Update from Greece (2008) - Athens and Katohi

 

Greetings from Greece! It’s been about a month since we left the USA, and much has happened. Rather than try to recount all our activities in a single entry, I’m going to break it up into more manageable posts.

Music

First of all, the music for “Agamemnon” is completely finished. Since we left for Athens in June, I’ve composed roughly 25 minutes of music for the show, scored for clarinet, viola, percussion, and chorus (plus soloists). Whenever and wherever I had an opportunity, I wrote, often completing an entire piece a day! I remember sketching a few tunes on the plane, and I even wrote an arietta for Clytemnestra while sitting at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.

We have one week until we perform “Agamemnon” as part of the Oiniades Theatre Festival, and I’ve been busy rehearsing the chorus for the last month. Our performance is on Sunday, July 27, and we will also have at least one performance back at the University of Kansas in late August. Unlike last time, when I played the role of Dionysus in “The Bacchae” (Euripides), I actually get to sit in the audience and watch the production. What a treat! I like to joke that I should just start enthusiastically singing along with the chorus during the performance, pretending that all the tunes are well-known, popular tunes. That should confuse the Greek audience pretty thoroughly! :-)

Athens

Before I get carried away talking about the production, allow me to switch gears and document our travels a bit. Getting to Athens from Kansas took a LONG time. Once we claimed our luggage, we jumped on the metro headed for the hotel. See the picture in the gallery below of myself, Kat, and Dennis Christilles (the director) on the metro looking very tired and greasy after our long series of flights. Dennis is so tired, his eyes are closed! :-)

I also included a few obligatory pictures of the Acropolis.

This is my third stay in Athens (counting the previous two visits from 2006), and honestly, it’s one of the scarier cities I’ve ever visited. Our hotel (on Menander street) was a fairly-nice hotel in a disturbingly-bad neighborhood. Every night we saw hundreds of angry-looking Middle-Eastern immigrants swarming in the streets outside the hotel, blocking all traffic. The women in our group were advised not to leave the hotel in the evening without a “man-shield.” Unbelievable.

Fortunately, none of us ran into any trouble, and we got to enjoy our time trekking around the city.

Since this is an outing of mostly theatre people, we were naturally fascinated by the Theatre of Dionysus, just down the hill from the Acropolis. Also see in the gallery above a photo of our entire group in all of our exhausted glory. Keep in mind that our Acropolis tour was mere hours after we stepped off the plane in Athens.

Katohi

After a few days exploring the attractions in Athens, we boarded a bus headed for the village of Katohi, our “home away from home.” Katohi literally means “The Occupation”, and while practicing our Greek in the Athens hotel, we alarmed the desk attendant by telling him we were traveling to “Katohi.” Having never heard of such a small village, he thought at first that part of his nation must be undergoing a hostile takeover. Given Greece’s history, I can’t blame him (they were swallowed up by the Ottoman Empire for about 400 years). Katohi itself actually was occupied by the Germans for part of the 20th century, hence the name.

Anyway, we safely made it to the tiny farming village of Katohi. Since life moves at such a slow pace here, not much has changed in the last two years, with the exception that there are now TWO Internet cafes instead of one. The empty elementary school where we reside is just as I remember it. One main difference is that we actually have glorious air conditioning in two rooms, which makes living in a school during the Mediterranean summer much more tolerable.

On the day we arrived, many people turned out to meet us, many of whom I had met on the previous trip. We exchanged Greek kisses (both cheeks), and one young woman actually started singing some of the pieces I wrote for the show last time. It was a nice feeling. I appear to be some sort of mini-celebrity in the village – many people remember me as Dionysus from “The Bacchae.”

Living in an elementary school is not the most luxurious of settings, but the local residents tried very hard to make us welcome. They cleaned the school thoroughly and set up beds for us. I just try to think of it as glorified camping. :-)

Just outside the village of Katohi is the ancient Oiniades theatre. For us, it’s a profound and humbling experience to perform in a place where music and theatre were performed thousands of years ago. We’ve only been out to the theatre twice so far, but beginning next week we will rehearse there every afternoon and evening. Here are a few pictures of our humble abode, plus the Oiniades theatre. Just look at that view!

The first time we visited the theatre, a local news reporter met with Dennis and myself and asked us questions about our production of “Agamemnon.” She documented all of our responses, making a special note that I composed all the music right here in Katohi. I haven’t seen the magazine article for which the interview was intended yet, but a local friend of mine joked with me that I’m going to be famous in Greece after the publication. Yeah, right!

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for coming updates (and pictures) about Delphi, Corinth, Iannina, Mycenae, and Nafplio!

Originally published on 20 July 2008