Seeing the Actors!

Jul. 15th, Sunday

This morning, two actors, Alexandros Mylonas (who played Socrates) and Nikos Psarras (who played Just Discourse) from The Clouds came to Magda! I have to admit that as they slowly walked towards us through the garden, I could not believe my eyes. Last night, I could only watch them from a distance, amazed by the amount of power that’s conveyed through their characters on stage, but today, I got to talk to them face to face!

What surprised me further was that both actors had study abroad experiences in America. The actor who played Socrates, Alexandros Mylonas told us his study abroad story. During the dictatorship era in Greece, his father was imprisoned and exiled to an island by the government. In order to get an education for himself, Alexandros fought with the government to get a passport and made his way to United States and UK to pursue his childhood dream of being an actor. As an immigrant myself, I understand the amount of effort and courage it took to fight against all obstacles and to restart out from scratch in a new country. I guess that the reason he could become an actor and could still remain being an actor was that he always had faith in this profession and always fought with reality for opportunities. As both actors told us, being an actor is hard, no matter where one is. It’s not just because of the competition that’s existent, but also because it is challenging to remain truthful to this chosen profession and to always devote oneself to building worthwhile characters when external circumstances go astray. This reminds me of what Tim once told the class, acting is never about putting oneself into spotlight. It’s about creating and giving life to a new character. This process demands dedication and focus, with the endpoint not being perfection, but rather a step closer to perfection.

Hearing these words from two professional actors who devoted their lives to acting made me think a lot, not just about acting but about choosing a profession in real life. According to Nikos, the use of microphone in the performance last night was the director’s idea. He personally thought that it was too fashionable and would potentially infuriate the Greek audience who valued the tradition of performing ancient drama in original styles (with the use of natural acoustics). However, as an actor, he would only leave these doubts “in the dressing room.” I think this is not just true for being an actor. In every profession, and especially in performing arts industry, one has to balance personal needs to express and enact one’s own ideas with the group’s interest and harmony. As for acting, it is never about proving to the audience how good one is in acting; rather, it is about how one can best create a character that works best for the whole production as a whole. Also, Nikos gave us advice that if one wants to become an actor, reading and keeping oneself updated are always vital. As I learn more and more about acting from this seminar, I truly feel that in order to become a good actor, it is important to be well trained (voice, body, movements, etc.). However, acting is never just about these basics. It is a multidisciplinary subject. In order to create and bring to life a dynamic, powerful character, one first has to allow oneself the time to enrich one’s knowledge base about the world and to contemplate about the dynamics between countries, between cultures, and between people in today’s world. And these reflections are fuel for actors to generate characters that are relatable and powerful: characters in that trigger more discussions and thoughts amongst the modern audience.

This idea goes back to the discussion the class had a while back about performing ancient drama in today’s modern world. The reason that the stadium was still packed with audience for an ancient drama like Clouds is that all the humor and all the jokes generated in the production are relevant to today’s world reality. The ancient drama is powerful because they allow us to use the past as mirror to examine the present and that they trigger us to reexamine the past in creating a better future.

Alexandros and Nikos also allowed us to have a better understanding of the performance last night and the process of putting together such performance in the ancient theatre. The production intended to create a Socrates as an irritable and snobbish character and to contrast that with a narrator (a reflection of the real Socrates) who is controlled and scholarly. This contrast resonated with the contrast of the old school education and sophistry that was being presented in the show, escalating the tension of the show. As Nikos said, the purpose of the show is to have audience leave the stadium feeling “skeptical” about traditions, including the tradition ideal of Socrates. There were a few things that struck me through the discussion. One was the actors’ lack of effort in creating humor. When some of us asked the actors the mechanics of coming up with a big joke that would make everyone in the audience laugh, the actors looked at us in confusion and said, “we just come up with a few things that we know people will understand, and wait for it.” I think this is a valuable point for all of us to consider. A lot of time we think very hard to come up with a joke, but we forget about our audience. In fact, if we know our audience well and know how to relate to them, we will always have material for humor. Even if we come up with very hilarious content, but if they are not within the context for the audience to understand, there will be no effects. Also I was surprised about the amount of improvisations that were existent in the production. The actors revealed to us that a lot of the jokes that the actors came up in the production were in fact improvised on stage. This is another reason why theatre is so fantastic. The audience and the actors together create an energy. The actors rely on the audience’s response to make the energy more sustainable and more entertaining. The audience enjoys the performance but also takes part in the performance in a subtle way.

I really appreciate that Tim, Michael, Mariel and others work so hard to contact so many wonderful, talented actors, directors and professors to come and talk to us. They inspired me so much not just about theatre but also about life after college. In fact, more and more I feel that this seminar is not just about theatre, it’s about refining and broadening our own perspective as a young adult. Through theatre, we find a common energy, despite the differences in our race, our background and our values. Together, we raise questions about ourselves and about the world around us. Together, we face the obstacles present and reflect on our responsibilities as a world citizen.

Wow I wrote a lot. Sorry for not updating our blog often. The internet here is hibernating most of the time. Thanks to those who always followed our blog. Our hearts are with you guys…

Until next time,


Small peaks of the performance The Clouds

The Clouds by Aristophanes performed by the National Theatre of Greece

The stadium was almost fully packed.

Small peaks of the performance, The Clouds by Aristophanes in the ancient theatre of Epidaurus

The father and Socrate’s students

The Chorus

The chorus–the clouds

The agon between the Just Discourse and the Unjust Discourse

Curtain call

The curtain call


Shhh.. Don’t follow my example! No photography allowed in the ancient theatre. Well, for our blog followers, anything is worth it!



Monday after the Election

Monday, Jun. 18th

Time goes by quickly. Believe it or not, it is already our second week in Greece. This Monday morning, while walking down the noisy, crowded streets to our morning Greek class, it seemed that nothing have changed. However, this Monday, to all Greeks, was a special one, one that contained uncertainty mixed with hope. With the Greek election results being released on Sunday evening, it felt like Europe breathed a collective sigh of relief. With New Democracy’s victory in Greece’s election, a Greek exit front the euro zone appeared to have been averted, at least for now. As foreigners in this city, though the election result would not have any significant immediate impacts on us, we still felt the weight that this election held for Greece and its people. It’s an interesting experience to be in Greece at this critical moment of change. In my mind, the image of Greek people smiling and socializing loudly on streets frequently clashed with the image of homeless men and dogs sleeping in the corners of the streets. Under the surface of a seemingly calm and beautiful city, I sensed that there were also infinite nuanced changes taking place, not just in the government, but also in people’s psychology. While witnessing modern Greece struggling to break away from this financial and political turmoil, I constantly caught myself wondering, questioning about the future, and hoping for hope for the Greek people, just like what every other Greek around me was doing.

As the second week started, everything seemed to be settled into place more. In the past week, we carried out adventures after adventures, some succeeded with pride, some failed with honor. With limited vocabularies in our Greek word bank, we managed to confuse the locals and made them almost believe that we were native Greeks! We naively but courageously “invaded” the noteworthy stadium near our school and learned the hard lesson that though the fences usually looked friendly, behind the fences, there always existed an alert, angry guard. It always amazed me how Athens could combine excitement and thrill in perfect harmony with control and order.  Day after day, we announced our exotic presence to this lovely city while occasionally catching the Greeks in surprise with our Americaness. At the same time, we slowly picked up and learned the controlled rules that were emphasized in this dramatic city.

The Monday routinely started with our language class and acting class. The Greek classes were very useful and practical because they did not only teach us “survival Greek,” but also cleared up a lot of confusion we had during our adventures. For example, in Greek culture, there also existed different ways of saying “hi” depending on the person you were talking to. When encountering an elderly person, it would be better to use yasas (a formal greeting) instead of yasoo or ya, which were more informal ways of greeting.

Tonight, Tim also cordially invited us over to his house for a group dinner. In the afternoon, Annika, Rachel and Sean went to an open food market to go shopping for the first time. With only 25 euros, they bought multiple kilograms of meat, vegetables, eggs, cheese and pasta. Of course you can say that foods were relatively cheaper in those markets, but can you believe it, the shopping team was able to get deals like 1 kg of tomatoes for 1 euro. I believe that all the Greek merchants could not help but to be subdued by the shopping team’s charm and mighty bargain power. According to the shopping team’s first-handed report, the merchants in the open market were overwhelmingly kind and excited when they saw a group of Americans wandering around for groceries in local markets. Many were very impressed by the few words that the shopping team uttered during the purchase. Greek people, once again, made us feel so loved!

It was a busy afternoon, as Rachel, Annika, Sean, Savannah, and others cooked and prepared amazing food for us. For dinner, we had pasta with feta chesse and tomato sauce, fried cucumber (oh woops, it should have been zucchini, oh well, it’s the same, kind of!…), chicken in lemon sauce (the chicken was so tender that some vegetarians in the group could not help but to take a bite, hope that did no create too big of a problem for them), and some delicious Greek dessert (chocolate soft cake and honey cakes) brought in by Michael. Dinner ended in a delightful note. It was another memorable night. Though tomorrow will again be another new start, but these beautiful memories would remain with us, always and forever.

Peace, Lily