Conversation with… Elena Polic Greco.
Delightful leading actress in ‘The Peace’ by Aristophanes in the just ended successful theatre season at the ‘Greek Theatre’ of Siracusa (Italy), Elena Polic Greco has also been one of the daughters of Oceanus – as well as Coryphaea and responsible of the Chorus – in the spectacular ‘Prometheus chained’, so concluding a busy year of teaching in academy which is the ‘Accademia d’Arte del Dramma Antico’ at Siracusa : next September 29 she will committed again with the director Daniele Salvo at Taranto (Italy) in ‘The Spartans’, a modern text by Barbara Gizzi.
“I knew very little indeed at the beginning of ‘my’ academy, which was the Accademia Nazionale d’Arte Drammatica ‘Silvio D’Amico’ at Rome, where I was born : by now I move all year for work, between Rome and Siracusa. But perhaps I knew something more than my classmates, because I often followed my mother on tour… Now however I was so curious, like a sponge, I was thirsty to know, to search in the past, to put some order in what I already knew about cinema and theatre : and I understood that also what I knew until then about myself was not enough, acting required much more of me…
I’ve learned that an actor can be shy, I had Masters who generated in me questions and curiosity about theatre, and it was extraordinary what happened in me : I discovered singing and its richness of sounds and possibilities, and I found my body again – I had lost it, my body, as a young girl because I was convinced that I was not physically adequate… My Masters showed to me that it was not true, and I find myself still thanking them today, because body is fundamental in our work, and it is the body itself that generates the sound when the body is put on the play.
I began to change and to seek, not to give up, to take even advantage of my failures to get to know myself, and to know the other from me. I’ve learned to listen to, and even to laugh on me…”
Do you think that doing theater is therapeutic ?
“I don’t like to think that theater is therapeutic, because a therapy is made to cure a pathology and I would not risk confusing the two professions, a therapist does other studies. Fortunately theatre can be very healthy, and it is my favourite mode. It is a profession that requires continuous study, and a healthy body, a healthy mind. Theater can perhaps be therapeutic in society, but I wouldn’t use the word ‘therapeutic’, I would rather say ‘useful’, also if there are very few public funding then…
Theater, as a matter of facts, also presents obstacles, and riches too we didn’t know, maybe we wanted to hide… You learn to separate your character, which you even enter, to live with – and with all its quirks sometimes – from the person you are instead, with your history, the contrasts, memory at work, the sensitivity… Perhaps it is in all this that acting offers you a ‘cure’ because it requires you to experiment, to risk, and at last to change.”
As a teacher in Academy, how did your experience change, compared to just acting ?
“Teaching, working with students, I’m passionate about this, it was a revelation for me… The other, in this case, is someone who comes near the same vocation as you : an even deeper experience is looking at the other, listening to him, or her and putting both of them at ease, mainly in the difficulties. Sound, for example is today a neglected experience : little importance is given to sound and a student should be accompanied in his or her discovering.
But, on the other hand, right at Academy sudden new passions are born – there have been students here who are now excellent lyrical singers. In my years as an Academy student I discovered, and suddenly I became fond of our pleasant Italian language and of the wonderful sound of our talking. The difficult is that often the use of daily speaking – by now it is so synthetized – and the research for ‘truth’ which in theatre is banned by definition, sacrifices sound at the expense of understanding and of concepts : being able to play with vowels and consonants, with the accents of words and the different accents you can place in a sentence, it offers many possibility to communication.
‘To wet words with sound’ I say, and it is a work I propose, which I gained while carrying on ‘my’ academy in these fourteen years at Siracusa : ‘to learn’ a forgotten Italian as you learn a new language, crossing texts by Alfieri, Tasso, Ariosto about reciting and by Metastasio, according Nicola Vaccai’ method about singing, or Monteverdi with the ‘reciting singing’. And we are able again to speak, so that we begin to ‘talk on stage’ until we enter, we ‘contaminate’ – can we say ? – our everyday life.
The word then makes itself a ‘significant’ sound no longer singing it, makes itself three-dimensional through the sound, completely new : but getting to understand how the word – and which word – is necessary to convey a message, it takes time, it’s not immediate at all, it takes years…”
What is the goal ?
“It’s better not to getting caught by vague ‘external’ goals and this is difficult too, both for students and in general in our work. For me it’s necessary to have a dream, but also know what you want, what goal you want to aim for : it’s one of the things I ask my students to write and to keep under analysis; dreams are often unattainable but beautiful to imagine, while clarifying what you would like to be is important in order to adjust the shot in a profession which totally involves the life of each of us. Then theater is training, practice, study, also defeat and even failure, and digging deep is not a game, you don’t have to get hurt : mistakes however offer the opportunity we had overlooked… Until you get that ‘feeling’ that it’s okay, an ease that makes you light, incredibly powerful and almost happy, you just want ‘feeling’ it again.
The applause follows, heartfelt : maybe not the prize, it goes through very particular ways. Here, I am convinced that it’s essential we undertake the academy not as a ‘remainder’, the residual choice but as an opportunity to discover our talent and to offer ourselves a chance to work on it without saving, with intelligence.
In our classes, sometimes you need to be able to reassure them, maybe an attachment to the bad memory of being ‘silenced’ because when singing, or dancing they were said they made ‘noise’ or they were ‘out of tune’, and there they remained. On the other hand, when a student already knows the music or sings, he – or she - must be reassured because what he, or she, already possesses will not be lost, will not be forgotten : because this is often what students fear… So, also a lot of work for them to come to trust! Then satisfaction comes, for me it is to witness the discoveries they make while studying, and their reciprocal contagion, satisfaction is to hear their voices singing in the corridors, in the courtyard of our Academy, and even in the alleys of Siracusa!”
Two works by Aristophanes were staged this year : ‘The Peace’ (421 b.C.) at the ‘Greek Theatre’, and ‘Lysistrata’ (411 b.C.), final essay by the students of III year : is there a connection between the two texts ?
“Perhaps the most obvious connection is the urgency of finding peace : but the least obvious one, and often unobserved, is that of those who move the urgency, they are peasants who make the ground fruitable in ‘The Peace’ and, on the other hand, women in ‘Lysistrata’ as they generate children. How much sadness there is in ‘Lysystrata’, how much she herself is connected to nature and how, she too, would solve everything starting from love, from union, from wisdom. Lysistrata, as well as Trygeus in ‘The Peace’, finally realize that intervening is necessary to avoid the worst. This is also why I said that theater can have a social function.”
What part does memory have in acting, and how is cultivated ?
“Our memory collaborates and opposes itself at the same time : there are sentences, sounds, which suddenly come to the surface while you ‘are’ that specific character on stage, any actor knows that and there are different ways to make ‘memory’. I’m very attached to the movement sequence on the scene that I study with mathematical precision, just as I do with studying the text, I create appointments that I fix with repetition : so I alredy begin to build the character as I study, but it’s the director who helps me make it take shape, and working with the director means also to get to change your method. But more and more often the rehearsal period is getting shorter, then our preparation must be much more intensive to be able to get to the first rehearsal with our memory ready…
Becoming an accomplice to your character is essential, then the phrases come spontaneously and it’s a pleasure! In ‘The Peace’ by Aristophanes, where I actually played ‘The Peace’, the director didn’t like to end with a ‘merry’ party, as prepared - perhaps a little cruelly - by the ancient author : Daniele Salvo preferred infact to express worry, and fear too, the warning to a world that insists on dealing with war, for greed and dominance. So my final monologue is drawn from ‘The Phoenician women’ by Euripides (410 b.C), where Jocasta speaks to her sons Eteocles and Polynices. There is a sentence which remained in my heart, and which perhaps we should remember when looking at what happens around us every day : ‘My children, you are running towards a double disaster : lose everything you own, and fall while trying to take what you don’t have’”.
The prolonged applause of the audience, the clear and perhaps surprising success of this interesting theatrical edition brings us again, as a matter of facts, to the reality of a daily and well-known experience where very few support the much work required to make civilization.
Marina Bilotta Membretti / Cernusco sul Naviglio – September 19, 2023
 Elena Polic Greco graduated in 1999 from the ‘Accademia Nazionale d’Arte Drammatica “Silvio D’Amico”’ of Rome (among her Masters are Mario Ferrero and Vittorio Gassmann) : as a soprano voice, she perfected herself in ‘Singing’ at the A.N.A.D. ‘Silvio D’Amico’; her fluency in English, Spanish, French languages allowed her to be called (2017-2023) to the simultaneous translation into English of the performances on stage at the ‘Greek Theatre’ of Siracusa during the Theatrical Season. In 2021 she received the award RFA for best actress in the short film ‘Tragodia’ (Cinema, ‘Ortigia Film Festival’) : among others, her own participation in the movies ‘Bianco e Nero’ by Cristina Comencini (2007) and ‘Quale amore’ by Maurizio Sciarra (2005). With the ‘Orestiade’ by P.P. Pasolini (2008) she began acting in the Classical Performances at the ‘Greek Theatre’ of Siracusa, up to the latest ‘Prometheus chained’ and ‘The Peace’ (2023), ‘Oedipus Rex’ (2022), ‘The Bacchae women’ (2021), ‘The Trojan women’ (2019), ‘Phaedra’ (2016), ‘The Supplicants women’ (2015), ‘Coefore and Eumenides’ (2104), ‘Antigone’ and ‘Women at the Parliament’ (2013), ‘Prometheus’ and ‘The Birds’ (2012), ‘The Clouds’ and ‘Andromache’ (2011), ‘Lysistrata’ and ‘Phaedra’ (2010), ‘The Supplicant women’ (2009). At the Academy ‘Silvio D’Amico’ in Rome she was Assistant to the chair of ‘Singing’ for the Master Claudia M. Aschelter (2003-2007) and teacher of ‘Choral singing’ (2017); again in Rome for the ‘LUISS’ she was teacher of ‘Diction and Voice Education’ (2016-2020). In Siracusa, at the ‘Accademia d’Arte del Dramma Antico I.N.D.A.’ she is since 2010 teacher of ‘Singing, Diction and Reciting’ and since 2020 she is also Teaching contact with role of coordinator of external projects with students and teachers, carrying out in addition theatrical activities in the schools on behalf of I.N.D.A. Since 2013 she works together with the Lyceum (High school) ‘Quintiliano’ of Siracusa as an external expert.
 ‘The Peace’, by Aristophanes (421 b.C.), produced by I.N.D.A. www.indafondazione.org Direction: Daniele Salvo; Translat.: Nicola Cadoni; Scenes : A. Chiti e M. Ciacciofera; Costumes : D. Gelsi; Original music : P.M. D’Artista; Direction of the Singing Choirs : Elena Polic Greco (Coryphaea and Peace goddess in the final monologue) and Simonetta Cartia. Main performers : Giuseppe Battiston, Massimo Verdastro, Simone Ciampi, Martino Duane, Jacqueline Bulnès, Elena Polic Greco, Federica Clementi, Gemma Lapi. With the participation of the newly qualified students of the ‘Accademia d’Arte del Dramma Antico’ of Siracusa.
 ‘Prometheus chained’, by Aeschilous (460 b.C.) at care of I.N.D.A. Istituto Nazionale del Dramma Antico, directed by Leo Muscato – 2023 Theater Season / ‘Greek Theater’ of Siracusa.