Lyssiotis, Tes

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

LYSSIOTIS, Tes

PERSONAL: Married, 1974; children: two. Education: Rusden State College, Melbourne, degree in teaching.


ADDRESSES: Home—33 Lorraine Drive, East Melbourne, Victoria 3151, Australia. Offıce—Box Hill Senior Secondary College, Dunloe Avenue, Mont Albert North 3129, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: Playwright and director. Secondary school teacher, 1975-81 and 1983. Drama consultant for Knox Region, 1980; playwright-in-residence, La Mama Theatre, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1984, and La-Trobe University, Melbourne, 1991. Founder of Filiki Players, 1984; member of La Mama Committee of Management. Guest director of Hot House Theatre.


AWARDS, HONORS: Australian Writer's Guild AWGIE nomination, 2003, for Paradise.


WRITINGS:

PLAYS

I'll Go to Australia and Wear a Hat, produced in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1982.

Come to Australia, They Said, produced in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1982.

Hotel Bonegilla, produced in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1983.

On the Line, produced in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1984.

The Journey, produced in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1985.

Café Misto, produced in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1986.

A White Sports Coat (produced in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1988) Currency Press (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1988.

The Forty Lounge Café (produced in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1990), Currency Press (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1990.

The Past Is Here, produced in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1991.

Zac's Place (for children), produced in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1991.

Blood Moon (produced in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1996), Currency Press (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1996.

A White Sports Coat and Other Plays (contains AWhite Sports Coat, The Forty Lounge Café, and Blood Moon), edited by Carolyn Pickett, Currency Press (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1996.

Paradise, produced in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 2002.


Also author of radio play A Small Piece of Earth, 1990.

ADAPTATIONS: Adaptations of the plays The Forty Lounge Café and A White Sports Coat for radio production on Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) Radio.


SIDELIGHTS: Greek-Australian playwright, director, and pioneer in multilingual theater Tes Lyssiotis was quoted in Contemporary Dramatists as commenting: "I grew up aware that I wasn't just Greek and I wasn't just Australian—I'm both." Her biculturalism is apparent in her plays, which have been performed primarily in Melbourne, Australia. However, according to the Contemporary Dramatists contributor, Lyssiotis does not "want to be labelled as 'multicultural.' I want to be regarded as an artist, and the fact that I am working on things to do with migrants is irrelevant. It could just as well be elephants or disabled people."


Lyssiotis is the daughter of a woman who left Greece for Australia in 1949, and she writes from her experiences being raised in Australia in the Greek cultural tradition. I'll Go to Australia and Wear a Hat depicts the trauma faced by many women émigrés from southern Europe who were led to believe that in Australia they would find "a paradise, a place where men made money and women got to be ladies with fine jewellery and sophisticated hats." In fact, they discovered the reality of menial, low-wage employment. The play, a semi-documentary, incorporates statements taken from editorials, parliamentary debates, and letters published in newspapers expressing the bigotry of Anglo Australians toward non-English-speaking migrants during that era.


Drawing on the experiences of several Italian actors in her cast, Lyssiotis wrote Come to Australia, They Said, which depicts the effects of World War II on Italian immigrants to Australia, their subsequent imprisonment as enemy aliens, and the deepening cultural gab between generations of Italian Australians. Hotel Bonegilla exposes the degradation and difficulties faced by more than 10,000 migrants of thirty-two nationalities who, in 1947, lived at Bonegilla in the infamous camp that relied on temporary army huts until employment and permanent housing could be found. The play was produced in Melbourne, Australia, in 1982, and was revived in a special performance to commemorate the Back to Bonegilla Celebrations in 1997. While writer-in-residence at La Mama Theatre in 1984, and as a result of a year spent with female migrant factory workers, Lyssiotis was commissioned to write On the Line, a play depicting these workers' lives and experiences. A year later, she penned The Journey, a collage of events taken directly from her previous productions. This was her first play to tour in Australian states other than Victoria, and it brought her national, if not necessarily positive, recognition. However, according to the Contemporary Dramatists contributor, "it was not until the German periodical Theater Heute described [The Journey] . . . as 'a synthesis, by minimal means, of history and individual fates, of stage play and reality, as it is seldom seen in Germany' that the importance of [Lyssiotis's] work began to be fully recognized."


Lyssiotis was also commissioned by Melbourne's Playbox Theatre to write The Forty Lounge Café. Told in flashback, and often incorporating Greek songs and dialogue, the play depicts the often-humorous experiences of Lyssiotis's own mother when she worked in her brother-in-law's fish-and-chips store in rural Australia. In a departure from her earlier work, Blood Moon, the third play in a trilogy including The Forty Lounge Café and A White Sports Coat, is set entirely in Greece and addresses the more universal experiences of family dynamics, loss, and grief through the interactions of four sisters with widely dissimilar lives, who come together at their ancestral home ten years after the death of their mother. Bronwen Beechey wrote for Greenleft.org that the play "represents an important and growing strand of an increasing number of plays by women writers which focus on female experiences; it is also a part of a movement toward a theatre in which writers from non-English speaking countries are increasingly finding a voice."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Contemporary Dramatists, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.


PERIODICALS

Australasian Drama Studies, 1988, Tony Mitchell, interview with Lyssiotis, pp. 5-15; April, 1996, Carolyn Pickett, interview with Lyssiotis, pp. 79-85.


ONLINE

Greenleft.org,http://www.greenleft.org/ (October 28, 2004) Bronwen Beechey, review of Blood Moon.