A discussion with Dimitra Kondylaki
- Author: Evangelidou Mirto
- Published on: 07/01/2015
[Translation: Vasiliki Misiou]
“Modern Greek texts have to distance themselves from ethography and focus on subjects and forms that touch on current international inquiries.” Dimitra Kondylaki talks with love about Greek texts, while thinking at the same time of the events taking place abroad. The discussion with the theatrologist and translator turned out to be a fascinating wander through the history of modern Greek dramaturgy. We discussed with her the role of a theatre translator as well as the need to implement a specific national policy to promote the modern Greek repertoire.
Dimitra Kondylaki’s life is closely intertwined with the promotion of modern plays – not only through translation but also through theory and review writing. Dimitra Kondylaki is a doctor of Comparative Literature (Sorbonne University). She has been a scientific collaborator at the Department of Theater Studies of the University of Patras and Peloponnese (2004-2012). She is the originator of the Theatre Translation Workshop of the French Institute of Athens and an adviser of theatre series at Nefeli Publications and “Poema” Publications. Also, she is a translator and a director. Her interests lie in promoting the most interesting texts of modern dramaturgy. Currently she is working on a research paper about the theater of Dimitris Dimitriadis which is going to be published by Nefeli Publications.
Soon after completing her doctoral studies, Dimitra Kondylaki became a member of the European Translation Workshop (Atelier Européen de la Traduction/Scène Nationale d’ Orléans), a trans-European body which aims to promote and translate new unpublished plays. She started promoting foreign plays in Greece, but she soon realized the great lack of promotion of Greek playwrights abroad. With the support of the European Translation Workshop, she translated, among others, into French works written by Yianis Mavritsakis starting with his first one, Le point aveugle (2008), as well as two plays written by Dimitris Dimitriadis of which La ronde du carré was part of the tribute to the playwright programmed by the Odéon-Théâtre (Paris 2010).
The lack of a national policy and the French example
Dimitra Kondylaki stresses the lack of political support to a new repertoire in Greece.
“There are few editors of plays and none of the big publishing houses follows with consistency a specific policy about modern theatre. The theatre system is divided between productions that revolve around the director and seek the “big play” and experimental attempts which usually undermine the play in favour of experimentalism”.
In France, thanks to government support to difficult forms of artistic expression, such as play writing and publishing, a well-organized system has developed to promote the modern repertoire.
“The French support to modern Greek dramaturgy has a direct impact on theatre development in Greece as well. That is, what becomes popular in France will definitely create a wave of interest in Greece, too. The example set by the playwrights I follow clearly indicates this point. Dimitriadis, Mavritsakis, and Maria Efstathiadi are some of the playwrights that the French supported and contributed to their success in the Greek scene, too”.
We agree that the economic crisis and the lack of publishers specialized in theatre have drained the soil where the roots of a national policy should grow with the aim to promote the Greek repertoire. But is this a sufficient justification? “Normally, things shouldn’t be the way they are”, she underlines. “I believe that the opposite should be the case. Plays should be promoted in their own country first. There should be a national policy to support them and then try to promote them abroad. Since this doesn’t actually happen, the French intervention, for example, was due to the lack of policy in this specific field that relates to modern plays”.
Looking for a new role of theatre translators
“On the one hand, translators are no longer considered mere mediators of the text from one language into another. On the contrary, they are regarded on equal terms as the creators of a new language which corresponds, without reproducing it, to the language of the original. On the other hand, translators have been forced to “socialize” more, since, due to the deep suspicion towards modern texts and their will to reverse it, they have devoted themselves to a powerful quest for new playwrights”.
Modern plays in the spotlight
Despite the firm belief held for several years by critics and directors about the lack of plays equal to those of the classic repertoire, Dimitra Kondylaki sees that play writing and quality play production, which express today’s concerns, are much better than 10 years ago.
“Although we cannot say that there is a strong Greek repertoire, the existing plays are very good and the playwrights are interesting and of great potential. Modern Greek plays need not draw on naturalism, on the direct reflection of reality on stage, but deal with reality differently exploring it in poetic depths. They have to make us reflect on today’s life in other ways and not just by exposing us to a simple mirror. There are playwrights today who move towards this direction and their work will be recognized in the years to come.”
Vyrsodepseio, Dramaturgy Workshop
Taking into consideration the necessity of recommending new texts and promoting new Greek playwrights, Vyrsodepseio, a Dramaturgy Workshop, was set up last year by Dimitra Kondylaki, the drama teacher and director Georgina Kakoudaki and the art director of Vyrsodepseio, Elli Papakonstantinou, with the hope to become a place for a playwright’s reception, feedback and development.
The main objective of this workshop is to provide playwrights with a real first reader. The reader will help them develop their work and reach a level that is more interesting for staging. At the same time, one of the Workshop’s priorities is to cooperate with other organizations that undertake equivalent actions abroad, such as the festival «Ecrire et mettre en scène» which together with the French Institute presented the plays of three Greek playwrights, Elena Penga’s, Manolis Tsipos’ and Konstantinos Tzikas’, at Panta théâtre in Caen, in May 2014.
Theatre Translation Workshops
Within the framework of the Theatre Translation Workshops of the French Institute which have been run since 2009, with Dimitra Kondylaki and Andreas Staikos as speakers, students become familiar with theatre language through experiential and collective involvement with the text.
“Within the framework of these workshops students come into contact with unpublished plays which have never been presented before. Regarding a play as an independent theatre entity, we try to understand the mechanics of literature through translation. A play is certainly aimed to be staged, but it also has to act independently without denying a reader the pleasure of reading”.
The main target of the Theatre Translation Workshop is to promote unpublished plays through translation. The plays of Jean-Luc Lagarce and Carine Lacroix that will be translated this year within the framework of the workshop will be included in the series “Modern French Theatre” of Agras publications and will be presented to the public within the framework of the theatre festival that takes place every May at Michael Cacoyannis Foundation.
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