Journey through the Creation of Adapt! - The Three Stories of Aneza Papadopoulou
An Actress's Notebook by Krista Apple
Aneza Papadopoulou in Little England
Meet Aneza Papadopoulou. She’s worked with Europe’s renowned theatre directors (including Antigone’s Theodoros Terzopoulous) and starred in award-winning feature films (Little England, Silent). In her home city of Athens, she’s easily recognized by fans and audiences as she walks down the street.
Costume sketch of the Old Woman by Oana Botez
Aneza’s character in ADAPT!, the Old Woman, serves as spirit guide for Lenka, the play’s protagonist. The Old Woman is all-knowing and wise, and she’s got an agenda: she’s here to lure Lenka back home to Czechoslovakia. She warns Lenka of the dangerous modern world, lamenting the loss of heritage and connection to tradition that Lenka, like all of us, stands to lose.
I asked Aneza if I could ask her three interview questions for this blog. She offered instead to tell me three stories. Here they are, retold for you, dear reader.
Story 1: Tiny Woman at the Bus Stop (a one-act play)
Aneza sits at a bus stop after rehearsal in South Philadelphia. A “little bitty tiny woman” (as Aneza describes her) arrives and sits close to Aneza. They start talking.
Aneza: What a nice city you have. I like it very much.
Little Bitty Tiny Woman: Where are you from?
Aneza: I am from abroad; I am visiting from Greece. And I like your city very much.
LBTW: Don’t like it.
LBTW: Don’t like it. It’s not a good city. Everybody hates each other. Every day you have to be careful because everyone turns against everyone else. It’s a mess. Don’t do that.
Aneza: Why does everyone hate each other?
LBTW: Because they are taught to hate. They are taught that ‘this is black and this is grey and this is white and this is orange.’ These differences in their skin, and in themselves. This is why they hate each other.
Aneza: What were you taught about life?
LBTW: I was taught to love. That’s what I was taught. To love. We have space, and we can give space to others. We have something to eat, we can give something else to eat to others. This is love. My family taught me to love. This is the story: to love people.
Aneza starts thinking about a play she’s rehearsing at the Wilma. How this connection to people resonates with what the play has to say. LBTW continues.
LBTW: Go home. Don’t stay here. Just go home. It’s not a good city. I came when I was ten years old. My father was a worker, and came here to follow the work. But you: GO HOME.
Aneza thinks to herself: This is the story of ADAPT! This is the story of the whole world today. No. Love.
The bus arrives. Aneza goes home and falls asleep thinking about the LBTW, the Old Woman, and The Love The World Has Lost.
Story 2: Don’t Let Life Harden Your Heart
"When I was about six years old I received an essential teaching from an old woman sitting in the sun. I was walking by her house one day feeling lonely, unloved, and mad, kicking anything I could find. Laughing, she said to me, 'Little girl, don't you go letting life harden your heart.'
Right there, I recieved this pith instruction: we can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have a choice."
- An excerpt from The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times by Pema Chodron.
Story 3: Another Bus, Another Philadelphia
Once upon a time, there was a woman named Aneza. She was an actress of much renown. She approached her life with the same curiosity with which she approached her work. She didn’t know a stranger; she was quick to make friends, and quick to ask questions. One night, as she waited for the bus to take her home from rehearsal, she met (another) woman at a bus stop who shared her concerns about the world.
As they wait for the bus, they talked about love and peace. They talk about what brought people together, and what keeps them apart. Aneza asks the woman: “How do you feel about your city?” And the woman answers, “Personally, I’m okay. But who knows? You have to be careful. The world has changed. The world was not before as it is right now. As the time goes, it’s getting worse and worse.”
As the woman talks, Aneza thinks to herself: “Okay. Then let’s hold onto our own peace deep inside. This peace will help us to get through in this wild world. We don’t have any other way right now.”
Aneza also thinks to herself: These women arrived to show me: this play we are doing, ADAPT!, is happening all around us. The people I meet in Philadelphia: they speak the words of the play. ‘Go Home. There Is No Love. The World Is Getting Worse and Worse.’
(But she also thinks: But it’s not only bad. It’s a good thing, too. Because when you get to the bottom, something starts to be born. Maybe love. It’s a good beginning for new perspectives. Maybe the end is just the beginning.)
The bus arrives. Aneza and The (Other) Woman at the Bus Stop say goodbye. They know they may never meet again.
And Aneza thinks to herself: This is what we do. We rehearse even when we are not in the studio. We rehearse in our daily lives. We rehearse in our dreams. Our lives arrive to teach us our art.
And Aneza goes home, and and falls asleep thinking about the LBTW, Hearts Hardened and Softened,The (Other) Woman at the Bus Stop, the Old Woman, the lines Aneza still has to memorize, and The Love And Peace The World Has Lost.