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As the ancient Greeks gave us the classical underpinnings of stage drama in millenia past, perhaps it’s only appropriate that the Greek Cultural Center in Astoria has chosen to open its 35th anniversary celebration this year with new original work from a Greek playwright.
The psychological−political thriller “Prime Numbers,” adapted by Gianni Skaragas from his novel of the same name, is just one among a host of concerts, film showcases and summer film screenings, music events and folk dances that the Greek Cultural Center, located at 27−18 Hoyt Ave. South, has hosted since its inception in 1974. According to Program Coordinator Fotis Michelioudakis, the GCC’s activities are continuously enriched to better reflect the needs of the Greek community in Queens, as well as to maintain the educational and social value of art in society.
“As our popularity continues to grow, the Greek Cultural Center has expanded its presentations to other reputable educational and cultural venues by presenting its work in both languages, Greek and English,” Michelioudakis said.
The play is an adaptation of Greek author Gianni Skaragas’ English−language novel. Since the GCC assists independent artists in presenting and promoting their work, “Prime Numbers” was selected to be the first of the GCC’s 35th year celebratory events that will take place in 2009. The play runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. through April 5.
“We believed staging a new play written by a Greek author in English would be the best way to show what our center has been doing all these years — bridging the two worlds together,” Michelioudakis said.
Skaragas’ play revolves around the idea of mathematical prime numbers, which in his story become a symbol for individuals who hide their secret world from the real world. His characters are punished for their desire to change their destiny, striving to be forgiven for their mistakes and flaws.
The play’s director, Fotini Baxevani, is a noted and accomplished actor, director and composer in Greece, collaborating with the National Theatre of Greece, the Hellenic Festival, the actress Lydia Koniordou and the playwright Marc von Henning, among others.
She “has envisioned an atmosphere of extreme excitement based on minimalist sequences of astonishing subtlety and empathetic range,” Michelioudakis said.
Set and costume designer Ellie Papageorgakopoulou has constructed a versatile box that creates the claustrophobic atmosphere of a trap, where the objects and the bodies have several uses. Papageorgakopoulou’s previous work includes the costume design for the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in 2004.
The cast includes Tereza Grimani, Kalliope Koutelos, Stephen Lundberg, Ceasar Nixon, Stacy Salvette and Andreas Tselepos.
Lundberg, who plays the part of Eddie in “Prime Numbers” said his experience playing the character has been extremely challenging but also fun.
“Getting inside the mind of a character as complex as this one was very difficult,” Lundberg said, adding that the show continues to grow with each performance. “Every night is different, yet each show gains solid growth. I definitely think this show has been successful and has been a nice change for the Greek Cultural Center.”
Lundberg said that putting a story like “Prime Numbers” on stage was a huge feat for the GCC.
“As always, ‘Prime Numbers’ has been another successful production of the Greek Cultural Center and has been attracting even more English−speaking audience than the previous ones,” Michelioudakis said.
In addition to the play, the GCC will present their sixth annual Immigrant Heritage Week event, entitled “Once Upon A Time In America,” from April 17−23. Immigrant Heritage Week is a unique celebration of the vibrant immigrant cultures, heritage, and communities found in every corner of the New York. On April 18 the GCC will screen films by the award winning Greek directors Maria Iliou and Alana Kakoyiannis and host a Greek shadow puppet performance (in English) by puppeteer Alex Malaos. It is a free event, making it a unique and affordable family outing.
The GCC is a nonprofit organization and gathers financial support with public funding from the New York State Council on the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Queens Borough President’s Office and Materials for the Arts.
“We have private supporters and donors, but as you can imagine, since the economic changes have been affecting every individual, all the grants and donations have been affected too,” Michelioudakis said.
While operating on a modest budget, the GCC has managed to garner numerous awards, special resolutions, proclamations and citations of honor for its contribution to the arts and the Greek−American community, from such organizations as the Greek Ministry of Culture, the Greek Consulate in New York and the Smithsonian Institution.
In 2010 the GCC will move to a new location in Astoria, which has yet to be announced, having expanded its many activities and weathered their building on Hoyt Ave.
“Time has affected the building that has been hosting us until now, and with our migration, the old building will cease to exist. It’s the end of an era, I guess,” Michelioudakis said.
With this expansion the Greek−American community will continue to gain education through the arts and understanding of their language and Hellenic identity thanks to the ongoing dedication of the GCC.
For more information about “Prime Numbers” and other GCC events, or to reserve tickets, call 718−726−7329 or e−mail email@example.com. You can also visit the Web site, greekculturalcenter.org.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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