ASTORIA – On March 13, the Order of AHEPA presented a unique show for the ages. In Astoria, at the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York’s Stathakion Cultural Center, AHEPA paid homage to the American support to the Greek War of Independence. Many fundraisers were held in the United States during the war to assist the Greek cause. This reenactment was in honor of the Greek Ball in New York on February 27, 1827.
The original event was held in Manhattan at the Park Theatre which no longer stands, so AHEPA went to great pains to replicate the Park Theatre of the times and to replicate in detail many aspects of the evening from newspaper accounts. The spectacle when entering the Stathakion was beautiful and impressive.
A large display of the Park Theatre circa 1827 was stationed at the entrance to the Greek Ball reenactment. The large hall was decorated with many displays designed to showcase the historical accuracy of the reenactment. A newspaper display from the U.S. Gazette of 1827 explained:
“The ball given last night at the Park Theatre, for the doubly patriotic purpose of honoring the birthday of the great father of this country, and for contributing to the fund which our benevolent citizens are accumulating to alleviate the distresses of the suffering Greeks, and, if possible, to accelerate their march to freedom and independence, was all that could have been anticipated or desired. The company began to assemble a few minutes before eight o’clock, and continued to arrive until eleven, when the number of ladies and gentlemen was about two thousand.”
To the left and right of the staged reenactment were two large portraits of General Lafayette and indeed, the Father of America, first United States President George Washington. These monumental paintings were on display just as they were in 1827, according to historical accounts. They were adorned with cornucopias as then – emblems of peace and plenty. Flowers were suspended above the banners representing that the cause of Greece is the cause of all.
The Grecian Cross was on display as well as it was during the original event. AHEPA previously reported in the AHEPAN Winter edition kick-off to the year’s events that the Grecian cross was a symbol of the Greek struggle for years in New York. In September 1823, a huge cross appeared in Brooklyn Heights, raised by citizens at their own expense. It carried the wish: “May the Grecian Cross be planted from village to village and from steeple to steeple until it rests on the Dome of St. Sophia.”
As if not enough, the production included professional New York Broadway actors and actresses. They were dressed in authentic evening wear of 1827. From top hats to gowns, manicures to impeccable hairstyles, the cast at first danced and regaled on their own as one would imagine in 1827. Dancing to waltzes and concertos of the day transformed the Stathakion and transported it to a time and place it, and the Greek community, has never been.
The highlight of AHEPA’s Greek Bicentennial Reenactment of the Greek Ball was Consul of Greece in New York Lana Zochiou, who surrounded by the cast, recited from memory a heartfelt rendition of the famed communication of the first Governor of Greece Ioannis Kapodistrias to then-United States President John Quincy Adams. The letter was sent a short time after the original Greek Ball. In it, Kapodistrias thanked the United States with “the sentiments of gratitude with which the liberal conduct of the America nation has filled the nation over which he presides.”
The cast applauded and with tears in their eyes, invited Zochiou to dance. The cast and the AHEPA members continued, masks on, to mingle together. The costumes and modern clothing were a stark contrast between the two vastly different time periods. It also underscored the 200 years of the alliance between the United States and Greece.
AHEPA Supreme President George G. Horiates explained the significance of each element to the actors and actresses and the attendees from AHEPA District 6. Ahepans from the Empire Distrct participating in the reenactment were Supreme Governor Tom Dushas, his wife Eva Dushas, Hermes chapter members Billy Chryssochos, Peter Argyropoulos, and former Federation presidents Demetris Kalamaras and Elias Tsekerides. The current President of the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York Cleanthis Meimoroglou was a gracious host, and a participant as well.
AHEPA thanked the actors of the cast of Greek Bicentennial Reenactment of The Greek Ball, Consulate General of Greece Lana Zochiou, Vasilis Keisoglou of Cosmos Philly, Shana Lang of Washington Talent Agency, Orth Graphics, PSEKA President Philip Christopher, and the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York.
AHEPA’s Greek Bicentennial Reenactment of the Greek Ball is available on YouTube: