An interview with Nadia Foskolou
- Author: Evangelidou Mirto
- Published on: 26/02/2015
[Translation: Vasiliki Misiou]
On account of the play “Address Unknown” staged at the TV Control Center, the director of the performance, Nadia Foskolou, gives an interview to The Greek Play Project discussing the issue of responsibility in times of crisis.
The novel “Address Unknown”, written by the American author Kathrine Kressmann Taylor, was published in the United States in 1938, just before the outbreak of World War II. More than 50.000 copies of the book were sold in the USA, whereas in Germany it was banned. Its republication in 1995, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the “release” from the concentration camps and one year before Taylor’s death, brought to the forefront the prophetic for its time novel which turned into an international best-seller.
The novel consists of 19 letters sent between two friends, forty-year old German Martin Schulse and Max Eisenstein, a Jew of the same age who was granted the American citizenship. Max Eisenstein continued to live in San Francisco, whereas Martin Schulse returned to Munich. While they kept corresponding with one another, Hitler climbed to power. The novel captures the friendship of two men —and humanity as a whole— in a moment of historical transformation. As Hitler climbs to power, the relationship between the two friends begins to wane significantly and ends up in betrayal.
Nadia Foskolou, in a co-production with the art directors of the TV Control Center, Dimitris Alexakis and Foteini Banou, translated and staged the novel, with the cast including Dimitris Agartzidis and Alberto Fais in the protagonist roles.
But why did they choose Kathrine Kressmann Taylor and why did the lot fall on Nadia Foskolou to translate the novel? “It was Dimitris Alexakis’ idea. He came across the novel while he was in France. I met the others in Athens. The occasion for this was the performance “Peninsula”, which I staged in New York during the Fringe Festival. This modern play of the awarded dramatist Nathan Wright is about the adventures of a young immigrant who comes from the shantytowns of Rio de Janeiro to what is thought to be a quiet resort in Michigan. “This play sparked my collaboration with the owners of the TV Control Center. We decided to stage “Peninsula” in Greece, but, due to the lack of necessary funds, Dimitris Alexakis suggested that I read Taylor’s novel. Once I read it, I fell in love with it. I was fascinated by the text. It’s a well-written novel, a well-woven story in “geometric harmony” and in a sort of plot structure you would expect from suspense films.” Nadia Foskolou was enchanted by the text as a piece of art and its form was a challenge for her, “the fact that it is not a clear play, but an epistolary one, challenged me to try to find ways to stage it. Thus, a group of young professionals, experts in their field, started collaborating to win the bet. On a negligible budget and driven by love and passion for theatre, all those who have contributed to staging the novel have devoted themselves to the production of this performance”.
In the scathing and prophetic novel about the onset of the Third Reich, the rising of Nazism and the penetration of National Socialist ideology into the consciousness of people, the director of the performance discerns a clear socio-political context that relates to the current events Greece faces. She stresses though that “one should be very careful about the analogies drawn. I think that the most conspicuous element of the story which may make the reader wonder about today’s life and what may happen is how one can change into another person step-by-step, renouncing old beliefs and old relationships. Martin, for instance, leaves behind his initial reservations expressed in one of his first letters and ends up adopting Hitler’s ideas, turning violently, but not despite his will, into Hitler’s eulogist”.
The novel chronicles the transformation of a liberal bourgeois into a staunch supporter of the Nazi movement. It portrays Nazism as a movement which shocked the consciousness of the German people, highlighting the means through which the power of the Nazi movement tricked members of the middle and lower-middle class into joining it. “The novel severely criticizes Nazism. While watching the performance, the audience can immediately grasp the relevance of the play to current events, as it presents the circumstances which can lead to the rise of a Nazi movement and the ease by which each and every one of us can be misled by such ideologies. Yet, I still felt the need to read it again. As a director I considered the opposite case. Supposing that the percentage of Golden Dawn voters in Greece falls and the far-right ideology disappears from the political scene, what will make this text a classic? What is its importance if we put aside the nazist ideology? The essence of the text is the betrayal of an artless friendship and the element of responsibility for our own actions. The basic element of the text is the issue of personal responsibility for one’s actions, of accepting the responsibility for one’s actions especially in times of crisis. Each one of us is judged for his/her decisions made in a particular period of time”.
“Address Unknown” was staged for eight performances at the TV Control Center. Thanks to its great success, the people who worked for it are thinking of staging it again during the fall.
A few words about the TV Control Center
The TV Control Center is an art venue located in the heart of Kypseli, Athens. In the workroom where skilled workers assembled black-and-white TVs in the ’70s, the art directors of the Center, Dimitris Alexakis and Foreini Banou, realize their dream by bringing harmoniously together art forms and artists from all over the world. Dreaming of bringing different cultures together through art, they chose the area of Kypseli, known for its multicultural character, to stage plays that have never been staged in Greece before and to discover novel ways of writing and of blending art.
The identity of the performance
Translated-Directed by: Nadia Foskolou
Set-Video Design by: Mikaela Liakata
Lighting design by: Vassilis Klotsotiras
Costume design by: Vassiliki Syrma
Cast: Dimitris Agartzidis, Alberto Fais