Journal of Modern Greek Studies 15.2 (1997) 386-389
Gia th Mar�ka Kotopo�lh kai to U�atro sthn Ermo�polh. Praktik� Sympos�oy. Ermo�polh S�roy, A�goystoq 1994. Athens: Center for Neohellenic Research of the National Research Foundation. 1996. Pp. 245. 4000 drachmas.
The seventeen articles included in this volume put together by Vasos Panagiotopoulos, director of the Modern Greek Research Group at the National Research Foundation in Athens, focus on two themes within the history of modern Greek theater: Marika Kotopouli, a leading actress during the first half of the twentieth century, and the theatrical life on the island of Syros following the creation of the Greek state until the end of the nineteenth century. All of the papers were initially presented at a two-day conference on the island of Syros in August 1994. The contributors are Yorgos Anemoyannis, Eleni Varopoulou, Markos Freris, Nikiforos Papandreou, Marios Ploritis, Efi Vafiadi, Eliza-Anna Delveroudi, Andonis Glytzouris, Ioulia Pipinia, Manos Eleftheriou, Stavros Vafias, Angeliki Fenerli, Despina Loukou, Dimitris Spathis, Ioanna Papageorgiou, Andreas Dimitriadis, and Thodoros Hadjipantazis. Most are theater scholars and historians; the rest have direct professional ties to the theater or are serious theater aficionados from the island of Syros.
Throughout the 1820s many refugees arrived at Syros from Chios, Psara and other areas of the Aegean in an attempt to start a new life away from their devastated homelands. Scholars of modern Greek literature are already familiar with the works of Dimitrios Vikelas and Emmanuel Roidis, two eminent writers originating from Syros, but the fact that the inhabitants of this small Mediterranean island had been exposed to a variety of artistic and intellectual stimulation throughout the nineteenth century is less widely known. Theater performances with subscribers (!) reportedly took place on the island as early as 1829; the organizers, before fleeing to Syros, had been active in the war of independence. For example, Theodoros Alkaios not only participated in an attempt to reconquer Chios in 1828 but also wrote The Death of Markos Botsaris, which he himself staged in Syros in 1829.
Dimitris Spathis and Angeliki Fenerli describe the social and historical environment that supported the first serious theater professionals. Fenerli, after exhaustive research in the archives of Ermoupolis (the capital of Syros), locates all of the wooden and stone theater spaces of the town before the Apollon Theater was completed in 1864. In "The Theater and the Town (1828-1864)," her rendering of the evolution of Syros from an unruly refugee shelter to an international port (with direct access to Marseilles, Constantinople, and Alexandria) is both well documented and fascinating. Spathis, in an article entitled "Ermoupolis, Theater Capital of the Greek State (1829-1839)," discusses three theatrical efforts that were made on the island between 1829 and 1839. It was in the 1840s that Athenian theatrical life took off after a strong artistic "blood-transfusion" from the Syros actors. The evidence provided by the two contributors proves that the cultural scene of Ermoupolis was vigorous enough to sustain semi-regular theater performances that inaugurated the post-liberation era of modern Greek theater.
Among the artists who repeatedly visited the island, three actors in particular attracted the scholars' attention. Ioanna Papageorgiou attempts to reconstruct the life of Leonidas Kapellos, an important theater figure of the nineteenth century. We do not know exactly when (or where) he was born or when he died, but we do know that he was a pathbreaker along with a handful of other actors. Kapellos started his career in Syros in 1836; he was the first who thought of exploiting the artistic possibilities of Constantinople, the city with the largest Greek population throughout the nineteenth century. Apart from acting, he also translated and even wrote an original tragedy, Lucretia, which was published in Constantinople in 1848.
Following the generation of Kapellos, Dionysios Tavoularis (1840-1928) and Demosthenes Alexiades (1836-1916) share the limelight. Thodoros Hadjipantazis gives an outline of Alexiades's life. He, too, originated from Syros. Hadjipantazis emphasizes the reception accorded him by his compatriots whenever he visited the island for professional reasons...