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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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2. Thomas Oeconomo: Forming an Artistic Identity

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2.1 Early Life and Acting Studies

On the 18th of September, 1900, the German-speaking actor of Greek origin Thomas Oeconomo arrived in Athens to assume the position of director in the Royal Theater.318 Four days later, the newspaper Estia provided information about his outer appearance and his mentality:

He is young, no more than forty years old, of medium stature. He is neither fat nor thin, and he has a small mustache and a very likable figure. He speaks our language fluently, and although he has not been here for several years, when he sometimes cannot find a word, he gets terribly upset- unlike those missing for two or three months - because he obviously doesn’t want to use foreign words. In addition to the above, he also has that style of the people from the North, which shows a serious, positive, profound man. Before opening his mouth, one thinks he is a German professor, wise, and is surprised by hearing him speaking Greek. Given all of this, one would think that Mr. Oeconomo is no longer Greek at all. He is a Greek endowed with all the natural gifts, which distinguishes the German’s wisdom.319

According to the above part of the article, Oeconomo’s hybrid identity was obvious. Although he was of Greek origin, he had a German mentality, as well as idiosyncrasy. He was a “German” intellectual who could speak Greek fluently, but sometimes still had problems expressing himself accurately. Thomas...

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