From Herodion Atticus theatre and Piraeus st. to Malakasa no event shall take place without their contribution. Even if their name will never enter the formal program, they are indispensable factors for cultural events.
Three meters below Herodion scene, two cartons hold the best kept secret of the cleaning crew. Inside them, are still 27 kilos of chewing gum that the crew removed from the stands of the ancient theater five years ago. Back then the arduous task had been the favourite headline of cultural magazines and, needless to say, managed to shake up visitor habits. “The shock probably worked. Even today we find chewing gum stuck to the marble, but the amount is minimal”, says Katy Vavalea, head of the theater, who together with Thanasis Karabelas (of GEN-KA S.A.) coordinates the effort.
They both welcome us at Herodion just when the 10 crew members rush to clean the orchestra from the rain and sweep the stands with dry cloth. It is the afternoon shift and they are just doing their job. What seems, to the random witnesses, to last an eternity, is routine work to them. Although they seem to slalom in the slippery Herodion with cloths in hand, half an hour later they stand comfortable in a theater ready to host the concert of the day. Extreme weather conditions is the biggest nightmare for the cleaners, who in such cases can count up to thirty. Take for instance, the heavy rainfall for 45 days in 2003. They had to collect all cushions from the stands daily, keep them in bags for hours and place them back in the same place after the rain (ever since the following year the problem has been solved, using a patent by Mrs Vavalea: waterproof cushions).
The cleaning crew is not the same in every festival, since applications for work are renewed annually. There are, however, the “old ones” – like Mrs Georgia, who – for the last ten years- has been helping her younger colleagues to adapt, and the “addicted”, like Florian, who worked in Romania in winter and now at Herodion. On all the big plays they should all remain at the theater after midnight and then the norm of solidarity takes action: he who has got a car serves the others.
It is an alternative stock company that goes to and from the singers and actresses’ dressing rooms, provides for their needs, eliminates stress before they go on stage, doing an unusual backstage support without asking for autographs. While the artist stands before the public, members of the crew clean the toilets, silently picks up garbage and empties the large jars at the entrance, which from this year on are used for recycling. The unwritten rule among them is: “nothing is thrown away at Herodion.” That is why all the lost items are returned to the their owners the following day. Not a difficult task for a Herodion caretaker to find a spectator’s credit card. Not even compared to the daily laying down and removing of 300 sq.m. of muddy lawn for the needs of a performance – it just happened nine years ago in Pina Bowes’ “1980”.