My Mother’s Sin Performed at Columbia University

Left to right: Eirini Vourlakou, Danae Roussou, Prof. Ioannis Mylonopoulos, Rena Kyprioti, Consul General of Greece in New York Konstantinos Koutras, and Vana Giannoula. (Photo by Yanna Katsageorgis)

NEW YORK – My Mother’s Sin, the psychological confessional masterpiece by Georgios Vizyenos, a prominent Greek writer and poet, was considered a play that could never be performed in English.

That is why, until now, no one ever dared to even think of linking this poetic, rhythmic narrative of Greek 19th century ethology with the light of a language that cannot satisfy the absolute expression of Greek dramaturgy.

On November 17, director Danae Roussou and actor Rena Kyprioti, with a small group of remarkable collaborators, transferred the spirit of Vizyenos to Columbia University for the very first time in English.

After an extremely laborious effort to impart the rhythm and authenticity of the literary text to a foreign language, they succeeded in an excellent and unobtrusive way, which surprised the audience immersing them in the kingdom of experiences and feelings of the original composer.

Danae Roussou left the text flowing without periods of silence, as it was originally written, allowing the viewers to become lost in the performance. This allowed them to enjoy the play’s style, history, and rhythm but also to experience the tragic life of Vizyenos.

The depiction of Vizyenos’ mother, who unwittingly kills her first infant child, Anna, while breastfeeding and the guilt she subsequently feels, is feverishly and perfectly communicated by Kyprioti.

With limited movement and the minimalist decor of a whitewashed wall, Kyprioti transforms herself from child to mother and vice versa, and transports the audience back in time through her eyes, her arms, and her imposing, dynamic voice.

Kyprioti’s body, adorned with a multi-faceted white dress created by the costume designer Vana Giannoula, coupled with the impressive lighting of Roussou, strengthens the actress’ ability to alternate her profile, from the purity of a child to the spasmodic guilt of a mother.

The talented actress manages to translate drama through the integrity of her speech without crying, while still emphasizing the immense power of rigid guilt associated with an unintentional, yet perpetually punishable, offense.

The music of Nikos Kypourgos faithfully follows the construction of the image and adds to the interpretation of Kyprioti’s feelings with his own special sound, which breaks the standstill and the monologue, contributing to the understanding of Vizyenos’ multifaceted personality.

This glorious English interpretation of the great literary work unexpectedly impressed the audience. In my opinion, it is a teaching of literary reason and philosophical reflection: Is there a way out of guilt or does self-pity hold someone captive forever?

After its immense success at Harvard, Yale, and Columbia, the show will continue its tour in Florida on November 29th and then in Chicago at the University of Illinois.

The show was attended by the Consul General of Greece in New York Konstantinos Koutras, Evelyn Kanellea Public Relations Officer of the Consulate, Dora Trogadi Press Officer in New York, Professor Ioannis Mylonopoulos Director of the Program in Hellenic Studies at Columbia University, Ioanna Messina-Skordas, program coordinator for the Hellenic Studies at Columbia, as well as an enthusiastic audience who embraced the project and performance. The main character of the story is Anna, a loving little girl around whom the whole plot is woven. The audience follows the course of the girl’s illness and her mother’s futile efforts to save her in order to be forgiven for secret sin.

Fixated on herself and her illness, the mother seems as though she forgets that she has three other children. After the death of her daughter, she goes on to successive adoptions of young girls, generating reactions from her other children.

In the play, the audience monitors the mother’s sense of guilt and the effect it had on the narrator’s psyche. Her guilt sprang from a deeply hidden secret from her past.

The work is based on the translation of William F. Witt, adapted and interpreted by Rena Kyprioti and directed by Danae Roussou, with assistant director Eirini Vourlakou, music Nikos Kipourgos, costumes Vana Giannoula, graphic design Paris Mexis, and production coordinator Ilectra Kalaitzaki.

1 Comment

  1. A priest from Greece printed a two page story in Greek in the bulletin about a monk who had a smelly incurable burn on his hand from saving his mother from hell for being a whore, and he closed it with “And this is why liturgy and fasting matter!” Really! Bet I was the only fool to read it. Do you really want to sacrifice your kids’ future to this yiayitches cauldron?

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