On the occasion of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death, the National Theater of Greece staged an unusual event at Omonoia, Athens's central square on April 23, joining worldwide tributes to the Bard of Avon.
In the middle of the square, a metal container especially designed and decorated for that purpose was set up not carrying merchandise, but a condensed capsule of Shakespeare's poetic universe.
Inside "Shakespeare's Room", 40 actors brought to life excerpts from 13 of his most famous plays, translated in Greek.
A vast variety of celebrations that honor the shakespearean legacy took place across the globe, with the leading example of London and New York.
In Athens, the spectators were asked to obtain their free-admission tickets one hour in advance from the tent that was set up a few meters away from the container, while the "pocket" performances lasted no more than half an hour each.
Stathis Livathinos, the artistic director of the National Theater, embraced the original idea of theatrologist and theater critic, Louisa Arkoumanea, and explained to Xinhua the rationale behind this special event.
"This was a very good opportunity for the National Theater to inspire and be inspired by William Shakespeare," Livathinos told Xinhua.
"That's why we, the actors of the National theater, are reading small extracts from Shakespeare's plays here, at the center of Athens, and so many people are so glad and enthusiastic about it. It's a beautiful day," he concluded.
An overwhelming number of actors and actresses of the National theater's cast responded enthusiastically and en masse to Livathinos's invitation, as none of this would be possible without their voluntary work.
They were all eager to experience this unusual and exhilarating theatrical reading. They entered the container in duets, trios or even groups of five, and took their place at the big table right next to their audience, away from the safety distance the stage usually provides.
Ektoras Liatsos, a young actor of the troupe, participated in a scene from Love's Labour's Lost. He told Xinhua what it was like to interpret Shakespeare in a container.
"It was a completely different experience from what the theatrical stage offers you," he stressed.
"People were really close to us and they watched us read from the text. So it was nice, they came closer to the way we worked and they had a better understanding of our work," Liatsos explained.
When asked what made him come to Omonoia and participate in this venture voluntarily, Liatsos said "I thought that being in a container in one of Athens' main squares and bringing to life texts like these for everyone to hear was very challenging."
The audience was a bizarre combination of puzzled passers-by, loyal theater-lovers, hesitant immigrants and trendy youth. Most of them entered the container in disbelief, but in the end all of them had nothing but exciting comments to make.
"I had never heard of something like this. Watching a play not in a theater, but in a metallic box was something that sounded interesting," Manos Galanakis, a student who watched a scene from Othello, told Xinhua.
"It was very ambient in there, because you were so close to the actors. In fact, it was like you also had a role in the play, like you were one of the them. You could feel their energy, their aura, every vibration of their voice, because in the dark your senses get sharper. It was a wonderful thing," he said.
Indeed, inside "Shakespeare's Room", the atmosphere was electric. The air was saturated with emotion, as the words hit the metal walls with unusual force. The audience almost held their breath and could feel every subtle nuance of the voice and temper of the shakespearean heroes.
It was the first time most people had the chance to find themselves in a confined space while the very essence of the theatrical act played out right next to them.
Effie Theodorou, the director of this venture, took up the mission of coordinating and directing this event heartily and managed to accomplish it in only 15 days. Her ambition is that "Shakespeare's Room" is only the beginning.
"For 12 hours we installed in Omonoia, the district of Athens where the signs of the Greek crisis are the most visible, this container in which theater lives," Theodorou told Xinhua.
"It was a marvellous idea and I believe we should implement it on a permanent basis. I would like to see this container stay here, as a living theatrical cell of the city, where the theater will support the city and its citizens with the light and the ideas of its poets," Theodorou described her vision.
Omonoia (meaning "concord" in Greek) square, a some-time pride of Athens, has been for the past 10 years the ill-fated symbol of the city's decadence.
A hangout of impoverished immigrants, a meeting point of drug addicts, a refuge to several homeless people: Omonoia is a place most Athenians only pass by, despite its convenient location at the center of the historical center and the architectural gems that surround it.
However, lately there have been many efforts to upgrade this underprivileged neighborhood and bring citizens and tourists back, as many cafes and restaurants have opened, big hotels were renovated and are about to resume their operation after long years of closure and artistic events, like "Shakespeare's room", choose Omonoia as their headquarters.
Is this iconic square of Athens finally going to regain its status of glory through such initiatives? It remains to be seen.