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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. The German and the “Own” Theater

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1.1 Meeting the Forgotten “own”

The way of understanding the “other” always defines a part of how the “self” is defined or even perceived, as images of the “self” stand in close relation to foreign images. Furthermore, the identity of the “self”, considered as an imagined category, is defined through contradictory procedures that combine extraneous and endogenous factors. Such dependencies must be considered in order to better comprehend the reception of the German theater in Greece and to outline the German state of mind during the 19th century, which was the background to, as well as a condition of, the growing interest by Greek intellectuals in German culture.

It is German neoclassicism in the 18th century that, in this context, plays the role of a forerunner. The rise of neoclassical aesthetic was related to the development of archeology and the explorations of sites and monuments of ancient Greece, drawing its vision for the future from the ancient past. The fact that was embodied by Johann Joachim Winckelmann, who published in Dresden in 1754 his Reflections on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and Sculpture, declaring that the ancient Greek art is characterized by simplicity and placid glamour (“eine edle Einfalt, und eine stille Größe”)103 and is the ideal for artistic imitation.104 In his later major work, History of Ancient Art (1764), he investigates the idea of beauty in the Oriental art and created a view of the superiority not only of...

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