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‘I want to inspire kids’: Alkisti Pitsaki to bring Greek myths and legends to the NGV

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The National Gallery of Victoria’s Kids Summer Festival 2023 is set to return from January 14 – 22 and this year, the free event offers artist-led workshops and live performances for kids and their families.

Some of the activities will centre on the 2022 NGV Architecture Commission: Temple of Boom, which celebrates Greek culture and its contributions to global cultures and perspectives.

A highlight of the festival will be Myths and Legends Storytime with Athenian-born artist, Alkisti Pitsaki. From January 17 – 19, Alkisti will bring a performative storytelling to some of the ancient world’s most interesting myths and legends.

Ahead of the NGV Kids Summer Festival, The Greek Herald spoke to Alkisti about her career and inspiration.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a director, writer and performer from Athens, Greece. I came to Australia about three years ago for my Masters in Theatre Directing program at the Victorian College of the Arts – The University of Melbourne (VCA).

I started from a very young age as a singer in a children’s choir. We would sing on stage, on TV, and in film. Singing was our everyday life and I fell in love with performing and the arts in general. In high school, I decided that I wanted more out of this hobby and that I wanted to pursue acting and theatre.

Alkisti Pitsaki.

Through my undergraduate course in Athens, I discovered directing and writing and felt that I wanted to create my own work and say something about the world around me. So I started writing shows and staging them for the first time. I have focused primarily on physical theatre plays, embodied storytelling and works that explore political and social issues.

During my master’s at the VCA, I was also a directing intern at Harry Potter and The Cursed Child. I am currently focusing on my roots and stories from Greece, as well as other stories that inspire me.

2. How does your Greek heritage inspire your work?

Growing up in Greece has affected and, I guess, inspired at times the work I make. I think it is inevitable to avoid our upbringing and our past. It is a part of us. Artists are inspired by the world around them and the world they live in. So, in a way, even the way I approach, understand, or even define art is influenced by my lived experiences. That is one of the reasons why I believe my work focuses on political and social issues.

What I think I learned in Greece was that as an artist you must know why you stage something, there should be a reason why you are presenting something and why now. I guess I see theatre as a way to communicate and have a conversation with people.

I recently worked on the ancient myth of Ariadne of Crete. I was fascinated by the myth and the story of Ariadne and how she was a secondary character in her own story. That inspired me to rewrite her story from her perspective. The original version of Ariadne was my graduating piece at the VCA, and it was presented as a bilingual audio play. We are now working on bringing this play to the stage in 2023.

Some of Alkisti’s work.

3. You’re taking part in this year’s NGV Kids Summer Festival. What activities do you have planned?

Yes! I am so happy and honoured to be part of this festival. There are so many activities and events planned. I have created a storytelling piece about the myth of Athens and how this city got its name. I hope that everyone that comes to this event gets to learn a bit about this inspiring city. I would love it if I can in any way inspire kinds to discover myths and legends.

4. This year’s NGV Architecture Commission is based on the Parthenon. What are your thoughts on artistic recreations of ancient monuments?

Temple of Boom at the NGV.

I think it’s wonderful to see works inspired by other works of art from the past. As an artist, I am always inspired by ancient stories from Greece and other parts of the world. So, it’s great to see it from other artists as well and in other mediums.

5. Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Our storytelling session at the NGV International (Great Hall) will be presented from January 17 – 19 from 12 to 12.30 pm and again from 1.30 to 2 pm. It is of course a free event, and I cannot wait to see you all there!

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