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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. The Development of a New Acting Style

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3.1 “Can our actors with their knowledge of today, with their current habits, satisfy the requirements of a formal theater?”

As the theater historian Chatzipantazis has argued, the Greek theoretical interest about the art of acting, as well as the first efforts to perform Greek dramas emerged, in the Greek Age of Enlightenment, by Greek-speaking intellectuals of the Ottoman Empire.499 Ιn the development of the Greek Enlightenment since 18th century contributed the social group of Greek merchants, the Phanariotes that emerged in Ottoman Empire’s administrative mechanism in the Danubian principalities. They founded Greek learning schools and academies in Chios, Smyrna, and Ayvalik, creating a cultural environment, which attracted Greek people throughout the Ottoman Empire. In these schools, theories about the art of acting developed, as their teachers influenced by the spirit of Enlightenment included in philosophical works authored for the needs of their teaching, manuals about Rhetoric, useful to their students, as well as some chapters about the art of acting.500 The art of the first Greek actors in Odessa and Bucharest was based on these works.501 The priest Konstantinos Oikonomos established in 1809 the Philological High School in Smyrna, where he taught Greek philology and rhetoric. For these reasons he wrote the book Art of Rhetoric,502 which echoes the theories by the French philosopher of aesthetics Charles Batteux and Scottish author of Rhetoric Hugh Blair that dominated Europe until the mid-18th century and defined rhetorical gesture as a decorative function based on specific rules.503...

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