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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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3. Agnes Sorma in Athens

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3.1 From Preserving the Personality to Entering into the Skin of the People

While the Royal Acting School had opened and efforts were being launched for the opening of the Royal Theater, Greek newspapers announced the arrival of the famous German actress, Agnes Sorma, in Athens on the 6th of November, 1900. Sorma was to perform in the plays Ibsen’s Doll’s House, Sudermann’s The St John’s Eve Fire, Schnitzler’s Flirtation, Jephthah’s daughter by Felice Cavallotti, Faust by Goethe, and Eva by Richard Voss at the Municipal Theater of Athens. In the last decade of the 19th century, the famous “star” actors: Constant-Benoit Coquelin, Ernesto Rossi, Sarah Bernhardt, Eleonora Duse, and Jean-Sully Mounet had already visited Athens. The growing urbanization had transformed the city, while its economy, as well as its population, had expanded dramatically, becoming a computable rail hub and economic center, attractive in some ways for virtuoso actors as well. Moreover, there was a transitional theatrical period in Europe at that time. The development of the ensemble theater by George II and later the emphasis on the ensemble acting at The Theatre Libre by Antoine in Paris, as well as at the Freie Bühne and at Deutsches Theater in Germany, had increased the risk of marginalization and status loss for the virtuoso actors. As a result, their touring of different countries was a good opportunity for them to preserve their fame. Especially for Sorma, there was one more reason for visiting Athens, as she...

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