LAWYER BY DAY, THEATRE DIRECTOR BY NIGHT…
INTERVIEW WITH THE DIRECTOR OF THE GREAT GATSBY THEATRE SHOW
by Alexandra Osváth
Photo credit: Rehearsal photos Amiyna Farouque
I like large parties—they’re so intimate. Small parties, there isn’t any privacy. —The Great Gatsby
Christina Vasala Kokkinaki is throwing a large party indeed. The international lawyer from Greece, is the director of The Great Gatsby show which will be performed by GEDS (Geneva English Drama Society) from 25-29 February.
She talks to THINGS TO DO IN GENEVA about her love for theatre and big parties and about why drama and law is the perfect combination.
FOLLOWING HER PASSION
Christina grew up on the island of Kefalonia and got involved with local community theatre at the age of 14.
“I was very fascinated by the fact that you can be onstage and put on a completely different façade, creating a new reality onstage,” she remembers.
“For the first few years in the group, I helped backstage. I’ve always loved the camaraderie of working in a team and building something all together.”
She later moved to Athens to study law and attended theatre school on the side.
“I dreamed of getting involved more professionally in theatre, but it’s very difficult. Your whole life may be risky, just making enough money to survive. So I chose to pursue international law and do theatre as a hobby, which is the perfect combination for me. I think I have better mental wellbeing this way—I don’t regret my decision at all,” she says.
Christina’s law career brought her to Geneva 11 years ago, and she’s been a member of the Geneva English Drama Society (GEDS) for the past 5 years.
“English language productions were new to me,” she says. “I started backstage and eventually started assistant directing. I wasn’t too sure of myself in the beginning but I gradually gained confidence.”
DIRECTING THE GREAT GATSBY – A BIG CHALLENGE
“Once I felt ready to direct a play, I knew I wanted to start big, not small,” Christina says. “Because I’d directed back home in Greece, I really wanted to challenge myself with a play that was flamboyant. I knew I’d need to put a lot of energy into it, so I thought I’d jump right in with a bigger challenge!”
“I really like the story of The Great Gatsby because it focuses on the fragility and carelessness of human beings, and how at the end of the day, all of us are kind of broken and let other people clean up after us,” Christina tells me.
Christina has chosen to focus on the element of carelessness as director of The Great Gatsby.
“We’ve used scaffolding to create set elements, as well as props and set items that are almost broken. The background projections have sharp edges and straight lines—there aren’t any curves or organic shapes. Throughout the whole play it’s summertime, and it’s hot. Everyone is very on edge and agitated.”
The audience is likely familiar with Fitzgerald’s classic novel, but that’s okay.
“In ancient Greece, people already knew the story of a play before going to watch it,” Christina tells me. “The idea wasn’t to discover a new story, but rather to see a live performance. The same is true for The Great Gatsby—it’s about how we bring the story to life, and the beauty that is created by the link between the actors and the audience. I am thrilled to have an extremely talented cast on board for this production.”
“The Great Gatsby particularly resonates with me because I love throwing large parties,” she says. “When I was a kid, I was the one who invited everyone in my class. I always liked the feeling of being a host. At a large party, you can observe and control what’s happening, whereas small parties can be awkward. As Jordan says in the play, I like large parties—they’re so intimate. Small parties, there isn’t any privacy.”
THE CHALLENGES OF AMATEUR THEATRE IN GENEVA
“Getting a good team backstage is crucial,” Christina says. “It’s actually as important as having good actors onstage. For example, you really need capable sound engineers and lighting experts. GEDS members are very good at this but not everyone is available for all of the shows, or they might end up leaving Geneva.”
“The key is starting early. Now I have an amazing team and assistant directors that are really helping a lot with everything that needs to get done,” she says.
While theatre in English is quite popular in Geneva, there aren’t many groups besides GEDS.
“We have 200-250 members, which is 10 times larger than most community theatre groups,” Christina explains. “Since GEDS shows are quite big, it would be nice to see more small, underground productions in English and in other languages. I think there would be an audience in Geneva for that,” she says.
BOOK YOUR TICKETS now for The Great Gatsby: www.theatreinenglish.ch
February 25, 2020 @ 8:00 pm – February 29, 2020 @ 7:00 pm
Rue de Carouge 52, Genève