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Long Island City Greek group celebrates culture

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While most theater groups performing classic scripts focus on the works of Shakespeare, Cypreco is one of few organizations in the New York area to focus on ancient Greek texts and music, Marouletti said. Established in 1978 in Long Island City, Cypreco showcases Greek culture in New York City through free artwork displays, readings, festivals, storytelling and dance and musical performances. "There are many cultural organizations, but we're doing things that nobody else does," said Marouletti, who came to New York as a refugee from Cyprus after the Turkish invasion in 1974. "All our programs are bilingual and we attract a lot of non-Greek people because everybody's interested to know everyone else's culture."In past years, group members have performed Euripides' "The Trojan Women" and Sophicles' "Oedipus Rex" at venues such as Columbia University, the Queens Museum of Art and the United Nations. On Saturday, March 26, the group will host an afternoon of music of the ancient Greeks at the Broadway Library in Astoria from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. The hour-long performance will feature two Greek musicians - jazz musician Glaskos Kontemeniotis on keyboard and George Hadzimarkou on guitar and bouzouki, a traditional Greek string instrument - and Robert Mahoney on what Kontemeniotis calls Mahoney's "percussion toys." The three will perform nine or 10 instrumental pieces that have been preserved on papyrus and shards in various museums and included in modern texts on ancient Greece. "The melodies are so pure and strong," said Kontemeniotis, an immigrant from Cyprus who has played the piano since he was 9 years old. "This music is not like anything you hear these days. Everything is overproduced and over-programmed and the melody is missing."Kontemeniotis has worked with Hadzimarkou and Mahoney preparing for the event for the past three months. To plan and organize the performance, Marouletti referenced books from Cypreco's library, which contains almost 5,000 volumes in both Greek and English. "Lucy is like an encyclopedia when it comes to Greek music," Kontemeniotis said.The book collection is the largest library outside of Cyprus of texts on Cyprus and Greek history, religion and folk art, Marouletti said. Marouletti also consulted a CD produced by a group in Greece that has reconstructed music from artifacts found in archeological digs. "To do this ancient Greek music, we've been researching for 10 years," Marouletti said. "The preparation is very, very meticulous. We don't just say we'll do it and do it. You have to do it factually." Songs will include a hymn to Nemesis, the goddess of justice, and a selection from the ancient Greek singer Pindaros. The group will hold a second performance in Manhattan on April 16 at the Bloomingdale library on 150 W. 100th St.For the past 10 summers, Cypreco has also staged an ancient Greek tragedy in July and August in public libraries in Queens and Manhattan, at the Queens Museum of Art and in Bryant Park, where several hundred spectators attend the free show. The group's 15 or 20 actors hail from across the United States. Last year, Cypreco received almost 500 applications from actors who wanted to participate in the performances."We pick up the best of the best," Marouletti said. "All of the actors are professional, educated actors, and they say it's an honor for them to participate in a Greek tragedy." After consulting books from her library, Marouletti hand-sews several new costumes for each performer every year. Before last year's performance of "Bacchae," she visited fabric shops in downtown Manhattan and found material printed with gold tigers for Dionysus' robe. Marouletti also hand makes masks. "You have to know the history and the myth and the old religion in order to know how to make the costumes accordingly," she said. "I study the character, and then make the costumes according to the actor's coloring, they have to blend." This summer, Cypreco will also once again host a folkloric festival with live music, songs, and folk dancers on June 12 at the Bohemian Hall in Astoria. Past festivals have included the reproduction of a Greek Cypriot wedding and demonstrations of glass blowing and Byzantine woodcarving and sculpture. One year, group members reconstructed a Cypriot village house complete with typical farm tools and equipment. Marouletti traveled to small villages in Greece to purchase the antiques. Marouletti hopes that Cypreco's festivals and performances will spur other theater companies in New York to perform ancient Greek plays as well. "We're doing something for our heritage, for our culture," she said. "People tell me, 'You're the only theater group in New York who has the guts to do ancient Greek theater for so many years, and for free.'"

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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