This post is also available in: Ελληνικα (Greek)
Interview with George Rigopoulos
I first met George in 2009 whilst on a trip to Skiros Island carnival, where two amateur theatrical groups from Athens were holding a meetup. At the time he was an introverted person, so we didn’t talk much. Later on, we met at several theatrical shows and events. We hadn’t been in touch for a long time after that as we were both studying abroad.
Eventually we met once again by both landing jobs within Greenpeace in Athens, we traveled with ”Rainbow Warrior” in Rhodes Island and participated in workshops. He was easily one of the best fundraisers, a true team player with humour and always brought unique ideas to the table! We did all sorts of work together even entertainers at children parties, we traveled meeting all sorts of unique characters.
George is an original person, very active, communicative and has a talent to inspire people to act! He is the kind of person that will never do something because society says you have to. He moved to Amsterdam in February 2017 and within the first year had already created Act Attack, a company offering acting and improvisation theatre courses and performances in English.
Recently we had a Skype meeting and he shared stories from his theatrical journey with me. Stories that inspire people to overcome their fears and to view life from another perspective.
We should take risks and action in our lives, in a more active and efficient way. I believe that fear holds us back and we need to fight against it.
Hello George! First of all, could you tell us how you got into theatre?
My first theatre experience was sixteen years ago, the same year that the Olympics took place in Athens. 😀 I had a friend who participated in a school theatre group and he convinced me to join. Until then, I was not very sociable. However, I had the will to try new things and improve myself to become more open and expressive. I wanted to overcome my social fears and I thought that theatre could help me.
Theatre is a therapy for the mind and soul. How did it help you to develop your personality?
Theatre is indeed therapy. Apart from learning theatre skills, it helped me a lot in my personal growth. I developed my expression and communication skills and learnt to work in a team. I had the chance to be more creative, by discovering new characters and roles, which helped me also to understand myself better. Working in a group, I learnt how to better connect and interact with other people, and become an active listener.
I had so many nice experiences in ten years with my group in Athens! We had a very inspiring theatre teacher, who helped us to express ourselves better as well as, to increase our self-confidence. And in general, performances helped us a lot to improve in public speaking.
Our performances were not just local, but everywhere across Greece. We participated in many theatre festivals, we visited many places and met many interesting people. In my opinion, that was very important to get out of your comfort zone, as we no longer performed in front of your friends but also in front of strangers. And in general, when you are on stage, it’s a great satisfaction to hear the applause at the end of a play. You feel a sense of accomplishment and a boost in confidence.
What was your first lead role in a show that played in Greece?
It took a while before I played a leading role. I started with very small roles and then gradually the director would give me bigger roles. My first performance ever was ”Romeo and Juliet”and of course back then I played a very small part. I got my first lead role towards the end of my experiences in Greece, two years before I left to go abroad. This was definitely a new exciting experience for me! The show was called: ”Young people wanted”. My last performance in Greece was also ”Romeo and Juliet”. This time, I played Romeo, and it was a parody.
What inspired you to create your theatrical school in Amsterdam, how did you start and how has it developed?
I came to Amsterdam with the prospect of finding better working conditions. I never would have imagined that I would end up working professionally in theatre. Even though I liked theatre, I was probably dissuaded by giving it a try due to the critical situation in Greece. My first job was in sales and customer service, a field in which I already collected experience in Greece.
At the same time, as I missed my theatre group, I decided to create a theatrical group In Amsterdam. It started through a Facebook group. I organized a get-together once a week. I invited people that loved theatre to gather and swap ideas and to create some sort of theatrical game, that I organized myself. It was a volunteer group and we shared the costs for the rent of a space.
Over time the group was getting a lot of interest, more and more people started coming. Then I started searching for volunteer teachers to help us create a show. Slowly but steadily the interest in our group grew and in November 2017 we created our first one: ”The Spectacular Spectacle of the Marvellous Dancing Skeleton”. The teacher had the idea that everybody could create their own character. It was improvisation that turned into a beautiful collective performance. That is how Act Attack started…
Then I took the risk and I created a company. A few months after, I left my full-time job and decided to be a full-time entrepreneur. I created a website, found professional teachers and planned a schedule with more classes. At the moment, we have a variety of theatre courses for both beginners and intermediates. We started in September 2017 with just one acting class and now we have ten different courses, including some new ideas like voice, musical and dance improvisation.
What does Act Attack mean to you?
Basically as the title indicates, it means that we should take risks and action in our lives, in a more active and efficient way. I believe that fear holds us back and we need to fight against it. That is the main goal of Act Attack, to help people make their dreams happen in a decisive manner.
What is the biggest challenge that you have faced so far during your Act Attack journey?
My biggest concern is having enough students to fill the classes. It’s always a risk, because I have to book the studios for the whole year in advance, without being certain that the classes will be full. The planning also has its difficulties, it’s not easy to find good and affordable studios. There are only a few spaces available in Amsterdam and there is a lot of demand.
What is your criteria for choosing directors in Act Attack?
First, I want Act Attack’s teachers to have a lot of experience. But what is most important to me are the people themselves. I want our teachers to be very friendly, good people, down to earth, motivated in what they do and inspiring for the students. The philosophy of Act Attack is not to be only a theatrical school, we are a community which means that we are all equal and everyone as a voice to share their opinions which helps the community as a whole.
Is it easy for someone to turn a hobby into a career?
I believe that nothing is easy in life, but if you really want something, the universe will be on your side. Risk favours the brave! And to risk feels natural if you do it for what you love. I discovered that through helping others increase their confidence, my own confidence also grew! And then when your hobby becomes your career, the easiest way to cultivate your passion is to keep learning, keep mastering and keep innovating.
Does Act Attack organize any other events?
I like to be sociable and bring people together through creating events such as house parties, boat parties and whatever makes people happy. We see that nowadays people spend more time looking down at their phones than looking at each other, which makes them more distant and less present. It’s in our hands to change this! I think that with social activities and groups like this we can help people come together in a more traditional way.
One of the events that I organized was ‘Eye contact’. It was an initiative of a non-profit organisation, which organises this event once per year in World Peace Day, with the goal of bringing people together in daily life. Ι applied to organise this event in Museumplein Park and invited many people through social media.
Also for the first time this year, I decided to collaborate with my friends from Stemajourneys and organise a new experience for all theatre and travel lovers: holiday trips in Greece in combination with improvisation workshops. On one of the trips, we will visit Epidaurus, the place where European theatre is born, and where one of the most ancient theatres is located.
When your hobby becomes your career, the easiest way to cultivate your passion is to keep learning, keep mastering and keep innovating!
How important are the theatrical trips for the bonding and the development of the team?
I believe that it’s very important to participate in these activities, because it’s difficult to build relationships only during classes or workshops that last two months. I think that during trips there is a better opportunity to get to know better one another. Moreover, it is not only a creative and educational activity, but is also a holiday where people can be easy going and care free.
Have strong friendships been built through theatre?
Of course! I’ve noticed that people have created very nice relationships and this is special for Amsterdam. In general, in Northern Europe, the lifestyle is different when compared to Southern Europe. Perhaps they are more closed and it’s harder to build a friendship, especially when you are not local and you have a different culture.
Nowadays, in big cities, people are also very busy and have unlimited options. And the Dutch are so organised that you have to plan a coffee with them two weeks in advance. 😀😀
In Αct Attack, we have good time and we build real connections with people. Ιt is a multicultural team and this broadens our horizons.
What are your future plans for Act Attack?
In general, I don’t like to see very far ahead. I like to live in the present. However, in the future, I would like to keep on helping more and more people to improve their daily lives. I see that at Act Attack some people started like me, they were an introverts in the first class. And then, class by class, they change and become more extroverts as we motivated them to see life from a different perspective, to go out of their comfort zone. In the future, I would like Act Attack to be a big and strong family oriented community that has a positive impact in people lives.
George thank you very much for sharing your stories and ideas with us. I hope to come and see the next performance in Amsterdam!