THE THEATER GROUP OF KALYMNOS
A marble slab, now lying at the far end of the main hall in the wonderful Archaeological Museum of the island, cites: This theater was donated by …, the daughter of… and wife of…,to honour the god Apollo and her birthplace. Once, it stood over the entrance of an ancient amphitheater near the Temple of Apollo, below the settlement of Damos. There cannot be better proof that the art of Thespis has been alive and popular, on this rocky Island for thousands of years! In fact, to endorse this belief, more traces of another amphitheater, this time on the tiny islet of Telendos, have also been observed!
Unlike other places in the Aegean, however, we do not see the art flourishing and the necessary infrastucture following such popular demand. In fact, not until the Italian occupation was over (1948), did we see a stage being built! This happened in the main town of Pothia, when the “tapestry workshop” (a spacious indoor area used for looms and sewing installations) was turned into a makeshift performance hall, composed of a stage and long wooden benches for the audience to sit on.
From the 50s and on, when the schools staged plays, which was at very regular intervals- because the appreciation and love of the art had never diminished – it was done on the stage of the newly-built “Splendid Cinema”, in front of its cinema screen.
Thatn is exactly where the first two productions of our Theater Group were staged, in 1980 (if we were to exclude the multiple performances in each others’ sitting rooms, school classes, bars, on the terrace of the building which has subsequently been roofed over and has been housing the island’s sole “Little Theater” since 1998)!
The group started off (officially) in 1980 with children’s plays, well[known to the co-founder of the group, an inspired kindergarten teacher, Vassilia Nomicariou. They were acted by school children and immediately went to the hearts of every family! Quickl, though, our repertoire expanded to contemporary plays for a much broader audience. Our performances had attracted actors among young professionals from every walk of life: electricians, teachers, plumbers, students, carpenters, many of whom also worked on the scenery – all non paid volunteers, of course, who joined in for the creativity and the fun of it!
Meanwhile, the Municipality had decided to build a stage in the hall that had been destined for conferences and also equipped it with lighting and sound systems. This hall eventually became our second (if not first) home! The group had already doubled in number. The plays chosen were more and more ambitious. The hours spent rehearsing were endless. Profesional trainers were invited to teach speech, movement, acting, analyzing the role to the amateur actors of the Group, while children’s classes were held free of charge for young enthusiasts by the members of the Group.
The enjoyment and camaraderie of our members became an enviable example to the rest of our society. When we won our first award – a trip to Cyprus – and started performing on other islands far and near, we became an accepted fundamental entity, in the island’s cultural scene, side by side with The Lyceum of Greek Women, responsible for traditional music and dancing and the Anagnostirio, devoted to publications and lectures.
Until the financial squeeze of 2010 set in, we used to be subsidized yearly, by the Municipal Council. This allowed us to produce more spectacular performances for our provincial, theater- starved audiences and also to travel more, participating in amateur contests, which we very often won for one thing or another, whether acting, scenery, costumes, direction! Being a member of the Aegean Federation of Amateur Theater Groups we have always taken part in the annual non-competitive meetings of all the 30 groups comprising it and even hosted one, on Kalymnos, funded by our Municipality, in 2017.
A significant landmark in these 40 ceaselessly creative years was the construction of the island’s open-air amphitheater in Chora, in 2008. It allowed us to stretch our activities into the summertime with events like concerts and seminars, apart from our main performances.
Another important moment in the course of the life of the Group was the birth of our Youth Section, “Δίνη” (= Vortex) composed of under-thirties, who have already staged 5 plays that they prepare through distance rehearsals until they meet on the island for their summer holidays.
All together we have staged more than 50 plays of all genres (except musicals) both by Greek and foreign playwrights – from the earliest dramatists to today’s acclaimed writers.They can all be found on on YouTube – Θεατρική Ομάδα Καλύμνου – or on our site www.thokalymnou.org
This Amateur Drama club, consisting of theater lovers of various ages and professions, has been active since 1980. Its members, whether actors or technicians, have had no theatrical training or experience but work with passion and a reverence for quality.
The Group’s main goal is to offer the local audience a sample of theater which they would not normally see on television or on the popular Athenian stages; indeed, to acquaint them – and themselves – with different genres and playwrights. Thus, the 36 productions, that have so far been accomplished, range from Aristophanes to Shakespeare, from Moliere to Dario Fo and from contemporary Greek dramatists to lighthearted Greek comedies. Some have travelled to other islands, to Athens, Northern Greece and Cyprus.
Many have been honoured with prizes and prestigious awards. However, the most fulfilling acknowledgment for the work and inspiration each play involves is the appreciation in the eyes of the audience, as they applaud the final curtain.