Institute for Mediterranean Studies

Avant-Garde Theatre and Modern Greek Theatre

Avant-Garde Theatre and Modern Greek Theatre

The program primarily focuses on the similarities between Modern Greek and European theatre avant-garde movements as well as on the inner difficulties that Greek society faced in its dialogue with the European developments from the 1890s up to WWII. It constitutes the first Greek project on the avant-garde theatre in relation to the problems of modernization and the westernization of the country; it aims at claiming a place in the international discussion on these subjects as well as on the study of the general cultural relations between Greek and European theatre. Modern Greek theatre cannot really escape from its isolationism unless it delimits its exact historical position in Modern European theatre.

Project Director: Antonis Glytzouris, Professor, School of Drama, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Research Team: Panayiota Mini, Vania Papanikolaou, Gioula Mpountali

Kyveli Adrianou as  Mary Magdalene (1910)

Marica Cotopouli as Monna Vanna (1908)

How did Greek Theatre perceive and receive the various and complex theatre avant-garde movements of the 19th and 20th centuries? Which were the main European influences, and in what way the nationalist and cultural aspirations of Greece and the general western cultural policy in the Balkans defined the national origin of those influences? What about the receptive abilities of this regional country? In which way and in what circumstances has Modern Greek theatre produced an avant-garde dramatic and stage art of its own? And how close were the developments in Greek theatre to contemporary European quests? These issues form only a small sample of the multitude of questions posed by this present research program.

Maurice Maeterlinck, The Blue Bird

Maurice Maeterlinck, Mary Magdalene

The program primarily focuses on the similarities between Modern Greek and European theatre avant-garde movements as well as on the inner difficulties that Greek society faced in its dialogue with the European developments from the 1890s up to WWII. It constitutes the first Greek project on the avant-garde theatre in relation to the problems of modernization and the westernization of the country; it aims at claiming a place in the international discussion on these subjects as well as on the study of the general cultural relations between Greek and European theatre. Modern Greek theatre cannot really escape from its isolationism unless it delimits its exact historical position in Modern European theatre. Therefore in the process of setting up the program was the creation of an archive of historical documents.

During its operation, the program's team has set the basis for a three-level research:

(1) To create an archive of documents that contains:

(a) A collection (in conventional as well as digital form) of all the relevant information derived from the Press of the main East-Mediterranean cities of Greek, or partially Greek, population (Athens, Istanbul, Smyrna, Cairo, and Alexandria etc) during the period 1890-1940.

(b) A corpus of Modern Greek and European plays translated in Greek, of the same period that were published in journals or in book form. The collection of information and the corpus of plays are classified both in the conventional method of recording cards and photocopies (for the articles) and in digital form.

2)To create two databases:

(a) A day-to-day record of all the productions of avant-garde plays performed during the same period and the same era and

(b) A file of the whole activity in the domains of playwriting and translating.

Maurice Maeterlinck (1862- 1942)(3)To proceed in an initial elaboration of the data and investigate the beginnings of the above-mentioned cultural relations, according to a pivotal strategy:

(a) The study of the reception of a significant foreign fin-de-siθcle playwright, i.e. Maurice Maeterlinck, in Greece and

(b) The examination of the cultural relations between a Modern Greek playwright, that is, Nikos Kazantzakis, and European avant-garde theatre and drama up to WWI. The applied strategies have already produced three articles that have published the results of the initial investigation in the reception of modern avant-garde drama in Greece in terms of theatrical theory, production and playwriting (see Publications).

(c) The aim here is to produce two books, as the outcome of the above-mentioned strategy, i.e. the reception of Maurice Maeterlinck in Modern Greece and the relations between Nikos Kazantzakis early dramas and European avant-garde theatre. This would be a good start for an overview of the beginning of the phenomenon (1890-1922).

Finally, according to IMS tradition, the program has also employed and trained post-graduate students meanwhile its archive has already been utilized for the needs of an MA and a Ph.D. theses and studies on Modern Greek Theatre and Literature.


Selected Publications

  • «The Deadlock of Modernism in Greek Drama; Kazantzakis’ Othello Returns», Journal of Modern Greek Studies, 25 (2007) 181-194.
  • «On the Emergence of European Avant-Garde Theatre», Theatre History Studies, 28 (2008) 131-146.
  • Antonis Glytzouris, Wishes of an Eagle, Wings of a Butterfly (Πόθος αετού και φτερά πεταλούδας): Nikos Kazantzakis' Early Drama and the European Avant-Garde. A Contribution to the Study of Decadence in the Modern Greek Theatre of the early 20th century, Crete University Press, 2009 (Greek)

Project Team

Panayiota Mini

Associate Professor of Film History
Department of Philology, University of Crete
Curriculum vitae

Vania Papanikolaou

Postdoctoral researcher

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