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Arts

Yorgos Karamihos on Finally Bringing “Makriyannis Unplugged” to the Stage

March 19, 2022

LOS ANGELES – The gifted actor Yorgos Karamihos is perhaps best known for his impressive acting credits, including his role on the series The Durrells in Corfu which aired on PBS in the United States, and in the films such as Fugitive Pieces and Like Chef, Like God. His latest project, Makriyannis Unplugged, is finally making its global premiere at UCLA on Saturday, March 26 after the pandemic delayed the production which was originally set for March 2021 in honor of the bicentennial of Greek Independence. The performance is sponsored by the UCLA Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center for the Study of Hellenic Culture and is offered under the auspices of the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Embassy of Greece in the United States, and the Consulate General of Greece in Los Angeles. Karamihos spoke with The National Herald about bringing Makiyannis Unplugged to the stage, what first drew him to the story of one of the great heroes of 1821, and what he is working on next.

TNH: What first drew you to the story of Makriyannis?

Yorgos Karamihos: Makriyannis has always been a hero that I have been admiring since I was a little boy. Maybe because I also grew up in a small village like him and I also had to overcome some obstacles— thank God not as many as he did— in order to study and explore my own creativity. When I left my hometown in Northern Greece, my father’s advice was to always remember that my truth is my sword. And this truth is what makes me relate to Mr. Makriyannis. His words are honest and uncensored.

Yorgos Karamihos stars in and directs Makriyannis Unplugged with the global premiere at UCLA set for March 26. Photo by Panagiotis Malliaris

TNH: How long did the process take from idea to realization for the play?

YK: Almost two and a half years. Sharon Gerstel, Professor and Director of the UCLA Stavros Niarchos Foundation Hellenic Center, and I started talking about this project in the autumn of 2019. The initial plan was to present the show in March 2021. Due to the unprecedented circumstances created by the pandemic we had to push the dates of the production a year later, which gave us more time to prepare such a demanding show.

TNH: What was the most challenging aspect of bringing this story to the stage?

YK: First of all, the adaptation wasn’t easy. It was very hard to edit the script and bring it down to just 28 pages out of 600. It was painful that we had to leave some beautiful stories out of our play, but we needed to create a show that won’t make the audience feel tired in their seats. It is better to have an audience asking for more and being inspired to look for extra information about Makriyannis and Greek Independence than bombarding them with too much information and emotion. The second challenge was the transition. How can you put those linguistic jewels of Makriyannis in a different language? We are surprised with how well George Filippakis’ translation works in English. And, of course, the biggest challenge was how to put all those words in actions avoiding the graphic and folklore elements that would make the play look like a kindergarten show. I think both Mayme— my 17-year-old super talented actress/partner in crime— and I enjoy the procedure despite the challenges and hopefully the audience will as well.

TNH: What has been the most rewarding aspect?

YK: Putting myself in the shoes— though barefoot on stage— of such an iconic figure has been a blessing since day one. Suddenly all the daily conflicts seem little compare to what that man and his kindred spirits had to go through. Focusing on the essentials is always important.

The global premiere of Makriyannis Unplugged, adapted, directed and performed by Yorgos Karamihos, takes place at UCLA’s Freud Playhouse on March 26. Photo by Panagiotis Malliaris

TNH: Were you always interested in pursuing a career in the performing arts?

YK: I think yes. When I was a kid I wanted to become an acrobat. Maybe that’s why I was crying non-stop the first time I watched a Cirque de Soleil show. Gradually, during puberty, the language became a very appealing vessel to use, too, so acting is indeed a path that has fulfilled my dreams so far. It combines all the intellectual, emotional and often even physical acrobatics that I need in order to explore human nature and self-improvement. So far!

TNH: Are there plans to bring Makriyannis Unplugged to New York?

YK: Hopefully yes. Fingers crossed! I think it is a play that has the potential to travel all around the world.

TNH: What are you working on next?

YK: I will co-direct a series in Greece with my best friend and colleague Dorothea Paschalidou. We start filming in early June 2022. In the fall, I will participate in an American film about which I cannot yet disclose further information. In the meantime, I still teach my own acting technique at Stella Adler Acting Academy in Los Angeles. And I am on hold for a couple of shows in England.

TNH: We wish you the best of luck and break a leg!

The global premiere of Makriyannis Unplugged, adapted, directed and performed by Yorgos Karamihos, takes place at UCLA’s Freud Playhouse on Saturday, March 26. Tickets and additional information available online: https://bit.ly/3tjK5l2.

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