Anna Fonsou-Her Career And Her Big Dream Called “Actor’s House”

Interview by Vassilios Nicolaos Vitsilogiannis
(IG: @vassiliosvitsilogiannis)

Anna Fonsou was born on July 4, 1939 in Kaissariani, Athens, Greece. She is an actress, known for her roles in movies like “Her Private Life” in 1971, “The Tomboy” in 1959 and “The Boy I Love” in 1960. Anna Fonsou is still active professionally, performing on both stage and in the cinema. She loves to support those in need. She is the chairwoman of “The Actor’s House” foundation.

To start off our interview, could you please guide us through your childhood years and answer whether Anna Fonsou was the rebel in the family?

I would describe myself like the little match girl during my childhood years. I grew up on Tinos island. I was poor, so I went to a boarding school and I worked in the school by doing all chores and errands. In the summers, I would come to work in Kaisariani, a suburb of Athens. My father was a communist and lived in exile for a hefty number of years. My mother and sister suffered from tuberculosis, so I lived on my own for most of my young years. With my donkey, which I loved very much and named Adolfo Alfonso, I would go to the central market, filled the baskets with fruit and vegetables to sell them in Kaisariani. When my father returned from exile, it was that moment when I met Mrs. Katerina (Andreadi), a famous actress who played an important role in my life. She was the one who took us out of poverty, opened a shop for us, so we had to leave the shacks where we had lived in Kaisariani. From then until now, I had never complained about my life.

Did your parents support you in your decision to become an actress?

I had no choice, I became an actress for a living, I didn’t become an actress to be a star. But as soon as I stepped on the stage I loved theater very much, even to this day. My parents supported me after I made a living, I was with Mrs. Katerina (Andreadi), and I was also a good student. I quickly became famous so all this created a good image for my parents to accept my decision.

Who was the person who believed in you and motivated you to become an actress?

Mrs. Katerina (Andreadi) was the one who believed in me and show something in me. She sent me to Rontiri Drama School. I finished with honors. She helped me finish a private school, because I couldn’t go to public since I had enrolled to Rontiri Drama School in the mornings. That's why I will give the name ‘Mrs. Katerina’ to the new building annexed to the old one.

What are the collaborations you most vividly remember?

I have worked with almost every actor and some are not alive, so I remember them with sadness. I used to work more with Dinos Iliopoulos and Kostas Hadjichristos and these collaborations will be unforgettable. I liked working with comedians mostly. Apart from the mainstream acting roles I was involved in the "Proskenio" which was a project comparable to that of Art School (Theatro Technis). I was an active member for 17 years and it was my own production where everything I did was of a different style. There, I met Manos Hadjidakis, Arthur Miller, who had come from America to see me, and Alexis Solomos, a great Greek director. The best productions of art and literature were organized on “Proskenio”project.

Are you a bit peeved about some of the collaborations and some roles you didn’t play?

I haven’t been annoyed, I'm just greedy. My excessive indulgence to play as many roles as I can. I’ve acted in big roles but I’m mostly interested in Greek tragedy plays. Unfortunately, I didn’t work with the Greek National
Theatre, whose repertoire is Greek tragedy plays, but I was given the opportunity through the Municipal and Regional Theatres to play Clytemnestra, Lysistrata and other drama roles.

Did love, affection, family and friendship play an important role in your life?

Being in love played an important role and I have proven it. I’ve been married three times. That’s why when I wasn’t in love I was honest and left from that marriage. My former husbands are my best friends. Friendship has played a big role in my life, obviously, I’ve stepped on it a few times. I was deceived. If I were to be reborn, I would like to be in the same family I came from. Love is also important. Nothing can be done without love even in difficult times. You turn hardships into love and say never mind, you know that people love you so the hard times will pass. I have a daughter and a granddaughter who love me. But I also have a love for animals, but also for old helpless people. I have proved it because I direct the plays in the vision impairment association and having come that close to these people, I think they are healthier than us. They perceive things differently. They have a different weltanschauung.

How did the idea of creating the “Actor’s House” (To Spiti Tou Ithopiou) foundation spring up?

I was thinking about the loneliness of the artist at theater. When he never receives calls for work, when he is alone at home, when he has no family. Once I remember I met an actor at Kolonaki Square, we had a conversation and he told me I should open a café just for actors to get together. He continued saying to me that he had nothing to do since he wasn’t working at that time. He said he didn’t need food, but he wanted some company. He didn’t have a family either. So together with my sister, we decided that utilizing some of our savings to create a meeting point
such as “The Actor’s House” would be ideal. We also sold some properties we owned to raise more money to find a building for “The Actor’s House”. I turned to the Minister of Culture, he believed in my dream so he supported
it. On the other hand, Niarchos Foundation had promised to donate money but they never gave it to us. The Municipality of Athens had handed over a building to us but the neighbors protested, so they took it back from us. But I believed in this project and luckily I had some affluent friends who contributed to the realization of my dream which is “The Actor’s House” (To Spiti Tou Ithopiou). I strongly believe that if we really want something we
can achieve it.

What is to blame for the acting profession to be not as well-paid for in Greece as it is in other countries?

The main factor is that we are a small country in terms of population, while in other countries there are millions, where the profits for the producers are many. I don’t think our profession has ever been taken seriously. We, as
actors, are also to be blamed because without actors there is no theatre and we should not back down to the standards. In Greece, I believe that the repertoire we have it is not comparable to the one abroad. The new generation of actors is amazing. Greek actors are the best in the world.

We know that it is not feasible for “The Actor’s House” to support all actors, but what are the criteria for an actor to be supported?

“The Actor’s House” is a six-storey building and we are building another building next to it, where the rooms have been configured of a hotel type. Breakfast must be provided by us, lunch and dinner provided by the Municipality, but we also fill these meals in to make them more substantial. In order to maintain "The Actor’s House" the expenses add up to at least 15,000 euro per month. The criteria for hosting someone are based on their needs and situation. But everyone is welcome to come and spend time with us.

What εare some actions the “The Actor’s House”take and whether is there state support?

It has been two years now since the Ministry of Culture began supporting us and I hope it will continue. Of course, in the past 30 years we haven’t had any state funding. We do a lot of events, we have a garden outside where we do theatrical  performances, movie nights for both ourselves and the people who live in the neighborhood in the summer. For the past five years during summer we organize and hold big event  at the Odeon of Herodes με Atticus. It’s a big success. 5000 people fit the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and we have filled it each year.  Of course, these events are held to raise money, because it is not only the actors who live here, but also actors who live outside and visit us to have their meals and wash their clothes at our laundry room. We do spiritual work when we are all together. In και τα πλένουμε the new δίπλα building, we will make a library and create a και να small theatrical museum since we have many costumes. We give lectures and seminars for young actors, we teach foreign languages, English and Spanish, because not everyone has had  the opportunity  to learn a foreign languageς. 

What are your future plansσας personally and for “The Actor’s House”

As far as “The Actor’s House” is concerned, we want to finish the new building. I’d like to be the president as long as I live, but not to spend many hours at “The Actor’s House” since I get up in the morning and stay until 6  o’clock in the afternoon daily. Also, another plan is to build “The Actor’s House” in Thessaloniki. I don’t have much of a personal life. What I would like to do is to perform at the theater again because I haven’t been playing for so long  due to limited time. I want to organize my schedule so that I can return to stage which I love.

Are there volunteering opportunities available if someone feels like supporting your project?

I don’t believe in volunteering, εγώbecause I’m a centralized personality, but volunteers can come to see our work and whoever wants to can donate. Volunteering means that everyone contributes what they can, but we need only staff to be here daily, for example,  dish  to clean every single day. Volunteering will confuse our jobs. But now, that we are going to build the library, it would be a great pleasure for some volunteers to come  and sort the books.

We support any action of goodwill by the Actor’s House. We become better people when we contribute in our own way.

Do a good deed this time of the year. Christmas is just around the corner. Below you’ll find the way to support the Actor’s House. ALPHA BANK GR4501402280228002002002719
Το Σπίτι Του Ηθοποιού (Actor’s House)

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