“Aspects of Tragedy in Stage Costume Design” and the True Story of the Designer-performer
In Spring 2019, my students started working on a costume exhibition project called: “Αspects of Tragedy in Stage Costume Design”, which was planned to be part of the SKG Bridges Festival of Thessaloniki. The main inspiration and reference emerged from Ancient Greek Drama and its famous characters, heroes, heroines, gods, goddesses and mythical creatures.
The exhibition was envisioned as providing an alternative and independent visual interpretation for the performance Our Inner Tragedy directed by Yannis Didaskalou with costumes designed by Natalia Palantza. My students’ work was an exhibition of costumes and costume installations, relying on a personalized interpretation of the above mentioned subject and a desire to experiment with materials, forms and visual elements.
The exhibits aimed at instigating a dialogue about the contemporary critical interpretation of Ancient Greek Drama through costume. In addition, the students perceived tragedy itself as a tangible component of daily life and experience beyond pure fiction and mythology. As a result, they approached the exhibits with their own perception of the tragic elements as they confronted them in their own lives, and some of the final outcomes developed further into challenging art projects and performances.
Using the above parameters, this presentation is an attempt at examining how we interpret and deal with aspects of tragedy mediated through stage costumes or costume installations. Furthermore, it examines how the personal life of the designer is reflected. The purpose is to describe and analyze the creative process of preparing the exhibits, while tracing the true stories of the designers and performers behind them. The research is linked to the history of costume design for Ancient Greek Drama and explores basic design dilemmas faced by the contemporary artist. The complexity of the Ancient Greek dramatic persona set in a contemporary stage and interpreted through costume, leads us to reevaluate issues prevalent in Ancient Greek drama: the power of fate, mania, ritual and catharsis, not only on an artistic but also on a personal existential, metaphysical level.
Chryssa Mantaka is a graduate of the German Language and Literature Department, of the School of Drama and Doctor of Theatre Studies (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki), and a stage and costume designer. She also studied shoe design at the Ars-Sutoria School of Milan, Italy. Chryssa has worked as a Shoe Designer (HELEXPO Award 1991) and she has collaborated with important theatres such as National Opera of Sofia, National Theatre of Northern Greece, the Chamber Opera, the Music Foundation of Thessaloniki, and many private experimental theatre groups and music bands. She is currently an Assistant Professor in Costume Design at the School of Drama and the School of Film Studies at Aristotle University, conducting research on theatre and folk traditions. She participated in exhibitions of the “Melina Merkouri Foundation”(2003) in “Balkan Bridges”(2006-7) Krajujevac and in “Traces of the Ephemeral” National Theatre of Northern Greece (2018). Chryssa curated and supervised many exhibitions of stage costumes and designs by students of the School of Drama, i.e “Costumes Tell Stories” Moni Lazariston Festival (2014). Recently, her students exhibited costume designs for Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll, a parallel event of the performance Alice, to da or not to Da, at the Prague Quadrennial 2019 (P.Q. Studio: Festival Damu Disk Theatre). Her scientific research work focuses on the semiotics of costume in the theatre, art and fashion, folklore studies, and theatre in education.
Publications of her work have appeared in the following publications and journals: Endymatologika, vol. 4 Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation, Nafplion, (2012), Mode und Bewegung. Beiträge zur Theorie und Geschichte der Kleidung, hg. V. Anna-Brigitte Schlittler und Katharina Tietze, Textile Studies, Imorde, Emsdetten/Berlin (2013),Endymatologika, vol. 5 Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation, Nafplion, (2015), Studies in Costume and Performance, 4.2, Intellect Limited (2019).