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Arts

“8 Women”, Directed by Petropoulos, the Greek Community’s First Post-COVID Play

ASTORIA – More than a year after all theatrical performances were shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Greek community’s first post-COVID play, Gynaikes Dolofonoi (8 Women) ran June 4-6 at the Stathakion Cultural Center in Astoria.

Produced by the Academy of Hellenic Paideia’s theatrical workshop Logo & Praxi, the comedy, directed by the well-known actor and member of the Pancyprian Choir Theodore Petropoulos, was a witty whodunnit featuring a dynamic ensemble cast: Avgi-Maria Atmatzidou, Anastasia Thanasoula, Metaxia Liza, Myrto Motsi, Natasa Protopsalti, Alexandra Skendrou, Vicky Tsavalias, and Stavroula Tsoutsa.

It should be noted that Tsavalias is also a member of the Pancyprian Choir, while Tsoutsa is a contributor to Ethnikos Kirikas/The National Herald.

Live theatre is one of those things that everyone has missed during the pandemic and seeing the show with an audience was a welcome sign that things are finally getting back to normal. While temperatures were checked at the door, social distancing was maintained, and masks were worn by audience members, according to safety protocols, the run of three performances over three nights drew a total of about 200 people, Petropoulos told The National Herald. The number is below the capacity of the Stathakion but the decision was made to cap the attendance as a precaution.

Petropoulos spoke with TNH about the show, noting that it was based on the French play Huit femmes (Eight Women) by Robert Thomas, adapted into the 2002 film 8 Women, starring Catherine Deneuve, and would have been produced three years ago with an adaptation begun by the talented actor and director Ioanna Katsarou of Eclipses Group Theater NY, but life intervened as one of the actresses had a baby and the show was put on hold.

Petropoulos then worked on the script, updating the dialogue. Rehearsals began and in the course of those rehearsals in the theatrical workshop Logo & Praxi, the actresses also improvised and some of those lines were added as well, Petropoulos told TNH.

A testament to his skillful direction, his own gifts as an actor, and his ability to work with an ensemble, Petropoulos created a space for each of the cast members to find her character and voice and together they built up the comedy in each scene even as the tension rises and each woman seems to have a motive for murder.

The play was scheduled to run last year, but the pandemic delayed the show. By the time in-person rehearsals could safely resume, in September of last year, the script had been marked up to the point where one of the cast members suggested it was time for a final rewrite. By Easter, Petropoulos told TNH, the script was finalized and he had written a new ending.

“Ioanna Katsarou is the godmother of the play,” Petropoulos told TNH, noting that she came up with the title after a brainstorming session and she also had originally intended to rewrite the play with a happy ending. He sent a message to Demetra Varsami, the Founder and Principal of the Academy of Hellenic Paideia, and asked what she thought of Katsarou’s title, Gynaikes Dolofonoi, and she liked it, so that was it.

“It is technically a dark comedy as it deals with death, a serious issue, but the actors can play it in such a way that it works as a straight comedy, it depends on how you turn it,” Petropoulos said.

“I was lucky to have this team to work with,” he told TNH, noting that for three of the actresses, this was their first show, while the others had performed before, and, of course, Skendrou is a professional. The gifted actress improvised the stage business with the prop gun, Petropoulos noted, and Skendrou’s creativity and physical comedy skills inspired the other performers as well.

While Petropoulos has taught in the Academy of Hellenic Paideia’s Children's Workshop for four years, Gynaikes Dolofonoi marked his first time teaching and directing in the adult theatrical workshop Logo & Praxi. When asked if there would be a sequel to the play, he said that there would not be a Gynaikes Dolofonoi 2, but added that Varsami has told him that playwright Konstantinos Doikos is writing a new comedy they hope to produce next year.

Gynaikes Dolofonoi

Directed by: Theodore Petropoulos

Assistant director: Aristea Kapandai

Assistant director: George Leandros Kyriazis

Text editing: Ioanna Katsarou, Theodore Petropoulos

Lighting and sound editing: Theodore Petropoulos

Costumes: O Thiasos

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