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Marthilia Svarna: Storytelling in New Languages

Marthilia Svarna has experienced theatre in many languages and countries. She grew up in Greece and studied in England before coming to The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute Los Angeles. Strasberg is “the only place that feels like home in the US,” for Marthilia. The faculty and staff made her feel welcomed and accepted. Her Method Acting training continues to help her in her daily life. “What I learned from teachers- like sensory, relaxation, and different exercises- I do it in my daily life.” Strasberg “really prepares you for the real world…” and The Method gave her a strong foundation to do all kinds of theatre work, including playwriting. In fact, she began playwriting while studying at Strasberg.

Our Basement Poster- USA
Our Basement Poster (LA)

While in New York, Marthilia wrote a play called Our Basement. Through conversations with and encouragement from staff members at Strasberg, the play ended up premiering at LSTFI’s Marilyn Monroe Theatre in 2018. Set in 1969 New York City, the play follows the story of two painters, Brian and Carol. When Brian gets drafted for the Vietnam war, he escapes to Paris, France, where an art critic he is in love with lives. As they go about their lives, “they communicate through phone calls… they lives apart but have parallel moments.” A Greek review of the play describes it as a depiction of “the youthful frenzy of art, the insecurity of artists, and the wrong choices they can make when rushing to become famous and earn money.” Click to read the full article on Marthilia.

Directed by Sharon Angela, LSTFI faculty member, and starring Marthilia as Carol and Paul Rush as Brain, Our Basement was well supported by the staff and students of Strasberg. Putting on your own show “is really bloody difficult,” says Marthilia. Because Marthilia also worked with Sharon in Method Acting classes, she learned how to “switch boxes” between student, playwright, and actor. “At Strasberg we learned to trust our scene partner and be a good scene partner in return,” and, for Marthilia, this mentality translates to working with other artists as well.

Write for yourself, it’s like taking control of your own career… I feel very powerful doing this.

Marthilia Svarna, LSTFI Los Angeles Alumna

Bringing Our Basement Home

Our Basement Poster (Athens)

Since returning to Greece, Marthilia remarks, “I make sure to stay busy, an actor needs to act.” Thankfully, she’s had the opportunity to reprise the role of Carol in Greece. The Altera Pars Theater in Athens, Greece put on Our Basement, translated into Greek by Marthilia herself. It took “five to six months to finish the translation.” In transferring Our Basement to a Greek audience, Marthilia had to change some of the plot to be more relevant. “There is a difference in cultures,” and there is a different story to tell Greek audiences.

“Everyone in the world respects Strasberg;” being able to saying her play was put up at Strasberg helped her find a producer in Greece that would want to put on Our Basement and remain open to collaboration. At some points it was hard for Marthilia to let go of her work. “I fell so exposed. It’s my work and feel very fragile.” But through the lessons she learned at Strasberg, she was open to collaboration with other artists for the betterment of her show. Although it might have been hard to trust someone else with her work, Marthilia regards producing Our Basement in both Los Angeles and Athens as exceptionally positive experiences; “It’s nice to be able to rely on the people you are working with.”

Looking to the future, Marthilia wants to keep acting and creating her own work. “There are so many different jobs out there in theatre.” She has enjoyed maneuvering between different theatrical roles with the tools and values she learned at Strasberg.

Production Photos from Our Basement (Athens)

The Alumni Blog for LSTFI Los Angeles is run by Aly Homminga.

If you have an interesting story and you think you should be featured please contact Aly at [email protected].

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