“Memories of Smyrna” at the Ancient Herodes Atticus Theatre

Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Photo: (Eurokinissi, File)

On Sunday September 1 the musical play Memories of Smyrna, based on a story by producer and journalist Basilia Zervou, was presented at the ancient theatre of Herodes Atticus on the slopes of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.

The talented director Dimitris Malissovas and the gifted writer Tanas Xarokopou showcased a heartfelt story – told through the voice of the new generation – about a Greek family and the days leading up to the ethnic cleansing and massacre of Greeks by the Turks in 1922.

The performance moved the packed ancient Greek theatre, as the actors masterfully portrayed the story of the great grandson of an Asia Minor Greek musician who inherits his letters and music after his grandmother’s passing. He retells the story of his great grandfather and his grandmother’s tragic love story and displacement of her family through the salvaged letters and the music of the Greeks of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey).

The audience relived the tragic events of the Greek Genocide perpetrated by the Turks between 1912-1922.

The choreography of the chorus by Theodores Pana brilliantly presented the souls who were lost and who echo the stories from the other side through an inspired ‘Zombie’ angle.

The great performances of the main cast included: Tassos Halkias, Leda Protopsaltis, Christina Alexandiani, Konstantinos Giannakopoulos, Valeria Kouroui, Lefteris Eleftheria, Stavros Nikolaidis, and Aris Plaskasovitis.

The production features the magnificent Queen of Greek folk music, Eleni Vitali, who’s voice shakes one’s spine and provokes deep emotions. Joining her was the great performer from Izmir, Turkey, Fide Koksal, who presented songs inspired by both Greek and Turkish cultures. Panos Patagiannis also performed songs that touched the soul.

Remembering Smyrna portrayed the horror of what the Greeks experienced during the upheaval, but it also presented the harmonious relationship between the Greeks and Turks and the other cultures who had lived together in the cosmopolitan and multicultural city for hundreds of years (since the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 and the occupation of the Greek world by the Ottoman Turks) prior to the political turmoil that led to 1922.

The production conveys the message to the new generation to pass on the stories and to remember the tragic events and lives lost during the turmoil of ethnic cleansing and political upheaval.

The Cast includes:  Leda Alexandris, Claus Mountain, Elina Giannakis, Rebecca Giannakis, Vivianna Giannoutsou, Helen Gioufi, Tasoula Deligianni, Stella Efstratiadi, Thomas Kotzamanis, Tasos Kontogiorgou, George Mantas, Helen Mafoutsi, Elias Michael, Helen Batsoulis, Georgie Papadopoulos, Maria Papadopoulou, Margarita Stravoudaki, and Dimitris Fritzelas.

The members of the band TZOUM included: Rigas Borgias, basso; Nikos Xydis electric – acoustic guitar, baglama, bouzouki and percussion; Natasa Pavlatos, percussion; Nikos Samaras bouzouki, jour and trumpet; Dimitris Sintos, piano and lute; Taanou Chinemis and Thanou Chelebi on the oud, and Manos Achalinotopoulos on clarinet and traditional winds.

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