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Culture

Athens stages Don Quixote: utopian knight resonates with hard-up Greek fans

Ana Mora Segura / Athens / – Don Quixote, one of the most influential novels of all time, will take to the stage in Athens, the birthplace of western classical theater, before a Greek audience who, in a context of post-recession hardship, identify with the 17th-century narrative of Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes.

One of the founding examples of modern literature, Don Quixote follows adventures of Alonso Quixano, a nobleman of questionable sanity who becomes so obsessed with romance novels that he decides to pick up sticks, become a knight and travel the arid lands of Castilla la Mancha under his pseudonym Don Quixote with his squire, a simple farmer called Sancho Panza.

“I think that this great work has stood the test of time because it discusses something that is part of all of us. Everyone would want to be Don Quixote, but in reality, most of us are Sanchos,” Achilleas Anagnostou, the actor taking on the role of the Castilian knight errant told EFE in an interview.

The play has been adapted by the Thesis Theater Company and is directed by Taxiarchis Janos, whose vision was to set out a humble production with a minimalistic mise en scène.

The simplicity of the set means the score, which is of clear Hispanic influence, takes on an important role in the plat. Its omnipresence adds drama and suspense to the dangerous, albeit absurd, adventures of Quixote and Sancho.

Despite the severe financial crises Greece has endured, Greeks have continued to flock to theaters with visitor numbers swelling year on year.

The birthplace of the art-form as we know it, Athens has seen a 153 percent rise in the number of theaters cropping up in the city between 2000 and 2014.

In fact, it seems the economic crisis has if anything has boosted the industry; 70 percent of active theaters in 2014 opened after the global financial crisis in 2008, which precipitated severe economic hardship and huge unemployment rates, especially among Greek youth.

Yet, in that year alone, some 2.5 million spectators went to see some 7,000 plays, according to data compiled in 2016 by the Greek statistics agency Elsat.

“In Athens people still got to the theater, right now there are hundreds of plays on show in the city. It is a good place to be an actor although there is a lot of competition and for that reason sometimes it is difficult to get by.” Anagnostou continued.

For this reason, Anagnostou suggests that to be an actor in the Hellenic capital is a Quixotesque feat and, although it is possible, “it is a difficult dream to conquer here.”

“I was rather intimidated by the role of Don Quixote but we broached the notion of quixotism as a philosophy, the essence of the novel and the notion that we have to be strong enough to dream big and never give up, even when reality tells us otherwise,” the actor added in reference to how the theater company decided to focus on the main moral of the Cervantes novel rather than giving a verbatim representation.

The Greek actor harnessed the distance that separated him from La Mancha by experimenting with new art-forms and ways to express himself such as taking Flamenco classes which informed the way Anagnostou moved across the stage.

Although the performance was a new challenge for the actor, the theater company was familiar with the work after it took part in the “Almagro Off” in 2016 — an event that is part of the International Festival of Classical Theater program which takes place every year in the medieval town of Almagro, in central Spain — where they performed William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

“When we went to Almagro everything was full of Quixote, and the area still paints a vivid picture of where the novel unfolds. We joked amongst ourselves: imagine if there were a theater festival in Greece and foreigners came to perform a tragedy.” Anagnostou concluded.

And this is exactly what the Greek company hopes to do.

Thesis aims to return to the Castilian stages of Almagro for the forthcoming edition of the festival with their Hellenic Quixote.

The Ingenious Nobleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha was first published in 1605.

The first theatrical adaptation of the novel featuring the eccentric knight and his faithful Sancho was in London, England, in 1611.

Miguel de Cervantes died aged 68 in Madrid in 1616. (February 19, 2019, EFE/Practica Español)

News related in video:


Comprehension

Lee la noticia y responde a las preguntas. (Read the news and answer the questions.)

Congratulations - you have completed Lee la noticia y responde a las preguntas. (Read the news and answer the questions.). You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%. Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%
Your answers are highlighted below.
Question 1
El texto trata de...  
A
una obra de teatro que escribió Miguel de Cervantes.
B
la representación de una obra de Cervantes en la capital griega.
C
una obra que muy pronto será también representada en España.
Question 2
Sobre esta obra se dice que...  
A
esta es la primera vez que se adapta para ser representada en el teatro.
B
no ha hecho falta adaptarla para representarla en el teatro.
C
ha tenido que ser adaptada para su representación.
Question 3
Grecia es un país...    
A
en el que la gente va cada vez menos al teatro.
B
en el que apenas es popular el teatro.
C
en el que el teatro continúa siendo muy popular.
Question 4
El idealismo que aparece en El Quijote...  
A
no pasa desapercibido entre la sociedad helena.
B
no interesa a la sociedad helena.
C
no es comprendido por los helenos.
Question 5
La primera parte de El Quijote...  
A
fue publicada a principios del siglo dieciséis.
B
fue publicada a principios del siglo diecisiete.
C
fue publicada en el siglo quince.
Question 6
El Quijote es una obra que...    
A
podría ser representada por vez primera en un teatro.
B
hasta ahora nunca había sido representada en ningún teatro.
C
ha sido representada en el teatro en más de una ocasión.
Question 7
Esta obra cuenta la historia de un hidalgo que...
A
jamás creyó realmente que fuera un caballero andante.
B
apenas leía libros sobre caballeros andantes.
C
acabó creyendo que era un caballero andante a causa de los libros que leyó.
Question 8
Sobre esta compañía se dice que...  
A
no creen que fuese posible representar esta obra en España.
B
les gustaría poder representar esta obra en los teatros españoles.
C
aseguran que ya representaron esta obra en España.
Question 9
En el vídeo se dice que...  
A
esta es la primera vez que José Sacristán interpreta a don Quijote.
B
el personaje de don Quijote nunca fue interpretado por José Sacristán.
C
José Sacristán interpretó a don Quijote.
Question 10
En el vídeo se ve que  don Quijote se dirige...    
A
a un barbero.
B
a todo el público en general.
C
a Sancho.
Question 11
En el vídeo Sacristán dice que en esta adaptación...  
A
se pone en cuestión un poco el grado de locura.
B
don Quijote no tiene fuerza de voluntad.
C
don Quijote se detiene ante cualquier peligro.
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There are 11 questions to complete.

Vocabulary

Congratulations - you have completed . You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%. Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%
Your answers are highlighted below.
Question 1
Se llama 'heleno' a...    
A
un griego.
B
un soñador.
C
un aficionado al teatro.
Question 2
Si algo es 'precario' es...  
A
seguro.
B
fuerte.
C
inestable.
Question 3
'Aún' es lo mismo que...  
A
'incluso'.
B
'todavía'.
C
'después'.
Question 4
Estás 'enfrascado' en algo cuando...  
A
estás poniendo toda tu atención en algo.
B
estás aburrido de hacer una cosa.
C
no tienes muchas ganas de hacer algo.
Question 5
'Quijotesco' hace referencia...  
A
a don Quijote de la Mancha.
B
al nombre de un teatro griego.
C
solo a Miguel de Cervantes.
Question 6
Algo que es 'polivalente'...  
A
sirve para muchas cosas.
B
no sirve para nada.
C
solo tiene una función.
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There are 6 questions to complete.

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