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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. Thomas Oeconomo, Director of the Royal Theater

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Although Thomas Oeconomo was employed as director of the Royal Theater, as soon as he arrived at Athens, he worked in the Royal Acting Academy as an acting teacher. His education and professional activity in the German-speaking countries, which was the center of theatrical on-goings in Europe at this period of time, his theatrical experiences, and his theoretical knowledge distinguished him from his contemporary Greek theatrical colleagues. He represented the model of the professional artist that Angelos Vlachos has suggested in his article since 1885 that should be invited from Europe in order to instruct the Greek actors.416 The fact that he was chosen because of his experience in the German-speaking theatrical field became obvious since the Royal Acting Academy had commenced operations without any of the old school actors in its teaching staff. As long as Vlachos established the troupe of the Royal Theater in August of 1901, he clarified that many of the actors of the old generation would not be hired.417

According to the Bylaws already described, Oeconomo, as director of the theater, was a senior courtier employee, responsible for teaching the actors during rehearsals and a basic member for the creation of the performance. Ηe should coordinate and guide the work of the artistic members of the theater, while imposing discipline. The arrival of a German-speaking director came to disturb the existing status quo of the theatrical world, as he was an educated actor with experience at different theaters and thus the...

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