Left to right: Nikos Kartalis, Maria Marangos, Stavros Litinas, GCC President Iraklis Kremmidas, Fotini Baxevani, Adamantia Mari, and Gianni Skaragas. (Photo by Eleni Sakellis)
NEW YORK – The Greek Cultural Center of New York (GCC), with the support of the Hellenic Women’s Council (HAWC) Pacific and Tri-State Regions, the Federation of Dodecanese Societies, the Amorgos Foundation, and the Consulate General of Greece in New York, presented a moving theatrical production, The Lady of Ro by Gianni Skaragas, starring Fotini Baxevani, directed by Stavros Litinas, at the Queens Theater in Flushing Meadow Corona Park on October 22. The well-attended performance was part of the latest U.S. tour of the play which was also performed on October 15 at the Maliotis Cultural Center Theater in Brookline, MA.
The stirring play was presented under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad and Public Diplomacy and was inspired by the life of Despina Achladioti, who lived on the deserted and distant Greek island of Ro, where she raised the Greek flag every day for 40 years. She became known as ‘The Lady of Ro’ and is a hero and folk legend for Greeks worldwide. The play presents the story of this one woman’s struggle to shape her own truth and destiny – but also chronicles the plight of ordinary people everywhere, who learn to live and love in the most desperate of circumstances.
GCC President Iraklis Kremmidas gave the welcoming remarks before the performance on October 22, noting that the effort to present The Lady of Ro began in 2020, scheduled for March 14 that year, but the pandemic led to the last-minute cancelation of that performance, and finally the play came to New York October 22. “We’re trying to be what we are, the Greek Cultural Center,” Kremmidas said. “The Lady of Ro is a moving production that will leave its mark on the Greek community of New York and it will be a bright light for the 50th anniversary of the GCC.”
Baxevani’s dynamic performance impressed the audience and drew everyone along on her character’s remarkable journey, bringing the island of Kastellorizo in the early part of the 20th century to life through the stories she shares with an unflinching authenticity. Moving with her husband to the remote island of Ro, her life was much like any other woman’s life at that time, until the simple act of raising the flag became something more. There are humorous moments woven together seamlessly with the tragic aspects of her story, highlighting the constancy of human nature and the universality of the themes in the play. The, at times, deeply personal details shared remind us of the humanity of this woman who later became a symbol and a folk hero. In giving voice to the Lady of Ro and her everyday life amid world wars and various foreign powers passing through her island home, the author tugs on the heartstrings of the diaspora, reminding us of where we came from, how far we’ve come, and how we are still connected through the traditions and folkways of the homeland wherever we may reside.
Audience members applauded enthusiastically and gave a standing ovation at the conclusion of the play. Baxevani was gifted a bouquet of flowers and thanked all those present for the warm reception and the GCC especially for presenting the play and for its 50 years of service to the community.
Shelly Papadopoulos, HAWC Pacific Regional Director, noted HAWC’s support for the show in Boston and in New York, adding that Baxevani will hopefully continue the U.S. tour in the spring of 2024 on the West Coast.
Videos were then screened of two songs performed by Violeta Ikari. All proceeds from the songs ‘Erimopouli’ and ‘Kastellorizo Mou’ are used for the artistic education of children and for the recording and preservation of the island’s stories and traditions, through the Puzzle Museum of Kastellorizo.
Following the music videos, Baxevani returned to the stage along with author and playwright Gianni Skaragas; and director, set and costume designer Stavros Litinas to share their insights into the play and the production in a Q&A with the appreciative audience. Skaragas also signed copies of his book, The Lady of Ro, for those who purchased a copy at the theater.
It should be noted that the Benefactors for the play’s 2023 U.S. tour were Plefsi Eleftherias- Zoe Konstantopoulou and Daphne Valentina.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Iditarod, the annual sled dog race celebrating Alaska's official state sport, is set to get underway Saturday with a new focus on safety after five dogs died and eight were injured in collisions with snowmobiles while training on shared, multi-use trails.
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