Prodromos Tsinikoris is drawn by stories excluded from the dominant narrative, inviting real people to appear on stage exactly as they look.

Prodromos Tsinikoris

Theater not just for entertainment

Text: Dimitra Kehagia
Prodromos Tsinikoris

Director, playwright and actor Prodromos Tsinikoris has been oriented over the last one and a half year on two topics of interest: Thessaloniki’s Roma and Jews. The outcome of the months-long research he conducted was portrayed in the theater plays Romaland and 96% respectively. The former was staged at Onassis Stegi in Athens, as well as in Amsterdam and Berlin, and is scheduled to travel in other countries with Roma communities at some point this year. The latter premiered at Moni Lazariston, in Thessaloniki, and will be staged in Madrid this summer.

Alongside his long-standing partner, Anestis Azas, they create a hybrid form of theater-documentary, focusing on Greece and its troublesome features as a country. “Our productions turn the spotlight on the country we’re living in through the prism of people who see it from a different angle than ours, who have found themselves marginalized for one reason or another.” Prodromos Tsinikoris is drawn by stories excluded from the dominant narrative, inviting real people to appear on stage exactly as they look. “Having an actor portray a concentration camp survivor does not interest me,” he admits and his plays bear proof of his views. In 96%, Alexandra Chatzopoulou-Saias, a young girl of Jewish origins, whose grandfathers survived Auschwitz, takes center stage, whereas in Romaland the protagonists come from different Roma tribes, from many regions of Greece.

The basis of his work is research, which he came to know and appreciate through “a premature middle-age crisis” he experienced about ten years ago, in his thirties. Up until then he was devoted to acting, having studied at AUTh’s School of Drama.
Moreover, he has wonderful memories from his many years’ sting at the Experimental Art Stage. “It was something like a family business, but not in the sense of nepotism.” In his thirties, he came to realize that he couldn’t picture himself acting forever. He then decided that if he were to remain in theater, he should do it on his own terms.

To this end, he sought to join forces with Rimini Protokoll, the pioneering Berlin-based group that specializes in theater-documentary. That’s how, through this contact, he got involved in research and fell in love with the genre of theater-documentary. “Right from the start I was intrigued by the meetings with the people I researched. Anestis Azas went on to join the project, the two fit together like a hand to a glove right away, and since 2011 they have been working on documentary-theater. The dire need for research, for answers beyond the first level, is an indispensable part of his everyday life. He enjoys looking outside of the window while sitting on the bus, noticing the people at the bus stops. The way they are dressed, whether they are smiling, if they are staring at the void.

While discussing with him, he gives the impression that he is about to write a play at that very moment. He draws inspiration from topical issues, such as the ones he’s addressing in 96% and Romaland, or even immigration and homelessness; disturbing issues that he has the sharpness and the skills to render in a way that would not burden the audience. He raises awareness while offering breaths of laughter, displaying humor, self-sarcasm and irony. “This way, I’m trying to avoid the trap of didacticism that is so easy to fall into in such matters.”

The state should provide the artists with the means and the freedom to do whatever they wish, even to criticize. This state of things should be accepted and followed by every government.

Prodromos Tsinikoris

He began studying the theater, without having ever seen a play. He initially wanted to get involved with cinema, as he can recall watching non-stop films ever since a child. “I watched everything, from Tarkovsky to Stalone,” he says. When the time came for him to study, there were no film schools in Greece, so he turned to AUTh’s School of Drama. Ever since his first class, he realized that theater and cinema were two different things, but soon came to love the object of his studies. Prodromos Tsinikoris grew up in Wuppertal, Germany – he vividly recalls being the target of a bullying as an immigrants’ child, but he now views this experience as fruitful – and went on to live in Thessaloniki before moving to Athens fifteen years ago.

The fact that the younger generation talks openly and without taboos on gender, sexuality and political rights fills him with optimism. “It has become easier to talk about our wounds,” he notices. He also finds it encouraging that over the last years, following the pandemic, theaters are packed, especially with young people. “They yearn to watch a live spectacle. Theater will never cease to exist. One way or another, it remains irreplaceable,” he notes, while expressing a concern over the role AI is bound to play in the years to come.

According to Prodromos Tsinikoris, certain forms of art should be subsidized. “The most daring, the ones leading to the next level, forcing us out of our comfort zone, taking risks; and these risks can only be taken by the National Theater, the National Theater of Northern Greece, Municipal and Regional Theaters. The state should provide the artists with the means and the freedom to do whatever they wish, even to criticize. This state of things should be accepted and followed by every government.”

His only TV role so far came in the series Milky Way, written and directed by Vassilis Kekatos. “He’s an artist I can converse and walk side by side with. He is troubled by what’s happening around him and makes these concerns a part of his work. I am not interested in doing something just for the sake of entertainment.” Once his Romaland and 96% tours are over, he plans “the most revolutionary move I have ever made: take a brave break. The way I see it, that’s the most radical thing one can do today. Simply say “I’m going to bed”. Do what you please. Stage whatever play you wish to. Indulge in self-improvement. Promote your image as much as you want. Attract as many followers as you can. I am going to bed.”

In fact, what he craves is to take a little time off for himself to look back at what he wanted to do 20 years ago and what he ended up doing. “I wanted to get involved with cinema. I didn’t. I wish to find out why and not wait for another twenty years to pass only to realize that I wanted to follow a different path in life, but never had the time to figure it out because I was caught up in a frenzy. I want to have as few pent-up feelings inside of me as possible.” He also wants to spend more time with the people he loves, reconnect with friends he lost touch with due to work, and to see his parents, who live in Germany, more often. “We tend to share a lot more than we used to in our everyday lives. Just consider how many people we talk to through social media on a daily basis and how many we used to talk to over the phone a few years ago. Is this amount of sharing normal?” he asks himself.

He feels that time has come for him to take a pause. He acknowledges that all of us have to make compromises, mostly for livelihood reasons, but at least he tries to avoid choices he would feel ashamed of later on. “I am grateful for everything, I am lucky and I must learn to take joy in it. We have a responsibility towards the joy we feel,” he concludes.


Follow Prodromos Tsinikoris
Facebook | Ιnstagram