Theater on the Peloponnese

I first met my great-uncle George, my beloved Yia Yia Zafero’s beloved youngest brother, when he was already well into his 90s. He had her clear blue eyes, thick, white hair and crinkly smile. He moved slowly around the farmhouse, built over a century ago on the banks of the Gulf of Corinth. The land still produced plentiful citrus, olives and vegetables in the fields where my grandmother used to play as a little girl. There was an old, small building on the farm that sheltered an olive press used by growers throughout the region during the pressing season.

George made a point to tell me that his little building was older than my country.

After a lunch of fresh peas and potatoes, homemade wine, and calamari just pulled from the Gulf, George stood. He spoke about his time as an actor in a theater company that traveled the length and breadth of the Peleponnese. He talked about the acting company being a communication lifeline for people in the faraway villages of the peninsula, who lived without radios, newspapers, paved roads, or the resources to use them even if they did, in fact, exist.

After arriving in the next town or village, the company would stir up interest, prepare their venue, sometimes an open field, find food and drink, and only then would the actors perform the great and historic epics of Greek drama, together with their own interpretations of more contemporary works, like Shakespeare, and some musical numbers.

George talked of the faces, of visiting the same villages again and again, year after year. And then, reaching back into the distance of many decades, this quiet old man stood at our luncheon little table, ramrod straight, his eyes firm and fixed, and he began to recite his lines, textbook perfect, line after line, moment after moment, drawing his family in, as he had with his village audiences in times past.

Acting still.

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