ancient Stadium, both open to the public. Curation will be provided by Patricia Apergi and Grifon Dance Company, comprised of Ioanna Portolou, Yannis Nikolaidis and Cecil Mikroutsikou.

The programme “Educating audiences in ancient drama” will be repeated this year in Argolis, in collaboration with the Department of Theatre Studies of the University of Nafplio. Also continuing this year is the Creative Children workshop: parents can watch performances at the Epidaurus theatres; at the same, their children are trusted with theatre educators, familiarizing the children with the theme and content of the performances in Epidaurus.

My cordial thanks go to the Rector of the University of the Peloponnese, Professor Athanasios Katsis and the Dean of the University of the Peloponnese and Professor at the Department of Theatre Studies, Christos Kardaras.

The Epidaurus Lyceum, a member of the International Network of Ancient Drama of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture, and the programme “Educating audiences in ancient drama” are realized in collaboration with the Department of Theatre Studies of the School of Fine Arts of the University of the Peloponnese, with the support of the Municipality of Epidaurus, the Municipality of Nafplio, the Region of the Peloponnese and Argolis, and the Ephorates of Antiquities of Argolis (based in Nafplio).

The programme of Epidaurus Festival, originally presented at the November press conference, can be found in the press kit, with all the latest updates. Our full programme, in English and in Greek, can be found on the Festival’s official website; it will be constantly updated.

Thank you!