Images from Athens
Brian Ratcliffe shares photos from his month abroad
Hello from Philadelphia! It's Brian Ratcliffe again. Jered and I have returned from Greece, and are now fully engaged in the rehearsal process for Antigone. Before too much time passes, I thought I would take an opportunity to share a few more thoughts and images from our extraordinary experience abroad. Below are a handful of photos that I took in Greece, with captions. Enjoy!
The Greek flag flies above the pediment on the Academy of Athens, beside an enormous statue of Apollo (to the left of the pediment, not shown, is a twin statue of Athena).
This was the headline of the Financial Times on the day we arrived in Athens. By the time we got there, the banks were all shut down, ATM withdrawals were limited to €60/day, and there was a very real danger that soon the country would literally out of cash. We watched with horror and disgust over the ensuing weeks as the politicians in the Eurozone (Merkel, most formidably) made a grotesque spectacle of dragging Greece over the coals in negotiations. Though they eventually settled on a bailout and reopened the banks, the terms of the agreement are so vicious that economist Paul Krugman has called it "a grotesque betrayal of everything the European project was supposed to stand for." As of this writing, Alexis Tsipras, the Prime Minister, has decided to step down after only seven months in office. New elections will be held in September.
A shot I took of the TV screen in our apartment on the night of the historic referendum, when the country overwhelmingly voted "No" (Oxi) to the initial terms of the bailout. We spent an hour in that jubilant crowd before retiring to the apartment to watch the media coverage. Though the celebration was short-lived (the eventual terms of the bailout were even more stringent than those originally proposed), the sense of empowered optimism that night was irresistible.
Here are just a few examples of the countless tags that we saw in Athens. Graffiti coats nearly every surface, turning the whole city into one sprawling canvas for the expression of the whimsical, political, absurd, crude, and profound cries of its citizens. The first image is in reference to the influx of immigrants that Greece (and the rest of Europe) has been experiencing recently. Below, the stylized image of an anarchist in a gas mask, a figure we met in person more than once. In the third image, the phrase "Fire In The Banks" (or maybe "Set Fire to the Banks"?) appears above the ubiquitous anarchist circle-A.
On the slopes of the Acropolis lies the ancient Theater of Dionysos. There has been an open air amphitheater on this site since the 5th century BC, though it has been rebuilt several times in the ensuing millennia. Aeschylus, Euripides, Sophocles, and Aristophanes all premiered plays here. As an actor, particularly one about to perform in an ancient tragedy, it was profoundly moving to be in this sacred space.
The iconic "Artemisian Bronze", a statue of Zeus (or Poseidon? The authorities are unclear...it all depends on what the long-lost item in his hand was!) at the National Archaeological Museum, just a short walk from our apartment in Exarcheia. It's an exquisitely curated museum, with an enormous collection of artifacts dating all the way back to the Neolithic era (circa 6800 BC). The sheer wealth of ancient cultural heritage in Greece was mind-boggling to me.
Equally mind-boggling was the natural beauty. This is a view of the Aegean Sea from above. I spent one of the rare days off on a beach to the southeast of Athens. I've never seen water so blue, or clear! For all of its financial woes, Greece is still enormously blessed in some respects.
The Temple of Poseidon at dusk. The temple dates from the 5th century B.C., and occupies a privileged place high on a cliff at the southernmost tip of the Greek peninsula. From the temple, you can look out over the sea for miles in every direction. It's also a breathtaking spot from which to watch the sunset.
Wilma Hothouse company member Sarah Gliko stands under the Attis Theater sign, in front of the theater itself (with a cafe and hookah bar in the background...). Sarah and Ed Swidey, another company member, joined Jered and myself for the final ten days of the program.
A shot of the stage at Attis Theater where the workshop took place. This is a rare moment of relaxation in the middle of an otherwise brutally rigorous five hour class.
Sarah performs a monologue in Greek under the watchful eyes of Savvas Stroumpos, the primary teacher of the workshop. The final session was grueling, but rewarding. Each of us learned a dozen lines of a monologue from Euripides' The Bacchae, and spent ten days attempting to deliver it properly. Now that we have begun the (equally intense) rehearsal process for Antigone, the four of us are keenly grateful for the foundation that we laid while in Athens. Our bodies and our voices are primed for the work ahead.
So that's it for now! Watch this blog for more information about Antigone as it becomes available, and be sure to see the show in October! It is sure to be unlike anything you've ever seen in Philly.