UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII
Christa Eleftherakis plays Rosalind in University of Hawaii's production of "As You Like It."
College stage career ends with ‘big climax’
Christa Eleftherakis made her stage debut at the University of Hawaii three years ago wearing only bra and panties in the final scene of a late-night lab theater production, "The Most Massive Woman Wins."
'As You Like It'
Presented by UH-Manoa Department of Theatre and Dance
Place: Kennedy Theatre
On stage: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays, through April 29
Tickets: $16, with discounts for UH faculty/ staff, students, seniors and military
Call: 956-7655 or visit etickethawaii.com
This weekend, she ends her college stage career at Kennedy Theatre -- fully dressed, thank you -- as Rosalind in "As You Like It."
"I really feel like this is the big climax to my theatrical career at UH. This is the first leading role that I've ever had there, and the first Western mainstage show that I've been in," Eleftherakis said.
"I'm getting married a couple of months after this, and the character gets married (in the play) ... and since I did 'Most Massive Woman' I've lost 50 pounds. I just feel, all around, much better about myself, and everything about my college career coming to a head two weeks before I graduate."
Eleftherakis graduates with a master's degree in theater history. The research she did for her thesis "doesn't really have to do with theater as entertainment," she said.
She took a year off of performing to research the use of theater as non-violent protest in Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. Her work centered on a group that used acting techniques and improvisation to play a part in the overthrow of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.
"It was called 'Otpor' -- which means 'resistance' in Serbian -- and it started in Belgrade in 1998." she said.
Otpor began as a form of protest by a small group of college students, intended to be "very grass roots," she said. Young people in almost every Yugoslavian town would commit acts of civil disobedience, such as protests, rallies -- or spray-painting walls with anti-Milosevic and pro-Otpor slogans.
"The Belgrade Otpor group did a skit on Milosevic's birthday where they brought out a big birthday cake mocking him. They had a big telescope eclipsing Milosevic's face during an eclipse suggesting that his time was over, and they staged a play where they parodied Milosevic and his officers. ... They staged it in a theater and sold tickets."
Could an Otpor-like movement in this country help hasten the "regime change" many Americans are calling for? Eleftherakis thinks not, that Americans aren't "anywhere near that kind of a state."
"You already have to have a lot of political stuff in motion. I don't think it can necessarily set it in motion."
In the meantime, she says, many people think of theater -- comedy or tragedy, Shakespeare or contemporary improv -- only as entertainment.
"When you mention that a play can change the world, they laugh, and sometimes, very accurately scoff at it, as just a bunch of artistic people sitting around talking about all the problems in the world and blaming other people for it."
Otpor is not political theater in the sense of a controversial play that encourages discussion among viewers: "(Otpor) is really much more the product of a society (where) you are already in a revolution and in a time where you are helping to change your history."
Eleftherakis got another taste of what that feels like by talking with her fiancé's parents about their experiences during the end of communist rule in East Germany.
"They said you can't imagine what it's like when your whole world is being flipped around and everything that happens is like something in a movie."
Although political theater has a passionate following, many more theater-goers prefer entertainment over ideology. That is what is in store at Kennedy Theatre, as Eleftherakis and a similarly talented cast of student actors -- Savada Gilmore and Jordan "the Friendly Samoan" Savusa, to name two -- take the stage in one of Shakespeare's ever-popular comedies. The show also marks the UH-Manoa directorial debut of Paul Mitri, who has extensive credentials as an actor, director, choreographer and playwright.
In a statement, Mitri described the show as one of his favorite Shakespearean comedies, adding that "I am fascinated at exploring exactly why Rosalind does what she does to Orlando."
Rest assured, Hawaii, it isn't "political."