Lazaridis, Stefanos (1 of 9) An Oral History of Theatre Design
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2007-09-29, 2007-10-05, 2007-10-09, 2007-10-10
Interviewee’s accommodation, London
Lazaridis, Stefanos 1942-2010 (speaker, male)
Wright, Elizabeth (speaker, female)
Part 1: Stefanos Lazaridis [SL], born Dire-Dawa [DD], Ethiopia in 1942; Greek family’s origins in Asia Minor; emigration at the end of 19th century. Mention that family lived in DD until 1974 when Emperor Haile Selassie I was overthrown; SL’s departure from Ethiopia in 1960 to attend international school in Geneva; subsequent move to Britain to take GCEs; intention of studying business administration; enrolling instead at the Central School of Speech and Drama [CSSD] in 1961 to study stage management; intention to become a director; subjects studied. Mention of Principal, Gwyneth Thurber; visiting lecturers: John Gielgud [JG], Corinne Redgrave [CR], Vanessa Redgrave [VG], Lynn Redgrave, Francis de la Tour [FT]; having an interview with JG and showing him a portfolio of design projects; being sent by JG to see Sir David Webster at the Royal Opera House [ROH]; letter of recommendation from JG to Sir Frederick Ashton; meeting Sir Peter Schaffer and being offered work assisting Michael Annals [MA] on the Royal Hunt of the Sun [RHS] at Chichester Festival Theatre; leaving CSSD to work on RHS, directed by John Dexter. SL’s enthusiasm; lack of enthusiasm in theatre design graduates today. Mention of Disley Jones [DJ]; comment about MA and DA as designers of the day; working with MA in the West End; Binky Beaumont; Donald Albery. Working with Nicholas Georgiadis [NG] on Romeo and Juliet, Aida and The Trojans at ROH, starring Rudolph Nureyev, Margo Fonteyn and Lynn Seymour. Working with Barry Kay [BK]. Mention that Richard Hudson became NG’s assistant later. Mention of Philip Prowse and Yolanda Sonnabend [YS]. [0:10:53] Story about encouraging the exhibition of young designers’ work at the Wright Hepburn Gallery [WHG] in Belgravia; Turandot exhibition which led to first job; previous jobs at small theatres; The Summer in Smoke by Tennessee Williams at Guildford Theatre starring Sian Phillips. Mention of first job at ROH designing a ballet with Anthony Tudor [AT]; being told to work in repertory theatre. Mention that ballet with AT was the Knight Errant [KE] with David Wall; encouragement from NG and critic Nigel Gosling; feelings about design for KE. [0:16:25] People who bought SL’s designs; Roy Strong; continuing to work as an assistant before being contacted by director John Copley [JC]; doing projects; being asked to do a project on Carmen for JC; contract to design Carmen at the London Coliseum [LC] for three hundred pounds in May 1970. [0:21:28] Parents’ attitude to SL’s change of career; surviving as an assistant. [0:22:40] Mention that SL’s father died in 1982; his success from humble origins; lack of understanding of SL’s career. Father’s name Nicholas Lazaridis [NL]; mother’s name Alexandra Lazaridis [AL]; NL’s eventual acceptance of SL; financial support for NL at the end of his life; NL’s comments about SL. Difficulties of working in Britain; language difficulties; competition; Jocelyn Herbert; Michel Saint-Denis. Comments about working at an amazing time in British Theatre; Theatre of Cruelty; Kenneth Tynan; VG; motivation to succeed. Story about buying the rights to a banned play, The Atrides; finding a literary agent, Eric Glass and setting up productions of the piece; Peter Brook; Anna Proclemer; Marie Bell. [34:40] Going to primary school; attending secondary school in Addis Ababa; being a ‘problem child’; childhood interests; reading; classical music; Shakespeare recordings; cinema. Not going to the cinema now; the films LS saw as a child; 1940s and 1950s cinema; not working in cinema. Remark about parents not owning books. Description of SL’s childhood home in DD; comparison to The Sopranos; SL’s bedroom; sharing with his sister; SL’s office; owning a tape recorder; reading Zola, Balzac; Dickens; Sweig. Description of casting imaginary plays; reading at night. Description of NL praying nightly in SL’s bedroom; paintings in childhood home; local painter. [0:48:06] Sisters: Irene [IL], two years younger than SL and Gabriella [GL], eighteen years younger than SL. Mention that GL is a lecturer in sociology in Leicester; SL’s relationship with GL; SL’s paternal grandfather, Stefanos [StL]. Story about how maternal great grandfather adopted paternal grandmother from an orphanage in Smerna; facts about SL’s family that remain unsaid. NL’s first work as a delivery driver; his factory; success at business; the confiscation of his assets during the coup d'état in 1974; NL’s failure to move his money outside of Ethiopia; his faith in the country; NL’s flat in Athens where SL’s parents lived when they left Ethiopia. Description of NL’s personality; his appearance; his comments about SL’s appearance. [1:00:39] Paternal grandmother, Maria; maternal grandfather’s business as a barber; his shop. Mention that paternal grandfather died when SL was two; description of maternal grandmother; visits to her house; Description of the house; playing her opera records. [1:06:12] The first opera SL saw was Rigoletto at Sadler’s Wells in 1960; seeing La Boheme [LB] at La Monnaie; school plays; how they affected SL; lack of culture in SL’s life as a child. Being unhappy as a child; parents’ attitude to SL’s interests; influence of family friend, Dr George Dassios [GD]. Spending time talking to GD; his recommendation that SL should see a psychiatrist; visit to sanatorium; researching sanatoriums later with Tony Palmer [TP]; visit to sanatorium in Frajous, France; decision not to stay. Struggle to get over small-town society in which SL grew up.
Life story interview with Stefanos Lazaridis (1942-2010), theatre designer.