Greek actress champions cultural preservation
Deeper roots, taller growth
Published: Jun 13, 2022 04:53 PM
A tourist walks past the Erechtheion temple atop Acropolis hill in Athens, Greece, on February 16, 2022. Photo: VCG

A tourist walks past the Erechtheion temple atop Acropolis hill in Athens, Greece, on February 16, 2022. Photo: VCG

For Lydia Koniordou, a renowned Greek actress and former Greek minister of culture and sports, cultural preservation is essential to help people know who they are and learn what they should do in the future.

"The taller you want to grow, the deeper your roots must be. Our cultural past is our roots. If we don't have really strong roots and depth in our perception of our identity, we cannot grow. Without these roots, we will be torn out very easily with the currents," she told the Xinhua News Agency in a recent interview, adding cultural heritage is in fact very much alive and relevant today.

Having championed cultural preservation ever since childhood, Koniordou built a 40-year-old career path of not only performing major classical and contemporary roles in Greece and other countries, but also teaching younger generations at home and abroad mainly about ancient Greek drama, so that their roots will remain strong.

Speaking of her teaching experience overseas, Koniordou said she was very much impressed by her Chinese students when she gave seminars on ancient Greek tragedy at the Shanghai Theatre Academy in 2014-15.

When the students worked on Alcestis, an Athenian tragedy by ancient Greek playwright Euripides, they thoroughly researched the costumes they would be wearing, the set, and the lights, among others, she recalled.

"I feel they evolved and were transformed by this experience as I was transformed. They did not just play a role, but created a whole world and that is why the production had so much interest also for the spectators," she said.

Koniordou's two years as an expat in Shanghai was not the first time she was "transformed." Since she stepped on stage as the leader of the chorus in Euripides' play Iphigenia when she was young, ancient Greek drama, and theater in general, have changed her view of life and the world.

The experience as the chorus leader "opened a window to this beautiful world of ancient Greek civilization, and I felt that this wasn't ancient for me at all," she said, noting that was when she fell in love with the ancient Greek language and decided to study at Greek's National Theatre Drama School.

Throughout the years, "I learned to search for reason and cause behind the phenomena. That helped me ask the right questions and find answers I hope free of manipulation," she said.

What she also learned in theater, Koniordou noted, is the continuation and connectedness of culture.

A decade after finishing her studies in school, Koniordou participated in the production of Euripides' Electra together with Greek director Kostas Tsianos.

"Tsianos did something very important for Greek culture. He connected folk forms of art, folk dances, songs and poetry with our classical past... We presented this performance in many places around the world, and the feeling that it stirred in the audience was quite similar, even though they didn't always understand the language," she said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Koniordou has taken on something new. As theaters were closed, Koniordou, just like many other actors and actresses, turned to television to perform.

"We communicate our art with a large number of spectators and I like it. This is something new for me. It is a new world," she said.

To be a good actor or actress, you must communicate, she said, adding, "otherwise, there is no reason for your art."

Koniordou believes it is also important for different civilizations to communicate with each other.

The Chinese civilization is a huge tree with very deep roots, and Greece also has a rich ancient civilization, she said, adding she believes that the two countries could promote cooperation and exchanges in many fields, such as in preservation of antiquities.