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Homeless People Become Actors

23 July 2014 / 21:07:26  GRReporter
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A play that theatre criticism cannot define either as "theatre of the absurd" or as "reality theatre" was presented in Athens at an unusual hour, not on stage, not by professional actors, and not to the traditional type of audience.

Two members of the theatrical troupe of the Reception and Solidarity Centre of the Municipality of Athens and famous actor Antonis Kafedzopoulos presented to residents in one of the shelters the one-act play Offshore by Polish playwright Svetoslav Mrozhek .

The performance took place in the canteen of the building and is one of the initiatives of the Centre for Social Reintegration of Homeless People in the years of crisis.

The group has existed since December 2011, when the director of the play and theatre teacher at the centre, Panagiotis Dorlis, met the residents of the shelter.

“We decided to create a theatre group to help those people reintegrate, to express character traits they had hidden deep inside and to escape the feeling of being useless and that their life is over. It was very hard. In the beginning, I thought I was the one who would help them but today, two and a half years later, I could say that they also helped me to know better persons and situations I thought I understood.”

According to Dorlis, the main goal of the troupe is to stimulate the homeless to go out, to start looking for a job actively by presenting their skills in an open and courageous manner. "Many of the older participants in the troupe have been able to get their lives back and are no longer here. I hope that the current members will also find their way. It's hard, but we are not giving up and continue to fight."

One of the participants in the play, 37-year-old Dimitris Gugos, confirmed the words of the director, and expressed the hope that by means of the troupe and the review of its activities in the media, he and the rest of the members would be able to find a job.

 “I have been participating in theatrical troupe of the homeless for a year now, when my stay started in the shelter of the municipality in Athens. As I am a person who wants to do something different, in the very beginning I asked if there were any organised activities. I met a man who was living here and who told me that the shelter has a theatre troupe, "a member of the troupe and a participant in the show said for GRReporter.

He is used to rehearsals since he has been engaged with theatre and music in the past.  “I worked for seven years at Kos Island military base. At that time I even took part  in Nikos Perakis’ movie ‘Sirens in the Aegean’. At the same time, I worked in a radio station and was a member of a music band. I can say for myself that up to now, I am doing all of the things I did before the hard times began. I feel very good about that. ”

For Dimitris, the troupe does not only represent a way to get connected to art, but also a means of strengthening the relationship among its members. “Everything we do is the result of our mutual decision. From the selection of each separate work to the slightest detail. This makes us all more united, teaches us how to act as a team with  proper respect for the other’s opinion.”

At the end of the performance, Dimitris, the other troupe member Lambros Mostakis and the actor Antonis Kafetzopoulos received the audience’s warm applause.

“Good and bad things in life happen by chance. I met the boys in a park where they were reading their texts. I passed by on my bicycle and wanted to ask for directions. We had a little chat. They told me they were going to perform in the garden of  the Megaro Mousikis Concert Hall. I went there, saw their performance and after a conversation following the show, we decided to do something together.

Today was the actor’s first, but not last, work on stage  together with the theatrical troupe of the Reception and Solidarity Centre of Athens. He said that his leading motivation was his desire to protect the dignity of people in dire straits regardless of whether their current situation was the result of their actions or because of circumstances. “Food and money are things we can find. What is most important is to protect people’s dignity” he added.

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