Karyofyllia Karabeti, the Swan with the Wings of an Eagle

Renowned Greek actress Karyofyllia Karabeti. (Photo by Eurokinissi, file)

An invisible cohort of heroines follows in the wake of Karyofyllia Karabeti. Walking on a tightrope since the beginning of her career, she balances with absolute discipline and diligence in demanding roles. As Shakespeare’s Gertrude, Euripides’ Medea, Strindberg’s Gerda, and Aeschylus’ Atossa, Karabeti has had a great impact on the history of Greek theater. She impressed huge audiences with her dynamic performances at the theater of Epidaurus as Martha, the wild one in Vamena Kokkina Mallia (Red Dyed Hair), from the eponymous novel by Kostas Mourselas which in 1992, became one of Greece’s most successful television series.

Karabeti begins to narrate. The phone call with her is a performance, not an interview. The curtain opens and the prologue captivates you. The sound of her voice, the vowels and the consonants are a celebration of the beauty of speech. We proudly present Karyofyllia Karabeti!

From Doxa, a village in Didymoteicho, where she was born and where her parents farmed, Karabeti was taught to love and respect nature, the land, and the people who cultivate it. Summers and winters brought stories. She remembers the summer nights in the courtyard covered with colorful rugs, where they shucked corn during the harvest season. And then the sunflowers they struck with sticks to get the seeds.

“We children made small carts with wood and for the wheels we put the sunflowers. It was gorgeous over the years with celebrations, weddings, feasts, Thracian songs, and abundant laughter. The winters were white with snow and we had icicles on the houses. In the summer, we played all day and in the evening we chased fireflies. I miss it very much. I hold the memories dear.”

She saw her first Greek films on the wall of the cafeteria in the village square, on a white sheet, and she slept with a radio, recording in her 8-year-old mind all the classical repertoire, then the radio programs for the theater, all the great actors of the Greek National Theater. Ibsen, Tennessee Williams, Strindberg – they all entered into her life through the voices of Katina Paxinou, Alexis Minotis, Antigoni Valakou, Eleni Hatziargyri, stamping her future. She was already an actor, without knowing it.

Renowned Greek actress Karyofyllia Karabeti. (Photo by Eurokinissi, file)

Karabati was accepted as an honors student at the Polytechnic in 1976 in the Department of Civil Engineering and at the same time she took the exam for the Drama School of the State Theater of Northern Greece in Thessaloniki. After completing the Drama School, she continued her studies at the Polytechnic School. She knew what she wanted to do now.

Karabeti became a founding member of the Experimental Stage of Art in Thessaloniki and later continued with performances at the Theater Workshop. In 1984, she went to Athens at the Open Theater. Her collaborations are many and her subsequent roles in theater, cinema, and television even more. She became known to a wide audience from the television series, Love Arrived Late One Day, Dyed Red Hair, The Yellow Envelope, while her performances in ancient tragedy and her performances as Clytemnestra, Electra, Antigone, Medea, Atossa, and so many others, ranked her among the most important younger tragedians in the ancient Greek theater. She has been awarded for leading roles both in theater and in cinema, with her most recent awards from the Theater Critics Union in February 2019 for her interpretation of Atossa in The Persians by Aeschylus, and in November 2016 she was nominated for the same prize for her performance as Clytemnestra in Aeschylus’ Oresteia.

Of her credits Karabeti said, “I did something I worshiped and it taught me a lot. I came into contact with all of these ontological problems of these great writers and I made them my own, life, death, freedom, morality, justice, relationships, love. The dark places in our soul. I was given the opportunity to explore deeply myself, but also to gain understanding about others. Human adventure, dreams, fears, anguish, love, joy, and sorrow are the same for all people.”

Her personality is a rare combination of sensitivity, seriousness, discipline, and an unexpected, intense, dynamic femininity trained to support universal admiration. Karabeti sees egoism and narcissism as the great disadvantages of a person’s character and always puts service to others above herself. She serves the director’s vision with 100% of her soul, even if she disagrees with him or her.

Karabeti’s existential questions are many. Life for her is a wonderful gift, completely incomprehensible, that we have been given and that it is our duty to honor our passage through it.

“We come from the unknown and we go to the unknown and between these two darknesses, there is the bright line of life which for some reason has been given to us,” she said, paraphrasing the Prologue of Kazantzakis’ Askitiki. “It cannot be just a series of randomness,” she continued, because that sounds wild, scary, and pessimistic. That is why I believe that what everyone owes to this existence is to live it in a nice and moral way. I wish people to perceive their mortality but concentrate only on the good things, away from the wars, violence, fascism, terrorism, the fear of the different, racism. I wish that all this disappeared from human thought and for the  planet to experience days of love and light. That’s my great wish. This is my dream, this is my need.”

Our dream is to see her perform the “Right Speech” in Aristophanes’ Clouds on August 2 and 3 at the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus. We wish success to Karabeti!

“You with good habits, always honored the moral ancestors, come talk, give voice, the voice you love, and reveal what you are,” (excerpt from the Right Speech in Aristophanes’ Clouds).