This is a true story. I am saying that not because i fear you may not believe me, -or in fact because this story has any really unbelievable moments…- but because i want to keep reminding myself of how it was back then and what events transpired, so naturally so easily like a leaf floating downstream -effortlessly, gracefully. Good times.
OK, so many years ago during what Garrison Keillor calls “the age of imagination, before the age of full disclosure” (now why did i think of him?? Must be another story, we’ll get to that later) some friends had come to visit from the States.
We ended up being five of us crammed in my dad’s blue Benz with me being the driver and unofficial tour guide, driving around in the clear summer sun and the cool nights and visiting places, doing the classic Ancient Greece Touristy tour: Mycenae and Delphi -the Oracle is till fascinating i think in its numb silent state, elusive and foreboding, almost quiescent; like sleeping. Olympia of course (we all know what that’s famous for… but its also a beautiful place to visit as it is like an oasis of green and trees in the middle of what is otherwise a pretty barren part of the country. The ancients knew how to chose their spots!) and the plan was that we would end up in the Ancient theatre of Epidavros and play around with the theatre’s amazing acoustics.
Of course the guys were more inclined to just go to the beach, hang out and well… get to know each other better but seeing that one of the girls who had come over from the States was an Archaeology major, as well as being very pretty, none of the guys dared voice their preferences but instead followed the sites with renewed vigour and tried everything in order to make a good impression.
Well we finally arrived in Epidavros parked the car and headed to the theatre, with great anticipation. Of all the places one can visit in ancient Greece, Epidavros -with the Acropolis a very close second- is by far my personal favourite. Not because of the amazing properties of the theatre itself but also because some of the best and most imaginative plays and ancient tragedies are staged there every year and there is NOTHING quite like watching an ancient tragedy unfold before your eyes and ears and all your senses while being engulfed by the theatre itself that wraps around you and lifts you up inside. Epidavros is definitely “in vivo” in all the sense of the word.
Sometimes you also feel trapped between the past and the present when the respective directors take more and more risks and liberties with the ancient plays and catapult them with full force into the twentieth century with all the bells and whistles that that entails. Costumes become modern, the choir resembles more the cast of “Hair” (now that’s old…!!) and heroes and heroins look more like desperate rock stars. Epidavros is old and new together.
Anyway, the season had not yet started and we were not going to watch any performances we just wanted to go and spend some time in the theatre. You can imagine our trepidation -but even more our disappointment when the guard at the door told us that there was a rehearsal going on and we would not be able to enter the theatre at all that afternoon/evening! Well. Not good. We complained pleaded and tried every argument we could think of but there was just no way.
Defeated with our heads bowed we turned around and reluctantly started walking back. Before reaching the car we noticed a small path leading up away from the road and onto the side of the cliff on the back of the theatre. We turned left and started following the path. We had to go over a wired fence (some makeshift steps had already been placed there by previous visitors…) and after a while we found ourselves overlooking the theatre just above the last row of seats, looking down at the actors rehearsing below! All of a sudden, best seats in the house! This was good, we would sit and watch the rehearsal, and our American friends would not have to go back home empty handed. We hid behind the high bushes and watched the play. It was a full dress rehearsal, with everything on except the costumes.
Suddenly the actor standing near the middle of the theatre spun around knelt on one knee pushed his hands up and while fixing me with his eyes, with a loud voice without moving his eyes he asked:
” AND WHERE ARE THE GODS!? ”
He was looking at me so intently i was sure he could see through the bush and was doing it on purpose to make me stand out of my hiding place so that everybody could see me. I felt transfixed. His question hung in the air: “WHERE ARE THE GODS??”
Suddenly i knew: I jumped up from behind the bush stretched my hands up in the air and while returning his gaze shouted down at the top of my voice:
“WE ARE HERE!”
There was half a moment of silence before all the actors had now turned around to see who it was that said that and what exactly had happened. The main actor with the question was on his feet still looking directly at me his hands down. My friends were still hiding behind the bushes and looking at me but in the next moment one by one all of them stood up looked at the actors below and started laughing. We ran down the path over the fence and back to the car laughing all the way. I tried to explain to my friends from the States that this was not what usually happened in Epidavros…
I think they enjoyed it more than anybody else. Even when we finally visited Acropolis after returning to Athens, we were still talking about the events in Epidavros.