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The Reception of German Theater in Greece

Establishing a Theatrical Locus Communis: The Royal Theater in Athens (1901-1906)

Michalis Georgiou

The author examines the vigorous reception of the German theater in Greece, a phenomenon that took place along with the process of establishing in Athens, in 1901 the Royal Theater. The multiple aesthetic, social and political forms of this phenomenon provided a "locus of contact" with the German culture and accomplished a function, regarded as the instrument for the development of the bourgeois theater in Greece. This happened through the work of theater practitioners and intellectuals, as well as through the transfer of institutions, theatrical plays, and scripts of direction instructions, decorations, and props. The performances staged were the iceberg in the process of this reception, as they provided a strategy toward the revitalization of the Greek theater, realized in a productive way.

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1 Our “Today’s Theater”

On October 1907, the German-speaking director Thomas Oeconomo, who had resigned about a year ago from the Royal Theater in Athens, published in the Greek art journal Pinakothiki an article with the title Today’s Theater, in which he expressed his overall estimation for the inefficiency of Greek theater. In the first paragraphs of his article, Oeconomo wrote the following things:

The theater, the sacred temple of art of the ancients, the only school of education and development of all the civilized nations, came down to a commercial enterprise of a lesser category, like horse racings and cafes.

From the beginning it was abandoned to its fate, homeless for many years, unprotected and as a result its own pitiful future was prescribed, which is disappointing for everyone that really takes care about the Greek theater. Yet, once theater had virtue and was a powerful tool in the hands of those who knew how to handle it. The art of theater, which supported the medieval church, was a procurator and warrior of the great struggles for spiritual freedom today it fell into a pulpit where the daily issues are discussed. Our governments have, however, disregarded the high mission of the theater for civilizing, did not care about it, not even used it as a “pioneer of Panhellenism”, and instead of this, they simply raised taxes on it, directing it in a course and evolution as a “place of entertainment”.

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