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Makriyannis Takes Center Stage at a Top US University

yannis makriyannis yorgos karamihos ucla
Yannis Makriyannis will take center stage at a performance by Yorgos Karamihos at UCLA on March 26. Credit: Public Domain

General Yannis Makriyannis, a hero of the Greek War of Independence, will be the subject of a performance entitled “Makriyannis Unplugged” in Los Angeles, at UCLA’s Freud Playhousen on March 26.

Acclaimed Greek actor, director, and acting teacher Yorgos Karamihos will perform the work “Makriyannis Unplugged” at the top university.

The work, which is a tribute to Makriyannis and was adapted from passages of his memoirs detailing life during the war against the Ottomans.

According to the UCLA Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center for the Study of Hellenic Culture, which is presenting the event, the work “renders the Greek hero of the nineteenth century our contemporary, a figure rooted in a local tradition but with a global significance.”

The unique work, which is offered under the auspices of the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Embassy of Greece in the United States, and the Consulate General of Greece in Los Angeles, “offers a raw theatrical experience that resonates with Makriyannis’ spirit, challenging and enriching our understanding of freedom, community, duty, and creativity.”

Apart from the UCLA Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center for the Study of Hellenic Culture,  the play is also sponsored by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center for Hellenic Studies at Simon Fraser University, and the Gennadius Library of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. It will be presented in English.

After the premiere in Los Angeles, the work “Makriyannis Unplugged” will be performed in Vancouver, Canada on April 3. The performance is sponsored by the SNF Centre for Hellenic Studies at Simon Fraser University, under the auspices of the Consulate General of Greece in Vancouver and with the collaboration of the Hellenic Canadian Congress of British Columbia.

Finally, the work will make its way to Athens, where two final performances of “Makriyannis Unplugged” will take place in the Gennadius Library of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens on April 14. The Athens performances are supported by a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Greece.

Greek hero learned to write just to work on his memoirs

Born Ioannis Triantaphyllou in 1797, the hero of the play got his nickname from his tall figure, which literally translates to “Long John” in English.

Makriyannis was a Greek merchant, military officer, politician and author, who is likely best known today for his wartime memoirs.

Aside from being an invaluable source of historical and cultural information on the period, Makriyannis’ memoirs have also been called a “monument of Modern Greek literature,” since they are written in pure Demotic Greek.

The literary quality of the memoirs led Nobel laureate Giorgos Seferis to call the writer one of the greatest masters of Modern Greek prose.

Stunningly, Makriyannis learned to write just so he could complete his memoirs. Although now considered extremely important texts, the memoirs had been hidden away in the basement of his home and were forgotten for fifty years.

It was only after a scholar named Ioannis Vlahogiannis discovered the memoirs with the aid of Makriyannis’ son that they were published. Vlahogiannis worked diligently to transcribe and edit the memoirs, and they were finally published in 1907.

The original manuscript was then donated to the Historical and Ethnological Society of Greece — from which it later disappeared.

Dedicated to fighting against the Ottoman occupation of Greece, Makriyannis joined the Greek uprising after being initiated into the Filiki Eteria secret society and was arrested and tortured by the Ottomans after he was sent to the Peloponnese for a secret mission in March 1821, but he managed to escape.

During the war, he reached the rank of general and led his men to notable victories. After Greek independence was gained, he had a tumultuous public career, playing a prominent part in granting the first Constitution to the Kingdom of Greece. He was later sentenced to death but was pardoned.

Yorgos Karamihos and “Makriyannis Unplugged”

Karamihos is an acclaimed actor who hails from northern Greece. A lifelong admirer of the theater, the Greek actor graduated from Ionian University with a degree in Philosophy and History, and also studied at the Greek National Theatre Academy.

Due to his great talents, Karamihos received the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship as an exceptional artist from Greece to study at the Stella Adler Academy of Acting & Theatre in Los Angeles. After studying there, he was asked to teach courses on an acting technique he had developed himself.

The Greek actor has played in countless works of theater, ranging from ancient Greek drama to Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams, both in Greece and abroad. He has also acted in film and television.

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