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Greek Shadow Puppet Theatre - Dimitri Katsoulis

Puppet - Samplan Agas

Image: Puppet - Samplan Agas

Source: Museum Victoria

Dimitri Katsoulis migrated to Australia in 1974 to escape a regime that repressed Greek artists. Dimitri had been involved in Greek Shadow Puppet Theatre since 1950, when he met Dimitris Mollas, son of the famous puppet master Mollas and himself a well-known player. Dimitri trained and travelled with theatre companies and had roles in films as an actor and technician in Greece.

After arriving in Melbourne, he worked at a metal factory, but his first love was children's theatre, and he quickly co-founded the Children's Theatre of Melbourne. The theatre folded but Dimitri continued to contribute to Melbourne's Greek cultural scene. He built his own puppet theatre using the puppets and props Greek puppet master Abraam Antonakos had left for him after his Australian tour in 1977.

Himself a master of the traditional Greek Shadow Puppet Theatre, Dimitri's performances explored, as well as the more traditional scenarios, contemporary issues such as women's equality, the isolation of migrant women and children, and the importance of educating Greek girls as well as boys.

Unable to obtain funding and support (perhaps the community found his themes too controversial), he returned to Greece in 1991, taking his puppetry secrets with him. Dimitri's final performance was held at Phillip Institute in the northern suburb of Coburg in Melbourne in 1991. However, he left his entire collection to the people of Victoria, 32 puppets and 170 props, set backdrops and technical tools and stage equipment. He has since returned to Australia and assists the Museum in documenting this rich art form within local and international contexts.

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