Theatre, as personal as it may be, it is also wonderfully universal

Alexandra Kazazou

I fear, but I dare

Text: Dimitra Kehagia

She describes herself as stubborn, obsessive, naive, workaholic, dreamer, becoming more and more frightened, but also daring, over the last years, following the birth of her son. After all, Alexandra Kazazou was never reluctant to dare. Born in Poland’s Wrocław (“I love the smell of this city, it awakens memories from my deep childhood”), she grew up in Larissa (“a city I cherish in my heart”), before moving to Thessaloniki to study at the AUTh’s School of Drama. In 2016 she co-founded the Istanbul-based collective Teatr Andra along with Karol Jarek, with the purpose of bringing together Turkish, Polish and Greek artists. In the last few years she has been living in Athens (“maybe the only European capital, where neighbourhoods still survive”). She is particularly fond of her own neighbourhood, Petralona, where she sometimes feels as if she is living in a village.

Because of the pandemic, but also due to the Turkish financial and political crisis, Teatr Andra was reshaped into Transatlantic Group, a collective she has co-founded once again with Karol Jarek. It is an Athens-based artist group aiming at artistic decentralization and the collaboration between international artists. “The message we wish to send is that theatre, as personal as it may be, is also wonderfully universal. A kind of homeland for each and every one of us”, she points out.

What’s her definition of a homeland? “We have feet, not roots. A writer, whom I cannot recall right now, had said it. I dare to say that my homeland is no other than my feet, the miles both inside and outside of me. My losses, the father I mourned at the age of 20, my grandfather, Sotiris, who passed away when I was 17. My partisan grandmother, whom I recently lost. The friendships that did not last, the love that faded away (does it go somewhere else when it abandons us?). Whenever I come to terms with these scars, only then do bright memories squeeze in. My mother, my sister, my beloved friends. These are the moments I can finally grasp my own homeland,” she mentions, while unfolding three stories that dismiss the stereotyped notion of homeland.

The first took place in 2011, in Srebrenica, through a 3-day silent march that rendered homage to the 3-day massacre committed by the Bosnian-Serb army, killing 8,000 children and men in the later stages of the Bosnian War. The final destination of the march was the city of Tuzla, where she met the widows and the mothers of the victims. “They lived in a camp, in the middle of nowhere, deprived of any identity. These women belong nowhere ever since the war ended, as they were from Srebrenica, which was administratively incorporated into the Republic of Srpska. These women, ever since 1995, have no place to call a homeland. Their homeland is no other than their lullabies and the gardens they tend to every day.”

A year earlier, she had travelled to Cuba, with the plan of getting as close as one can get to the Guantánamo military base. “In the city of Guantánamo, I was given a lift by an American officer, who was listening to salsa. A few minutes later, the car’s radio was tuned to jazz music. “We have now entered the American Zone”, he told me.” Her third story took place in Easter 2022, in Wrocław’s railway station, which was transformed into a temporary refugee camp for women and children from Ukraine. “Where do we go now?” wondered a child looking lost and adrift. 

An actor, a director, a teacher

When she acts, she tries to become a part of the director’s vision without undermining her personal truth, which is vital for her stage performance. When she directs, she tries to embark on the same boat with the actors. “To get acquainted with the next step of any stage language together, travelling to the unknown. “Together” holds the greatest value to me. To experience this trip as a dire need, to inspire one another along the way.” When she teaches, first and foremost she tries to attentively get in touch with the students. “Apart from the tools I can and will provide, I wish to raise questions inside of them.” Through teaching she wishes to channel love “and receive it back, in even greater volumes, as in our case -fortunately enough- it’s the other way around as opposed to economy’s laws.”

She never misses out on advising youngsters to “read, study, work their bodies and minds on a daily basis, while remaining children both in terms of instinct and body-wise. To fit in with others and accept them, in order to accept a part of themselves and eventually fit in to unknown roles. I also advise them to give it a go in everything, as long as they have the nerve to take a stand and say “no” to any unethical proposal.”

Alexandra Kazazou is currently wrapping up the stage direction of a wonderful, as she herself put it, thesis on acting, teaming up with the senior students of Athens Conservatoire, while rehearsing with Transatlantic group for their latest work, inspired by Albert Camus’ The Stranger, scheduled to premiere in late September-early October in Athens.

This summer, she will begin rehearsals with Theodora Tzimou and Ilektra Nikolouzou, making a common dream of all three come true: meeting all together on stage. The play will soon be announced and the premiere will take place in early November at Thision theatre. Starting from September, she will join the Slovakia-based theatre group Honey and Dust, touring in Slovakia and the Czech Republic with the play Uninteresting Scream, which celebrated its premiere in 2019, in Prague.

Within 2023, following an invitation from the National Theatre of Northern Greece, Alexandra Kazazou and Eleanna Georgouli will come to Thessaloniki, to co-direct and star in a play born and written through the process of rehearsal. On top of all that, she somehow finds time to play volleyball in a high level of competition.

Therefore, no surprise to hear that she’s on a constant state of alert, even in her dreams. “Dreams are a pivotal part of my universe and I am gradually coming to terms with this reality.” Moreover, she admits being impressed by the transition she experiences ever since she became a mother. “This concern is so powerful that it ends up defining you. However, it is an invigorating stress that encompasses the beneficial transition from oneself to another human being.”