Olympic ceremony organizer returns with hit show

Updated: 2006-12-11 14:05

Dimitris Papaioannou, the man who created the spectacular opening ceremony for the Athens Olympics, has chosen something far from the mainstream for his first show since then.

Papaoiannou's "2" is an edgy, dance-driven play about masculine identity,an unconventional theme in a country that expects its men to be real men.

Athenians are lining up to see it.

Two weeks after opening at a downtown theater, "2" is already guaranteed an extended run with performances scheduled through January.

"I wanted to explore the issues that men deal with in this country," Papaioannou said.

Women are notably absent from the stage in "2" as 22 actors battle the "Mediterranean macho male" culture.

"I am just now realizing how successful the show is," Papaioannou, 42, said in an interview Friday, adding he took time off to recover from the demands of the 2004 event.

Inspiration for the show came partly from his experience as a gay man in Greece, but also from the general human ability to judge what is familiar, he said.

"I wouldn't criticize anything I didn't love," he said.

The title tries to reconcile the dual nature of men, the masculine with the feminine, he said.

"He explored the theme of male identity, including homosexuality, in a nonoffensive and artistic manner. It's a real departure from what you'd expect," said Maria Anagnostou, a 24-year-old gymnast.

Athens organizers chose Papaioannou over more experienced directors for the 2004 Olympic opening ceremony, in a gamble that paid off and turned attention away from massive organizational delays before the games.

Drummers, the theatrical timeline of Greek history and a water-filled area at Athens Olympic Stadium became a lasting image of the event.

Papaioannou was previously known for his work with the Omada Edafous Dance Theater troupe and its provocative performance of "Medea."

Before dance, Papaioannou was a painter and comic strip artist. He studied at the Athens School of Fine Arts and trained under noted Greek artist Giannis Tsarouchis.

Success in 2004 left him "awkwardly stuck between the mainstream and avant garde."

"There is a sense of sweet confusion," he said, adding that the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create the Olympic opening ceremony left him satisfied, knowing he had put together something "epic."

Papaioannou, dressed in jeans and smoking a cigarette, said he now wants to focus on smaller shows.

"I can't exhaust myself trying to sell my work," he said. "It's about communication ... not fame or money."

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