- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 13, 2006

“Leave Your Myth in Greece” is the latest slogan being used to lure tourists to her homeland, says Greek Tourism Minister Fanny Palli-Petralia. “We had twenty percent more visitors this year after a drop last year,” she boasted at Monday’s dinner before a performance of “The Persians” by the Shakespeare Theatre Company.

Better a myth than the reality offered up by Aeschylus’ 2,500-year-old drama, the oldest play in existence, which dwells on ravages of war as a reminder of mankind’s folly in the face of unlimited ambition.

It was “Greek night” at the theater; the production was partially sponsored by the Onassis Foundation, a cultural institution dedicated to promoting Hellenic ideals and the spirit of democracy. Its Athens president, Anthony Papadimitriou, was present, along with such official and diplomatic luminaries as Greek Ambassador Alexandros Mallias; former Greek Ambassador Loucas Tsilas, who is the Onassis Foundation’s U.S. head; British Ambassador Sir David Manning and Lady Manning; Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; and National Intelligence Director John Negroponte (who is of Greek descent). Even the menu served up on “Greek blue” tables on the ground floor of the City Museum promoted that land’s culinary pleasures.

Family feeling was high because “The Persians” was directed by Ethan McSweeny, one-time assistant to the theater’s artistic director, Michael Kahn, and the majority of characters were portrayed by longtime members of the company. “I thought the play would suit this city and this time and especially this company,” Mr. McSweeny told the dinner audience. “I had in mind a number of actors who were my great mentors,” added the director, 35 but already nationally acclaimed in his profession

“They know all my tricks, and I know theirs,” he said with a laugh later at the cast party at Zaytinya restaurant.

Ann Geracimos

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