Elli Kavvada

Folklore research & chronicles

History of theater

The theatre in Meganisi has a long tradition. Amateur troupes appear at the end of the 19th century in the villages of Lefkada and in the villages of Meganisi. (Folk poets of Lefkada, Kastaniotis Editions)

 

The information given below is taken from data provided by Lambros Daglas Takis Argyris -teacher- and from memories of other Meganisians.

The first performances were given in Katomeri in 1800 with the play "Erotokritos" by Vincenzo Kornaros, which was staged for the first time in Lefkada. This confirms the fact that the Cretan theatre, which survived in the Ionian Islands after the occupation of Crete by the Turks, took root in Lefkada. From there it was later transmitted to Epirus and Central Greece.

1904-1905 in Katomeri "Golfo" and perhaps "Morpho" by Spyros Peressiadis.

20th century, 1st decade in Spartochori "Golfo" and "Sklava" (Slave) by Peressiadis. This must be the first time that an improvised theatrical sketch genre the "Dodo" based on a folk poem appears.

"Vergolis cried out from Koba from above, the caves roared as if a bomb had fallen"

According to testimonies, sketches were performed before 1850 as a kind of street theatre. In the early 20th century it began to be performed by elementary school students.

1914 "Golpho" is re-enacted with costumes this time from Xeromero to better approach the subject.

1910-1920 the above plays are performed again.

1927 Katomeri "Golfo"

1928 Katomeri "Esme" by Peressiadis. The role of Flame was played by Stefanos Daglas or Kourakis, then 39 years old, and he played it again in 1962 at the age of 72. [!]

And in Spartochori in the 1920s we have a similar theatrical movement.

 

During the years of occupation all activity in the villages stopped, but in 1943 the troupe of Christos and Notis Bogratos found itself in Meganisi. One of the many troupes that left Athens and scattered to the countryside to avoid starvation. The troupe, which performed every night in all three villages, included local amateur actors. In Katomeri, the performances were given in the backyard of Panos Avgerinos, which is why it was called the "Katoi Theatre".

In Spartochori the performances were given in the courtyard of the primary school and in the café of Panos Athanitis.

The plays they staged were social and patriotic but slightly disguised for fear of the German garrison based in Vathi. The ticket was paid in kind: bread, oil, cheese, and whatever else anyone could give.

It is obvious that the troupe helped the theatrical education and entertainment of the island in those difficult days for the place. The "katoi" remained open until the liberation.

At the beginning of 1944, while the Germans were still in Lefkada, the EPON of Katomeri and Spartochori created theatrical groups that gave performances of patriotic content, such as "To arms", "Long live the new generation" etc.

The performances in Katomeri also included for the first time women who participated in a performance again after the dissolution of the theatrical performances of the EPON in 1976.

During the civil war and shortly afterwards, all activity ceased, until 1951 and 1952, when folk troupes began to be formed again, starting with none other than "Golfo" in both villages.

1952 Katomeri, "The Father's House" by St. Daphne and Spartochori, "Athanasios Diakos" by A. Valaoritis.

1954 Katomeri, "The shepherdess' lover" and Spartochori, "The homeland"

1955 Spartochori, "The Dance of Zaloggo" by Peressiadis

1956 Easter Katomeri, Bogris's "Engagements" and Spartochori, "The Shepherdess' Lover"

The folk troupes now consisted entirely of high school graduates and students. The troupe of Katomeri staged the same play in Mytikas in Nydri and Zaverda (1956)

1956 Katomeri, "Farmakomeni" (Poisoned) by F. Yofilis. The play was also staged in Ithaca.

1957 Spartochori, "The Dance of Zaloggo".

1958 Katomeri, "Antigone" by Sophocles

1959 Spartochori, "Sklava" (Slave), the following year 1960 "Golpho" and in 1961 again "The Dance of Zaloggo."

1962 and again in the same village "To stravoksylo" (The curmudgeonly) by D. Psathas and in Katomeri "Esme"

 

On 25-5-1962 the cultural association "Mentor" is founded in Katomeri with the aim of further development of amateur theatre. In the same year, a cultural sports club was founded in Spartochori.

Both associations were dissolved in April 1967 by the dictatorship...

In 1963, "The Son of Pain" by P. Axiotis and "Philoctetes" by Sophocles were staged in Katomeri. In the same year "The Dance of Zaloggo" and "Long live Messolonghi" by V. Rotas were staged in Spartochori. Then comes to the island and the troupe of Chr. Kamiolis and gives performances for 45 days.

In 1964 the troupe of Danikas gave performances for 10 days.

1965 Spartochori, "Papaflessas" by Melas

1966 Katomeri, "Me and my trousers" by Campanelis, and "The man with the flower in his mouth" by L. Pirandello

 

During the dictatorship, theatrical activity is stopped, because due to prohibitions, a special permit from the ministry is required. But in the summer, the students, ignoring the relevant decrees and with the tolerance of the gendarmerie, put on Psathas' "The Thief Cries" in Spartochori.

In 1976, the "Association of Meganissians, Mentis" was founded. The theatrical section, which is mainly attended by college students, high school and middle school students, but also veteran actors, is perhaps the most active part of the cultural groups. Now the female roles are performed only by women. In its 10 years of operation, the theatrical activity reaches very high levels of creativity.

1976 Katomeri - Sfakiotes, "Foteinos" (Bright) by N. Katiforis. Spartochori, "A fool and a half" by Psathas

1977 Katomeri, "Good night Margarita" by G. Stavros.

1979 Spartochori, "The Good Soldier Svejk" by Jaroslav Hasek.

1980 Katomeri, "The backgammon" by Kechaidis and "Antigone" by Sophocles. Spartochori, "Liar Wanted" by Psathas.

1981 Katomeri, "Court of Miracles" by I. Campanelis, Spartochori, "The Thief Cries" by Psathas.

1982 Spartochori, "A day in high school" by E. Alexiou. The performance took part in the Ithaca festival out of competition.

1983 Katomeri, "Bride’s Song" by N. Pergialis. The performance was staged in the villages of Lefkada, Nydri, Nikiana, Marantochori, Katochori and participated in the Ithaca theatre festival. There it won two special commendations. For acting, to Vassilis Cannellos for the role of "Madman" and for music to Tasos Pananoudakis. In this occasion, it is worth mentioning the following incident. The jury included Manos Katrakis and Linda Alma, among others, but they stayed only on the first day of the festival, September 3. After they saw our performance, we played on the first day and ate at the same restaurant afterwards, they congratulated us by giving us a review, informally of course. That same evening, on their way back to the hotel, they were notified of the death of Elli Lambeti and left Ithaca to attend the funeral. The jury was replaced. The following year on the same day, September 3, M. Katrakis died himself.

1983 Spartochori, "The Patriot" by Kotzioulas from the mountain theatre.

1984 Katomeri - "Faces of Tragedy" a composition by Petros Avgerinos

Thereafter and for some years we have a decline in theatrical activity on the island, with the exception of the then newly-established Meganisi high school where in 1985 it staged "Fon Dimitrakis" of D. Psathas.

In 1990, the municipality of Meganissi is founded, which creates the spiritual center. Within this framework, the cultural departments are activated, with perhaps the most important being the theatrical department.

In 1991, the theatre group staged "The House of Bernarda Alba", a performance that was presented not only in Meganissi but also in the town and villages of Lefkada, as well as in Athens.

1993 Katomeri, "Odyssindbad" by X. Kalogeropoulou.

1994 The high school of Meganisi stages "Fioro of Levante" by Gr. Xenopoulos.

In 2001, the "Drum trumpet and red confectionery" by G. Xanthoulis. The work, with the support of the Municipality's Cultural Center, took part in the student competition of Western Greece that took place in Zakynthos and got the second place unfairly, because it deserved the first place. It is worth noting here that a member of the jury resigned because of the gross injustice. During the awards ceremony in Zakynthos, the comments about our play were very flattering. Characteristically it was said that Meganisi should be called Theatronissi (Theatre Island) from now on. In the summer of 2001, the theatre representing the Cultural Centre of the Municipality took part in the Festivals of Speech and Art in Lefkada, thus recording the first official participation in the celebrations of cultural creation from Meganisi.

 

In 2002, the theatre department of the high school staged Aristophanes' "Peace" and took part again in the student competition of Western Greece in Patras, where it received a theatrical commendation. It also participates again in the Festivals of Speech and Art.

In 2004, a folk troupe was created with the participation of high school students, college students and young people of the island, and staged Aristophanes' "Ekklisiazouses", with the financial support of the Municipality's Cultural Centre.

In 2007, within the framework of the Cultural Centre of Taphians of the Municipality of Meganissi, a theatrical group is created and performs the "House of the Elderly" by M. Korres.

In 2009, the same group performs the play "A poor man will save us".

 

Throughout these years, alongside the popular theatre groups, there is occasionally a strong theatrical activity in all three primary schools. Many remarkable teachers put on excellent performances at school festivals and beyond. Usually patriotic. These plays create the leaven of future actors of the folk troupes.

 

Also within the framework of the cultural events of the Municipality's Cultural Centre, many remarkable professional and amateur troupes have visited the island in the last 18 years with great plays. Similar efforts have been made by the parents' association with the potential of the island's schools, staging children's performances on holidays and at the end of the school year.

 

The theatre in Meganissi in the early years had its own structure. First there was the person in charge, the one who found the play, gathered the actors, did the directing-which was sometimes participatory-and sometimes taught the actors the dialogues, since many of them were illiterate. Here to mention a few names, with apologies in advance for the people I will forget or don't know. Starting with the older ones I will respectfully mention: In Katomeri, Lambros Daglas Nontas Katopodis (Pappa), Tasos Mantzaris (Panakos), George Avgerinos (Koutsargalis), Socrates Daglas (Koula)-grandfather of the well-known actor Socrates Patsikas (the genes, you see)-Panos and Gregory Daglas (Garbi), Vassilis Kannelos, Petros Avgerinos. Petros is now a professional actor, writer, director and works in Corfu at the Ionian Theatre. We also saw his excellent performance "Letter to Orestes." I also remember that he would occasionally "bring" to the performances various classmates of his then Drama School, current professional actors, (Katerina Didaskalou, Lisa Giannopoulou, etc.) or musicians, friends of his, who played or helped in the performance.

From Spartochori I will mention Andreas Argyris (Gyftos), George Zavitsanos (doctor), Nikos Zavitsanos (Tsatsaris), Panos Tsolakis (Gerontakis), Takis Argyris (Pispiriolos), Spyros Tsolakis, Takis Argyris (teacher), George Ferentinos (Brika), Gregory Benias, Toula Argyri, George Argyris and Takis Argyris, who still continues this great theatrical tradition by staging performances every summer which have nothing to envy from the professional theatrical productions of the big theatres.

Actors are in a way caricaturists.The comic roles were always played by comedians, the dramatic ones by dramatists, and the female roles by those who did them best.

The costumes were made by the actors themselves with the help of the person in charge. But often they brought them from Xeromero or Zaverda, when their finances allowed it.

There were no props in the early years. As a backdrop they used woven fabrics, bedding, tablecloths and anything else they could find. There was usually a curtain that closed at the end of each act. Props appeared after 1950, which were paper or cloth on canvas, painted by anyone with a bit of talent.

Make-up certainly didn't exist. The disguise was done by using lampblack. The white hair with chalk or flour, the wigs and beards were made of sheep's hair, dyed appropriately with the dyes used by the women for their clothes.

The plays were usually performed on Easter Monday in Katomeri and on Tuesday in Spartorochori, in the afternoon. Philoctetes was performed at dusk and when it was dark they used woolen torches for lighting.

The places where the plays were played in Katomeri were the ravine towards the well of Karamantanis under the chapel of St. Gerasimos, in the Kouvelos' carob tree, in Niagas' café, in the square of 25th March, in Kanoulia's shack (Foteinos), in Koronis' reservoir (Philoctetes) in the second stone bridge (Farmakomeni). At the open-air performances no stage was erected.

 

In Spartochori they always put up a tent and the places where they played were the courtyard of the church of St. George at the old primary school and at the back of the Oil-mill of the Pentakoseoi. There were no seats, the spectators carried them from their homes or sat on stones on the ground.

The finances for setting up were provided by sponsors who were most often the actors themselves. In Katomeri to avoid police checks they sold overpriced sweets during the performance.

In Spartochori they collected money to buy a sack of flour to give to Panos Tsolakis (Gerontakis) because he had a big family and was losing wages during rehearsals.

From 1976 things changed and became more organized. Now it is obligatory to have a director, actors who read the role and the distribution is done accordingly, a set designer, someone who helps with the costumes which are often sewn, a make-up artist, and a sound and lighting supervisor. In the 70's and 80's the scenes are set by young people who were not in the show. Since the 90's, there is the permanent stage of the municipal school in Katomeri, while in Spartochori the set-up is done by the technical department of the municipality. Here I would like to mention the "handyman" Aris Andreou who, in cooperation with the Cultural Center of the Municipality, has provided valuable assistance in almost all the performances since 1985.

Audience participation from 1880 to the present day has been impressive, with up to 1500 people attending performances.

 

Here I think I should also quote the following incident which occurred around 1960. Fishermen from Meganissi, who were working in the drifter in Patras, decided to put on 'Golfo' in Paxoi. The Paxinians were enthusiastic and provided them with a rehearsal room and rented the costumes. The performance was given successfully in the square and was attended by all the residents.

 

Since then until today, countless "actors" from Meganisi have performed. I will mention only a few of the veterans in honorable mention. The younger ones are so numerous that I will surely forget some and it would not be fair to them.

Panolambros Daglas (president), Stephanis Daglas (Kourakis), Theodoros Avgerinos (Lolos), Ioannis Kavvadas (Malis), Panos Politis (Yotas), Polychronis Daglas (Koulas), Fotis Konidaris (Belikoukos), Stathis Avgerinos (Cyclops), George Matzaris (Karampalis), Petros Matzaris (Dimokas)

The tradition is continued today by the women's association of Ilakati with the theatrical group that has created "Avlaia and Pame". In 2018 the group presented the performance "House of Guilt" with a success that reminded of old times. All three performances given (two in Meganissi and one in Athens) were enthusiastically welcomed.

Talent is in our genes, it is obvious that the designation "Theatronissi" (Theatre Island) is perfectly suited to Meganisi.