Athens, April 4, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Marina Spyropoulou
Greek director Vangelis Theodoropoulos was appointed artistic director of the Athens and Epidaurus Festival by the Culture Ministry on Monday after the fiasco of the short tenure of Belgian multidisciplinary artist Jan Fabre at the helm of Greece’s landmark annual cultural festival.
The celebrated yet controversial Flemish play writer, director and choreographer Fabre was appointed to the post on February for the 2016-2019 period and presented as a reinvigorating force which would upgrade the festival’s international status.
However, the presentation of Fabre’s plans for this summer’s program during a press conference last Tuesday caused an escalating uproar.
The artist’s public admission that he needed time to get acquainted with Greece’s contemporary artistic community and therefore this year the festival would be essentially limited to a tribute to Belgium with 80 percent of performances produced by his team and other Belgian artists, sent shockwaves across the country.
By the weekend dozens of acknowledged Greek artists, backed by opposition parties, were demanding the dismissal of Fabre, as well as Culture Minister Aristeidis Baltas, rejecting the proposed program as insulting for Greece.
Critics of Fabre’s planning stressed that under his predecessor, Greek director George Loukos who served as the Festival’s curator for a decade, numerous internationally acclaimed artists from across the world performed in Athens and Epidaurus.
That was the rule since the establishment of the prestigious Festival six decades ago.
On Saturday Fabre stepped down explaining that he could not work in a “hostile environment.”
On Monday the Culture Ministry announced that Theodoropoulos takes over. As the festival traditionally starts in late May or early June he faces a tight timeframe to put together a new satisfactory program.
In his first statements to the Greek national news agency ANA-MPA after his appointment, Theodoropoulos promised to make the utmost efforts under the current difficult circumstances and include more local productions in this year’s program.
“”I accepted the position at a crucial time for the course of the Festival and because I believe that this year’s Festival should not be cancelled… We must move quickly,” he said.