Greek Play Project New York Impresses the Audience

Left to right: Demetri Bonaros, Stavros Markalas, Katerina Alexaki, Ino Badanjak, Aktina Stathaki, Dr. Irene Mountraki, Ioanna Katsarou, and Anthoula Katsimatides. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

NEW YORK – For a second year in a row, The Greek Play Project New York, presented by Eclipses Group Theater New York (EGTNY) at New York University’s (NYU) King Juan Carlos I Center Auditorium in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, on May 4-5, began with a lecture by Dr. Irene Mountraki, “Greece, Home of Drama, in Real Time” and continued with three readings of powerful plays by contemporary Greek playwrights. The plays were presented in English translation for the first time in New York under the Auspices and Sponsorship of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, and under the Auspices of the Consulate General of Greece in New York, the A.S. Onassis Program in Hellenic Studies at NYU, the National Theater of Greece, and the Hellenic Association of Theatre and Performing Arts Critics.

In her lecture, Dr. Moutraki, the Creator and Head of the Greek Play Project and the Head of Drama, Archive, Library and International Relations Departments of the National Theatre of Greece, spoke about the impressive work of Greek artists in contemporary theater. The plays often draw on themes and issues facing not only Greece, but the world, and while the illustrious past of Greece and its ancient drama are often in the spotlight, there is a need to spread the word about today’s groundbreaking work.

The effect of the crisis on art and artists in general extends to theater as well and while economically the struggle continues with many professionals working for months without being paid, there is much more that can be done especially with the encouragement, interest, and support of the diaspora communities.

Dr. Irene Mountraki presented the lecture, “Greece, home of drama, in real time,” at NYU. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

Lebensraum by Thanasis Triaridis, directed by Katerina Alexaki, and translated by Hara Syrou, was the first play presented. Actors Anthoula Katsimatides and Aktina Stathaki gave strong performances in the tension-filled two-person, modern-day theatrical experiment that poses questions regarding the Nazi theory of Lebensraum—the vital space— and takes an unexpected and dangerous turn.

On May 5, Babies Are Delivered by the Stork by Michalis Reppas and Thanasis Papathanasiou, directed by Ioanna Katsarou, and translated by Anthony Burks was presented. The talented cast, Katerina Alexaki, Demetri Bonaros, Anthoula Katsimatides, Adam Martin, Alkis Sarantinos, Chrysi Sylaidi, Alexandra Skendrou, and Lazaros Thedorakopoulos, impressed the audience with the play set in 1943 Thessaloniki. A young Jew runs away from the Dachau death trains and returns home to hide. But in his supposedly empty house (following the persecution of Thessaloniki’s Jews) now live two Greek couples, whose homes have been bombarded. The Greeks will hide the Jew, but their German and Greek friends are out for blood.

The Threat by Artemis Moustaklidou, translated and directed by Demetri Bonaros, was the final reading on May 5. A married couple living isolated in its apartment is terrified when an immigrant family moves in next door. As husband and wife lock themselves in the apartment, time passes, their supplies dwindle, and their paranoia increases. Ino Badanjak and Stavros Markalas as the married couple gave a powerful performance as their characters spiral further into paranoia, in this thought-provoking play, challenging notions about foreigners and neighbors.

Anthoula Katsimatides, Katerina Alexaki, and Aktina Stathaki. Photo by Eleni Sakellis
Anthoula Katsimatides, Katerina Alexaki, and Aktina Stathaki. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

A reception followed the final reading allowing the audience members to congratulate the actors and production team. Many expressed interest in seeing fully-staged productions of the Greek plays in English translation and/or the original Greek. EGTNY Artistic Director Ioanna Katsarou told The National Herald that fully staging the contemporary Greek plays is one of the eventual goals for the project, since the powerful voices of today’s Greek playwrights need to be heard outside of Greece’s borders.

More information is available online: www.egtny.com.

Dr. Irene Mountraki and filmmaker Athena Scotes at the Greek Play Project New York. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

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