Station Athens Group continues its creative work in 2018-2019; the group finishes the film I_LEFT and prepares the next performances in collaboration with Eleusis 2021 European Capital of Culture and mind the fact . The performance We Are the Persians! is available for touring in Greece and abroad.
The workshop for theatre, photography, video and plastic arts began in 2010 in the art space of SYNERGY-O by NGO AMAKA, Margarita Papadopoulou, Dafni Kalafati and Yolanda Markopoulou. The group has now mostly permanent members and is focused on theatre. Τhe performances of the group include: Station Athens (2011), We Are at Home (2011), I_LEFT (2014), We Are the Persians! (work in progress 2013, 2015,2017), Inter-Mediates (2016) and the site- specific updated version of I_LEFT (2018), conceived especially for the old refugee settlement of the city of Eleusis, all directed by Yolanda Markopoulou.
The performance We Are The Persians! was part of the official program of the Greek Festival in 2015 and two years later, in 2017, the group was invited to Espoo City Theatre of Finland where an updated version of the show was staged. After Finland, the performance was presented as part of the first mind the fact festival in the O.S.Y. Old Depot (27-28-29 May 2018). The participants recite their stories until they reached Greece and the events that changed their lives, in a discourse with Aeschilus’ The Persians. Images which remain long in our collective memories are brought to life in this intimate odyssey, where the six stories of the protagonists intertwine.
The research of the group on the narratives of departure from homeland dates back to 2014, when the first version of the work I_LEFT was created. The performance was presented in different rooms of SYNERGY-O, the five-storey art space of Metaxourgeio and it became the first fully- formed work of the group, which employed dramatization and theatricality -with the assistance of set design- to create a performance that overcame the limitations of documentary theatre.
The presentation of I_LEFT in the area of upper Elefsina stems from the latter work of the group, as the story was re-adapted and reshaped for the historic neighbourhood. The group for the first time occupied a whole quarter, inviting the audience to walk around and discover the heroes of stage and of life itself. The performance was part of SYNIKISMOS festival, which kicked-off the events for Eleusis 2021 Εuropean Capital of Culture and was presented on 15-16-17-21-22-23 July 2018.
Station Athens group was also showcased as a prime example of performing arts projects by and for refugees and immigrants, in the publication Creation and Displacement- Developing New Narratives Around Migration of IETM (International Network of Performing Arts). Read more here
The meetings of the group combine theatre rehearsals, art therapy, movement, improvisation, writing and composition of the material, while the long-term commitment of the group boosts the artistic process. Through each performance the group suggests a new way of engagement with the audience. Further, the location for each presentation is carefully chosen and plays a crucial role. The group works in the professional performing arts scene in Greece and the participants- actors are positioned within a solid aesthetic and artistic framework in order to transcend plain emotion or documentation and truly showcase their stories on stage.
The performance of Markopoulou dispenses the influential power of a stage event, not only because there are powerful stories to tell, but also precisely because it is a work of art with a defined aesthetic framework; the re-enactment of the events employs theatrical means and the use of dramatization, there is a clear direction and it is evident that the five men were asked -and largely succeed- to communicate their stories not like messengers but like actors who address the audience.
Υet, We Are The Persians! (first presented in the Greek Festival of 2015), one of the facets of the innovative, full of young people four-day mind the fact festival is not just another documentary theatre performance. The six heroes narrate their personal odysseys, blending their own nightmares with excerpts from The Persians. In this sequence of events, the stories contain large, tiny, everyday, minor, scary aspects. They are six messengers; of happy news, of horrors, of unforgettable moments, full of fear and despair, occasionally finding hope, but always with perseverance. There is a need to tell us their day-to-day hardships. How their day began and how it ended up. Unpredictability invades and overturns life, changes the course of history and sets chance as the mechanism of change.
It is correct to call it a performance of lived experience. Nothing looks stylized, fake or artificial. How could it be? Everything flows clearly and naturally since we are not talking about theatre in the traditional sense but about memories, a widow of the past to the present. The real stories are brought back in the memory of the actors- heroes who have experienced them and share them with another type of audience. They are happy, safe, almost blissed about the dream they live. Credits to Yolanda Markopoulou who handled the dream with care and dignity and did not focus on tearful stories and cheap emotion.
I think it is vital that the director positioned the actors in an excellent aesthetic and artistic framework, refraining from a theatre aimed exclusively to emotion to win over the audience. She created the conditions to make the actors feel that their testimony is presented in a proper theatrical and artistic manner. The warm applause in the end and the joy on their faces was the best “de facto” grant of citizenship.