By Deb Krajec
The following post is written by Marquette University Theatre Arts Faculty member Debra Krajec about her first trip to Cyprus to plan for a 3 week Summer Abroad Experience for Theatre students to study and observe ancient Greek drama in performance. She is traveling with friend, colleague, and former student James Thomas Bailey (Artistic Director of ComedySportz L.A.). Read her entire trip blog online at http://marquettetheatregoestocyprus.wordpress.com.
Our first full day here! Sunday morning in Nicosia is HOT! I think this is going to take a bit of getting used to…hot and muggy. Have I brought the right clothes?
James’ friends Yiola & Paris Klitou pick us up for a day of sightseeing and relaxation. Yiola is an actress and a translator – she has translated for James several times, and he loves working with her because she translates his English into Greek with the same inflections and energy he uses to teach. She is lovely and fun. Husband Paris is a financial banker for Bank of Cyprus.
We drive in their car south towards the resort town of Limassol on the beach of the beautiful blue Mediterranean Sea. Again I am struck by how much Nicosia is very modern and familiar on the outskirts of the old Venetian walls in which we have our hotel. The Cyprus countryside really reminds me of Arizona or New Mexico – hills and white rock and scrubby brush added to olive trees and evergreens. Yiola pointed out carob trees as well. There are also beautiful flowers – big bougainvillas and hibiscus.
We go first to the medieval Kolossi castle!
This is a small fortress right near the water, which the Knights Hospitallers (knights of St John of Jerusalem) built in 1210. It was a stopping point on the way to the middle ages during the Crusades. The most significant event centered around the castle involves Richard the Lion Hearted (from Lion in Winter fame). It’s a complicated story, as is all the history of Cyprus and its conquerors, but in a nutshell, Richard was in the Holy Land fighting in a crusade, and his fiancée and sister were sailing to meet him there. A bad storm came and destroyed several of the ships – the remaining ones, including the one that the 2 women were on, washed ashore at Limassol. The guy who was governor there decided to imprison them all and hold them for ransom. Richard found out, got mad, came with a big army, demanded the return of his people, and when the guy refused – WAR! Richard won, conquered the island, married his fiancée Berengaria here on Cyprus, and then used the island as a supply stop for the Crusades, which was very important. After a year or so Richard sold the island to the Knights Templar. Thus, the medieval remains on the island…
So we crawled around this fortress. Even tho it was super hot outside, it was really cool inside the REALLY thick stone walls. Great breeze on top. And a good view of the Sea (they say “the sea” not the “ocean”).
Then we drove to the resort town of Limassol, where there are miles of hotels on the beach. The public still has access to the beaches, tho. Sand here is kinda grey in color but the water is AQUA BLUE and beautiful! We managed to maneuver into a parking place without a fight (Cypriots park ridiculously!) and walked to a beachfront seafood place, sat outside under an awning and had a lazy lunch. I had fresh Mediterranean sea bass! Lovely! Good food, good company, and beautiful scenery.
We then sat as Cypriots do on a weekend, and watched the world go by. Can’t help but slow down, because the temp is so high you can’t really scurry anywhere. We strolled along the beach a bit and I got to wade! They have a nice walkway that goes for miles along the beach. On the drive back to Nicosia, we stopped at an archeological dig – they have them lots of places on the island – they start to dig up the ground for a project, and find ancient ruins, and the dept. of antiquities comes in and everything stops till they dig.
Also, across the road in the sea, they have recently found remains of a ship from the Greek Hellenistic times…they hope to raise it and put it on display.
Back to the hotel. I am drenched with sweat, so I opt for a quick dip in the hotel pool. Ahhh!
Then change for dinner with 2 more friends of James’ , both actresses and teachers he has met who have taken his improv classes – Eleni Odysseos and Terpsi Paloma. Before we leave, Varnavas calls! He and Marina are back from Prague and he wants to meet. he knows Eleni and Terpsi, so agrees to stop by the restaurant after popping in at dress rehearsal for THE BACCHAE which opens on Wednesday.
Terpsi comes to our hotel around 8 PM to walk us over to a little outdoor Italian place…lovely eveing! As soon as sun goes down, it gets really nice in Nicosia! A little breeze does a lot. We sit outside and talk and talk…about theatre, about the world, about our students. There are so many commonalities we have, it is very interesting. I also learn more about how theatre is done in Cyprus –a bit different than in the states. There are only about 300 actors in the Republic of Cyprus – they pretty much know each other. There are about 20 (I think) professional theatres of various sizes around the country. Not enough work for all, as we are familiar with, but the odds in Cyprus of getting hired are much higher than in US. Many actors here also do TV and Film…is easy to cross over, and the TV producers will even work around their schedules! But they all would rather do live theatre, at least that was the impression I got…TV gets you money and fame, live theatre gets you respect here. Hmmmm…
Varnavas joins us, and we hear some fun stories about hen they had him as a their teacher in Drama School! He seems much more relaxed than when he was in Milwaukee. Very friendly and happy to see us. How nice! We have a lovely LATE evening, then walk back to hotel thru Old City.
Night life here is different. There are more people in cafes eating and drinking wine with families and friends than there are people in bars. Although there are “cabarets” which we would call “gentlemen’s clubs”, if you know what I mean. But over all, there aren’t crazy drunk people out at night – there are people playing what appears to be backgammon (tho they tell me it’s a bit different) and drinking coffee sitting outside. Some loud music at some places, but not much.
I feel very safe here, even late at night. No scary people who I can see, no homeless types.
I’m having a great time so far – is so cool to meet theatre people from another country – we still have a bond!
And I feel so fortunate they all speak English! We Americans are so lazy…I want to learn some Greek! So far I know Hello and Thank you. I need more!
Deb Krajec is an Artistic Associate Professor of Theatre at Marquette University. See more posts and photos from her trip to Cyprus with students from the Marquette Theatre Department at: http://marquettetheatregoestocyprus.wordpress.com.