New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
With advanced degrees in architecture and theatre and studies in dance, piano and voice, multi-talented, Greek-born Yiouli Archontaki’s life is steeped in the arts, ranging from architecture to Ensemble Based Physical Theatre to Flamenco. And puppetry and puppet design, too. Clearly, her life is on fire.
Archontaki, whose website hails her as “Actor. Architect. Activist!” fits it all in—as she did an interview about her \interesting creative life and art as human communication with GN.
GN: You have done and continue to accomplish much varied work. What is your goal in the arts?
YA: My goal is to bring people closer to theatre and to bring theatre closer to people. I believe in the power of theatre to transform the hearts and minds of individuals because through it, we cultivate a deeper understanding of human nature.
GN: What qualities do you strive to bring to theatre?
YA: I want to create theatre that is accessible to everyone. I want to create theatre that educates, informs, provokes awareness about the social issues of the time, and most of all, I want to create theatre that entertains the audience and makes people laugh.
GN: What were your professional beginnings?
YA: I was an ensemble member of the Danza Flamenca Groupo for 4 years, with who we performed dance theatre shows, adaptations of classical literature and Greek Mythology. As an ensemble member of this group I was awarded 1st place at the International Dance Competition Hellas 2008.
As a Physical Theatre actress, I participated at the multidisciplinary project Shadows in the City in the context of the Renaissance Festival in Rethymnon, Crete 2013 at an adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s “Notes from the Underground”.
GN: What is Physical Theatre?
YA: Physical Theatre is a form of theatre that puts the human body in the center of the storytelling. That doesn’t mean that Physical Theatre actors are solely corporeal mimes, nor that our performances do not incorporate text. It means that it is a form of theatre that doesn’t rely on text, but rather on the physicality of the performers.
GN: What are some examples of the work you have done in the U.S.?
YA: I have taken part in Mary Jane – A Musical Potumentary which won Best Musical at the Oregon Independent Film Festival in 2016. Directed by Emmy nominated film maker John Howarth, Mary Jane – A Musical Documentary explores the different facets of the marijuana industry in Humboldt County.
In 2016, I was a lead puppeteer for Wicked Lit 2016, by Unbound Productions, which was characterized by Los Angeles Times as “One of the best LA theatre productions for Fall 2016’. Wicked Lit takes place every year in the autumn, and it has been around for the past 8 years. Wicked Lit 2015 was “Ovation Recommended” by LA Stage Alliance, and the 2014 and 2015 productions won four Ovation Awards. The 2016 production received the Ovation Award for Puppet Design.
GN: What are your strengths?
YA: I am a multi-media artist, and my strengths are that I am easily adaptable and I can deal with the impossible!
GN: What are you currently working on?
YA: I’m currently training with the Actors’ Gang, guided by Founding Artistic Director, Tim Robbins. The Actors’ Gang has been around for the past 36 years, and has produced over 200 plays in Los Angeles, in forty-five U.S. states, and on five continents.
GN: I have heard of their “Prison Project”.
YA: Yes. They have an exceptional educational outreach program and the famous ‘Prison Project’ which was born in response to California’s huge recidivism rate. Amongst all, their work engages political humor, and in this respect, I’m looking forward to a long-lasting collaboration with them!
Yiouli Archontaki studied voice and classical piano at the Greek National Conservatoire. Her academic history: BA Hons in Architecture from Kingston University UK, a Postgraduate Diploma in Architecture from London Metropolitan University UK and an M.F.A. in Ensemble Based Physical Theatre from the Dell’Arte International School in Blue Lake California and was awarded the Carlo Mazzone-Clementi Scholarship for 3 years from the Dell’Arte International. She has a Flamenco Teaching Degree from by Spanish Dance Society in collaboration with the Trinity College London. She studied puppetry design, creation and manipulation in Bali, Indonesia.
Images are from Mary Jane, A Musical Potumentary, which received an award at the Oregon Independent FF 2016.
See a sizzle reel from Wicked Lit 2016 – ovation recommended and honorary ovation recipient for puppet design