THE POET AND THE WOMEN (THESMOPHORIAZUSAE) by Aristophanes

ETHAL (LIMASSOL THEATRE DEVELOPMENT COMPANY), CYPRUS

ETHAL opens this year’s International Festival of Ancient Greek Drama with Aristophanes’ multifaceted comedy, The Poet and the Women. The women wish to get rid of Euripides, who in their opinion is a misogynist, feeling insulted by the way he abuses them in his tragedies. They take advantage of the Festival of Demeter, Thesmophoria and decide to set in motion a plan to destroy him. As his only way out, Euripides sends his friend Mnesilochus, dressed as a woman, to go to the celebration that is strictly forbidden for men, in order to defend him. Mnesilochus accepts this difficult task. However, in his over eager attempt to justify Euripides, he betrays his sex and things get complicated.

▪ With English and Russian surtitles

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Plot

In this comedy the famous ancient Greek comic playwright Aristophanes, satirizes the tragedian Euripides. The story takes place during the annual Festival of Demeter, Thesmophoria, in ancient Greece. The Athenian women, who gather there to celebrate, decide to judge Euripides, who in their opinion, being a misogynist, has abused women in his tragedies, portraying them as mad, murderous and sexually depraved.

Euripides asks from the effeminate poet Agathon to attend the festival, in order to defend him. Agathon, however, refuses to go and Euripides sends his friend Mnesilochus instead. Indeed, Mnesilochus dressed as a female, infiltrates the crowd of women in order to find out what revenge is being plotted. Mnesilochus in his over eager attempt to justify Euripides, while the rest of the women condemn him, betrays his sex and things get complicated. The women inform the authorities and Mnesilochus is detained until his trial and punishment. However, Euripides saves Mnesilochus using his eloquence to pacify the women. Through the ironic and humorous elements of the comedy, we may realize the weakness of humanity and the demands between human beings.

In The Poet and the Women, which is one of the three “female” comedies of Aristophanes that have survived, human weakness is outlined with a charming sense of humour and scathing irony. The Poet and the Women was produced in the year 411 B.C., five years before the death of Euripides.

 

Director’s note

Why the new cannot bring down whatever is old
Alexis Solomos, that great theatre artist who has passed away just recently once said: “We have not inherited theatre tradition from the ancient Greeks and surely none of their secrets about art has reached us. However, there is a remarkable tradition that we, ourselves, have built in this century. And this is because quite a number of contemporary Greek artists in every field have embraced with love, warmth and understanding the forty texts that constitute today the ancient dramatic treasure that has come down to us and they have created our contemporary tradition.”

Solomos was the most important representative of the National Theatre “school” in the 60s and 70s, while on the opposite side, Karolos Koun, representing the Theatro Technis, argued that “… between the Greeks of today and their distant ancestors there is an indivisible, organic, relation that forces us to deal with the responsibilities, arising from such a faith”. In other words, Koun believed that the best way for his fellow citizens to approach the ancient Greeks was through their own self-knowledge. Since 1932, when Koun, together with his students, staged at the College of Athens The Birds, Plutus and The Frogs, as well as The Acharnians and Peace, he adopted one, dominating, aesthetic principle: folk expressionism, which even if it had been primarily rejected by the aestheticists, as an unidiomatic and controversial term, today it is accepted by all and it has one socio-ideological position: its Greek character.

Koun had restored the interpretation of ancient drama (comedy and tragedy) to its Greek core. He viewed ancient Greece with Greek eyes, not German, and in this way he brought back the Greek cultural tradition to its diachronicity.  The folk festival, the phallic carnival events with their ancestral roots, as well as the latest elements added to folk culture, such as the shadow theatre (karagiozis), the folk paintings of Theophilos and Panagiotis Zografos, the itinerant theatre troupe (boulouki), Koutalianos, were all timeless for Koun…He approached the folk outlook of things as a humble student and not as an arrogant scholar.   Besides, he had good guides in this approach: Kontoglou, Tsarouchis, Diamantis Diamantopoulos, Chatzidakis. Our generation had the divine fortune of being able to watch at Epidaurus, the Herodion, the Lycabettus (later the Damaria (theatre) and the rest of the open air Amphitheatres at the fringes of Athens were added to the list), the performances staged by the National Theatre of Greece and the Theatro Technis. All these constitute our heritage; they have left their mark on us and maybe they are still haunting us.

And then followed Evangelatos and his two really great productions of the Frogs and Peace in the 80s. To them I would add the wonderful productions of Aristophanes’ comedies by the Cyprus Theatre Organisation (THOC) – directed by Evis Gabrielides (The Birds) and Nicos Charalambous (The Frogs). Our production of Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazusae, which opens this year’s Festival at the hospitable Koilon of Curium Ancient Theatre – follows our previous radical reading of the ancient tragedy of Philoctetes in 2014. In this year’s production we adopt a music hall approach. We transport the action from the Temple where the women’s gathering takes place…to a sandy shore, a beach near the Enaerios coastal front in Limassol. The opsis, the costumes, the sounds, the…swaying movement of the heroines and heroes of Aristophanes’ Comedy, returns to the stage, in Costis Colotas’ translation, 20 years after its first staging, by the Cyprus Theatre Organisation (THOC) with Sotiris Moustakas as Mnesilochus.

Tonight’s experience will be a hazardous downhill descent, on the occasion of the 140 premieres of our Theatre. But then again, when is making theatre not a dangerous undertaking in our days…

Minas Tigkilis

 

Theatre company profile

ETHAL (Limassol Theatre Development Company)
The procedures towards the establishment of a permanent and professional theatre company in the city of Limassol, go way back, much before the establishment of ETHAL, since this specific concept was the subject of many arguments among the various artistic and intellectual circles.

This will get practically real during the 1980’s.

It seems that the original idea by the Municipality of Limassol (the establishment of a Municipal Theatre) didn’t actually work but it was taken up by a wide group of intellectuals and artists instead, which the Municipality embraced and approved. In other words: to go through the process of creating a private theatre company by having the Municipality as its supporter and succor.

After long and successive meetings by those who had the vision to see it happening, it became reality; the official decision is taken up in the summer of 1988. So the Limassol Theatre Development Company (ETHAL) was born, by being the first professional theatre company in Limassol and also the first one to be outside the Capital City. The inaugural conference of ETHAL was done in the venue of the Municipality of Limassol on the 11th of December 1988.

The first years were rather difficult. The offices of the company were accommodated at Pattihio Municipal Theatre, a place kindly offered by the Municipality, as well as the performances during the first three years were presented at the same place.  Since ETHAL was qualified by the conditions of THOC (Cyprus Theatre Organization), it managed to secure an annual financial support and was integrated in the Organization’s program. The support of the Municipality was also a sheer fact (apart from the accommodation and the finance) because 4 out of the 11 members of the first ETHAL Board, were members of the Municipal Council, which was also written in the articles of the association of ETHAL. The message was clear: the City of Limassol gave birth to its first Theatre Company and everyone should now embrace and support it.

Since its establishment there is a Central Scene, a Second Scene and a Children Scene which present frequent performances at its base and continuously operate tours around Cyprus, in urban and rural areas respectively, proving its decentralized character.

Its first performance occurred on April 23rd 1989 by the Children Scene with the play entitled Irene, Irenaki, Irenoula by Vasiliki Fotiou, directed by Tasos Anastasiou. In a month’s time exactly, on May 23rd 1989 the first play was performed by the Central Scene and was entitled The Rain Maker by Richard Nash.

Eversince, ETHAL has been located in Technohoros, a place donated by the Municipality of Limassol. It carries under its mantle 140 theatrical productions, specifically by the Central Scene, the Second Scene and the Children Scene, as well as cultural activities, honarary tributes and many tours abroad mainly in Greece. Through time, it counts numerous collaborations with Theatre people from all over Cyprus.

 

▪ Sunday, 3 July│Paphos Ancient Odeon [official opening]
▪ Saturday, 9 July│Curium Ancient Theatre
▪ Monday, 11 July│Makarios III Amphitheatre, Nicosia

Translated by Costis Colotas
Directed by Minas Tigkilis
Set/Costume design: Lakis Genethlis
Lighting Design: Panayiotis Manousis
Music: Dimitris Zachariou
Choreography: Lambros Lambrou
Assistant to the Director: Theodora Vicha
Assistant to the Choreographer: Elena Gavriel

Cast:
Mnesilochus: Costas Vichas
Euripides: Panayiotis Larkou
Agathon: Filippos Sofianos
Cleisthenes: Eftychios Poullaides
Servant of Agathon, a Scythian Policeman: Marinos Calotychos

Chorus:
Melanie Steliou (Herald),
Paola Hadjilambri (Women A, B, C),
Ivie Nicolaidou (Women A, B, C),
Themis Ppolou (Women A, B, C),
Mikaella Theodoulidou (Deer A),
Elena Hileti (Deer B),
Varvara Christofi (Deer C),
Elena Gavriel,
Stefanie Mavrokordatou