Epidaurus 2018: “Polis and the Citizen”

 

This year we have decided to make a separate announcement of the Epidaurus programme. Our rationale behind this early announcement is that Epidaurus has always been and still is the biggest draw of each season and could, in fact, be a Festival in its own right. We have also decided on this early announcement as part of an effort to attract more international visitors, collaborating with organizations and institutions active in cultural tourism, in Greece and abroad. I should also acknowledge here the contributions of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Tourism, both working towards an expansion of our cultural industry, a project of great interest to us.

Starting in 2017, there is a common theme tying together all performances held at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus and the Little Theatre of Ancient Epidaurus, as well as the Epidaurus Lyceum’s programme of studies. In tandem with this new philosophy, the Epidaurus projects for 2018 will all fall under the overarching theme “Polis and the Citizen.”

The 2018 theme is closely connected to contemporary life in Greece and the Greek crisis, insofar as the genre of tragedy anatomizes the concept of the crisis through an examination of the tension between individuals and society. For the Epidaurus 2018 programme, we are particularly interested in approaching tragedy as a “study of civic crisis.” In each of the plays selected for presentation, the crisis assumes the proportions of civil war. This anatomy of civic crisis, symbolically reflected in the relationships of tragic heroes, is even more pertinent and relevant in times such as ours, when people lose faith to the Polis. In challenging times, collectivities seemingly replace a weak and worn-out political system. Is it possible to redefine crucial concepts such as personal stance, responsibility, solidarity? Is it possible to give a new meaning to the concept of the Polis? The best way to address and debate these issues on a public level is through art and theatre. Ancient drama is a public forum that enables us to do that. Epidaurus enables us to do that.

Oresteia is central to Epidaurus 2018. Aeschylus’ iconic trilogy will be presented at three different venues: Cezaris Graužinis’ Agamemnon will be performed at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus (6-7 July); Argyro Chioti and the Vasistas’ The Libation Bearers will be held at the Little Theatre of Ancient Epidaurus (6-7 July); finally, a reworked version of Stefania Goulioti’s The Eumenides, originally presented at Epidaurus Festival 2015, will be staged at the Ancient Stadium of Epidaurus (13-14 July). Other versions of the Atreidae myths will also be presented: Sophocles’ Electra by Thanos Papakonstantinou and the National Theatre of Greece (20-21 July), and Euripides’ Orestes by Yannis Anastasakis and the National Theatre of Northern Greece (3-4 August). Sophocles’ Antigone will be presented at the Little Theatre of Ancient Epidaurus, directed by Konstantinos Ntellas (20-21 July), followed by Martha Frintzila’s Prometheus Bound (3-4 August). The programme will come to an end with Oedipus at Colonus, directed by Yannis Kokkos (17-18), marking the beginning of a collaboration with INDA (Institutio Nazionale del Dramma Antico).

Aristophanes’ comedies are prominent in this year’s Ancient Theatre programme: The Acharnians, directed by Kostas Tsianos (29-30 June), questions whether individuals can claim peace for themselves alone; in Plutus, directed by Nikita Milivojević/ National Theatre of Greece (13-14 July), we are confronted with the god of Wealth, wandering all by himself, blind and indiscriminate; Thesmophoriazusae by Vangelis Theodoropoulos (10-11 August) tackles the significance of institutions, as its title in Greek attests; in The Frogs, directed by Kostas Filippoglou (10-11 August), Dionysus descends to the underworld to bring a dramatic poet back among the living. For Aristophanes, only poetry and theatre can save the Polis; we also share this belief.

Allow me to address an issue of paramount importance concerning the productions of Athens & Epidaurus Festival: the issue of co-productions. We first implemented a policy of co-productions last year, a policy which bore fruit and which we intend to continue this year. Regarding Epidaurus, we are in talks with four Municipal and Regional Theatres (Ioannina, Agrinion, Kavala, Crete), all of which are interested in co-producing ancient drama productions. There are many benefits to reap from this policy: performances enjoy a continued life beyond their first presentation in Epidaurus, being performed throughout Greece, their audiences expanded. Isn’t that what all performances aspire to – to have as wide an audience as possible? At the same time, the Municipal and Regional Theatres will be boosted and bolstered through their participation in large-scale, high-level productions. Last but not least, thanks to co-productions, the Festival can more effectively distribute its budget across a number of different productions, thus making sure that directors’ high artistic standards are sufficiently met.

I should also mention here that all performances at the two Epidaurus theatres will once again this year come with English surtitles, catering to the needs of international visitors.

I would also like to announce our collaboration with Ms. Anna-Maria Drakopoulou and the Hydraiki Naval Company. Together, we are planning a new sea connection for audiences interested in watching performances at the ancient theatres of Epidaurus. It goes without saying that this will be a unique opportunity for the promotion of cultural tourism worldwide, in cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism and the Greek National Tourism Organization, familiarizing audiences from around the world with our Festival’s programme.

The student body of the newly launched (2017) Epidaurus Lyceum will also share this extraordinary Epidaurus experience. Let me remind you here of The Bacchae, presented last year at the Ancient Stadium of Epidaurus, with the participation of Lyceum students. This year, we want to further stress the significance of students’ participation by including students’ performances at the Little Theatre programme.

The Lyceum is far more than an international summer school of ancient drama for young actors and drama/ theatre students. It is also a meeting point where teachers, performers, dramaturgs, directors, musicians, choreographers, theatre researchers, and students of drama schools and theatre departments from around the world can meet and discuss contemporary trends and practices of the performing arts; a hub of creative exchange.

The Lyceum’s programme of studies is closely linked to the Epidaurus Festival programme, with a focus on practices related to the ancient Chorus. A connection between ancient Greek drama and our cultural roots is re-established through choral dances and traditional music. Contemporary directors often struggle with the Chorus, its significations in ancient drama, and its possible uses in contemporary productions. The Chorus suggests many different possibilities and interpretations regarding the relationship between the individual and the Polis. At the same time, the Chorus’ multifaceted structure, its combination of language, movement, music, dance and performance, enables young artists to engage in creative research.

The Lyceum’s programme of studies consists of several practical workshops held outdoors, at venues such as the Ancient Stadium of Epidaurus, courtyards of Byzantine churches, and educational and cultural venues in the Lygourio village. Furthermore, the Lyceum programme includes theory workshops and lectures open to the public, strengthening the ties of the Lyceum with local communities.

The 2018 teaching staff includes the following: Actor, director, and professor at the Shanghai Theatre Academy, Tian Mansha; actor and founder of the avant-garde group Chorus of Women, Marta Gόrnicka; actor, director, and professor of biomechanics at the prestigious Russian Institute of Theatre Arts - GITIS, Maria Shmaevich; internationally acclaimed Indian dancer, choreographer, and artistic director of Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts, Jayachandran Palazhy; award-winning dancer and choreographer Pichet Klunchun from Thailand, and American director and acting coach Dennis Reid, to name a few.

The first year of the Lyceum was met with overwhelmingly positive response, with many performers and students from around the world expressing interest in enrolling. Our student body for 2017 consisted of 121 students from 11 countries. In 2018 there will be two seminar cycles of the Epidaurus Lyceum, to be held between 2-16 July & 18 July-1 August. The two seminar cycles will culminate in two performances, with the participation of Lyceum students. The performances will be directed by this year’s guests and Lyceum teachers, namely Patricia Apergi (15 July, Little Theatre of Ancient Epidaurus) and the Griffόn - Ioanna Portolou - Yiannis Nikolaidis and Cecil Mikroutsikou (31 July, Ancient Stadium of Epidaurus). An event commemorating the signing of the Greek Constitution of 1822, the first constitution in modern Greece, adopted by the First National Assembly of Epidaurus, is set to take place at the New Epidaurus square.

The Creative Children workshop, a workshop for children tackling the themes of the Epidaurus performances will once again be held in Epidaurus. The Educating audiences in ancient drama programme will also be held once again in the Argolis area. Several theatre educators will familiarize the local community with the plays to be presented in Epidaurus, visiting local schools and other venues. Last year, we had 9 schools participating in the project. This year will see the participation of 23 schools and 40 educators.

Moreover, this year will see our collaboration with the National Bank of Greece Cultural Foundation on a planned series of books on ancient drama.  Hopefully, the first books in the series will be published by summer 2018.

Epidaurus Lyceum and the Educating audiences in ancient drama programme are carried out in cooperation with the Department of Theatre of the University of the Peloponnese, supported by the Municipality of Epidaurus, the Municipality of Nafplio, the Administration of the Peloponnese and Argolis, and the Ephorate of Antiquities of Argolis.

Epidaurus Lyceum is a member of the International Network of Ancient Drama of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture.

The complete Festival programme will be announced in due time – so stay tuned! 

Vangelis Theodoropoulos