Demetrios Sirilas: stage star on the rise
Greek Australian actor Demetrios Sirilas chats to Neos Kosmos about his latest play The Motherf**ker with the Hat
Actor Demetrios Sirilas couldn't be more different from his character in his upcoming performance on The Motherf**ker with the Hat. The Greek Australian grew up in the culturally diverse western suburbs of Melbourne in Footscray, while Julio, the character he plays in the foul-mouthed play is a New York Puerto-Rican with some very interesting friends.
The American play written by Stephen Guirgis, tells the story of Jackie and Veronica, a wayward couple addicted to each other, drugs and alcohol. Against all odds, nothing can tear them apart. Until Jackie comes home to find a hat on Veronica' bed, and accuses her of adultery.
When asked about how he has been preparing for his role, Sirilas reveals that while being foul-mouthed doesn't come naturally for him, he feels that he could connect with the character.
"Julio is someone involved with people on the wrong side of the tracks, but still knows who his friends are and like the other characters, is striving to better in life."
Sirilas attributes his love of acting from growing up in a vocal Greek family, where there's always a story being told.
"Growing up in a Greek family, story telling is such an integral part of the culture. Anytime the family gathers around, like during Easter, there's always an uncle or grandparent telling you stories," he recalls.
Naturally picking up his family's love of story-telling, it only made sense for Sirilas to tell stories through acting. The actor graduated with a degree in 2008 from Sydney's National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), where he studied for three years. From there, he quickly gained roles with the acclaimed Sydney Theatre Company, where he received accolades for his performance in the contemporary play Gallipoli and Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus amongst others.
Despite his relatively short career span, Siliras confidently claims the most rewarding part about being an actor is being a conduit for an art form that provides the masses with an alternative commentary on today's society.
"That's the beauty of Motherf**ker with the Hat... Some people avoid seeing a play because they see theatre as a kind of entertainment only the arty types are into. But the language and topics in this play is very accessible. Anyone can understand swear words!" he says.
Theatre's ability to be inclusive extends beyond the stage, Siliras adds. The actor recently worked on a physical theatre with the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, a sort of alternative physio therapy targeted towards people with cerebral palsy. "The experience was eye-opening, it reminded me how lucky we are with what we have. It was a great experience to be able to use acting methods to help [people with cerebral palsy] express their hopes and dreams."
Despite having made appearances in Channel Ten's police drama Rush, Siliras admits the theatre stage is his forte at the moment. He describes how despite the longer running time of television series, actors have more time to be practice and be familiar with their characters in theatre.
"You just get more time to practice in theatre, whereas you're always chased by commercially-driven deadlines on TV productions."
The actor hopes to continue his journey towards becoming an established Greek- Australian stage actor. But while he wants his "Greek-ness" to be acknowledged, he doesn't think "ethnic actors" should be put in their own separate category. Instead, actors should be considered by how good they are at their craft, and "not be limited to the roles they get because of their ethnicity".
Siliras adds that the theatre tends to be more ethnically diverse than television, where long-running shows like Neighbours and Home and Away have been accused of whitewashing characters, while shoving ethnic characters into stereotypical roles.
"There is a need to make ethnic actors part of the 'normal' on television, which the theatre has had more success in doing."
As for preparations for his upcoming role in Motherf**ker with the Hat, the chatty actor admits he has had to practice his swear words quite a lot.
"It's harder than you think, trying to say them in a New York Puerto-Rican accent. And I'm going to invite my family to see the performance; I just hope yia yia and pappou don't get too shocked when I drop a C-word or two."
The Motherf**ker with the Hat will premiere in Australia at Friday 8 June to Saturday 7 July at the Red Stitch Theatre, Rear 2 Chapel St, St Kilda, Melbourne. For bookings and more information go to www.redstich.net.
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