How do this country’s Balkan neighbors interpret ancient Greek drama? Lovers of theater will get a taste of interpretations of eight ancient Greek plays in seven languages during the first Theater Festival of Southeastern Europe, scheduled to open its doors in Thessaloniki this Thursday.
Eight theater companies stemming from Serbia, Slovenia, Hungary, Romania, Albania, Turkey, Greece and Cyprus are taking part in this first theater gathering, in a bridge of communication set up by the State Theater of Northern Greece.
“We are not going to see traditional ancient drama productions. It looks like our neighbors see ancient drama from a completely different perspective from what we’re used to. In Southeastern Europe, in countries that have recently experienced turbulence, timeless ancient Greek works become a basis for research on current issues, whether political, social or existential,” said the director of the State Theater of Northern Greece, Nikitas Tsakiroglou.
Euripides’ “Medea” is one of the festival’s favorite subject matters, as it will be staged by four different companies: the Turkish State Theater of Ankara, the National Theater of Craiova (Romania), Atelier 31 (in tandem with Albania’s State Theater) and Hungary’s Katona Jozsef Theater.
“Medea” is also the inspiration behind Gungor Dilmen’s “Kurba” (The Sacrifice) – a masterpiece of contemporary Turkish theater. In a number of Turkish provinces, even though the law prohibits men to marry more than one woman, religious tradition allows men to marry up to three. Ayse Emel Mesci’s direction is a sensitive take on the drama of an Anatolian woman who challenges her fate.
“The main question raised by the play is not the relationship between a man and a woman, but Medea’s revenge due to the insult she has been subjected to,” said Hungarian director Gabor Zsambeki of a production that he has been working on for the last 10 years.
Love is the issue that young Greek director Yiannis Paraskevopoulos is putting forward in a production of “Medea” by the National Theater of Craiova. “It wasn’t easy for the Romanian troupe to approach the Euripidean tragedy,” said Paraskevopoulos, adding, however, that they did feel the urge to comprehend the ancient tragedy’s messages.
Albanian director Mikel Kalemi’s “Medea” is “a victim driven to violence.” “She was betrayed, scorned and abandoned – and she got mad. Her revenge was so huge that the Earth mourned,” he noted. The Slovenian National Theater is staging Slovenian author Ivo Svetina’s poetic drama “Oedipus in Corinth.” The work describes Oedipus’ childhood in Corinth, with an emphasis on his existential questions, while director Ivica Buljan has focused his take on the causes behind contemporary society’s depression.
Inspired by the Theban Cycle, “My Homeland – Seven Dreams” will be staged by Serbia’s BITEF festival, directed by Nikita Milivojevic. According to the director, the play comprises seven stories (or seven dreams) which result in an image of absolute paranoia, where the only certainty is that when it comes to power, fratricide rules throughout time.
The Cyprus Theater Organization is staging Euripides’ “Iphigenia in Tauris,” in a production directed by Yiannis Margaritis, while the State Theater of Northern Greece is taking part with Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata” directed by Yiannis Iordanidis.
In Thessaloniki, the festival’s performances will take place at the Vassiliko Theater, the Dassos Theater and the Theater of the Society of Macedonian Studies.