A veritable pantheon of Greek goddesses descended upon the Urban Zen Foundation on Monday as Agapi Stassinopoulos enveloped her female audience in the warmth of their tempestuous passions and myths.
Standing in the lush, high-ceilinged loft of the Urban Zen Foundation with a crackling fireplace, surrounded by urbane New York City women and portraits of Greek goddesses, Stassinopoulos was in her element. Coiffed hair, a dazzling blue top and her acting school-cultivated magnetism drew everyone's gaze to her as she began her talk. Invoking the spirits of Mount Olympus' female residents, she reminded her audience that they would be happier and more whole if they sought to embrace all aspects of themselves rather than striving for elusive perfection.
Stassinopoulos made herself immediately relatable when she spoke of her past and her struggles with trying to break into acting. Despite graduating from the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, she recalled that casting directors didn't know what to do with her Greek accent, her exotic looks and her bolder-than-chorus but milder-than-lead-role stature. Caring for her nieces and taking on the caregiving role from her mother, she said she was overtaken by the goddess Demeter, the nurturer. Gradually, as she found balance and an individual voice in her life, she realized that all the Greek goddesses were present within her, as different aspects of her persona.
Pointing out portraits of the goddesses, Stassinopoulos elaborated on each of their defining characteristics: Artemis the independent nature lover, Athena the intellectual strategist, Aphrodite the passionate lover, Demeter the caretaker, Hera the dedicated wife, Hestia the homemaker and Persephone the lonely dreamer. Aphrodite, the volatile, seductive goddess of love, commanded special attention when Stassinopoulos spoke of being comfortable with yourself and loving yourself. She read aloud a poem that she had once written, when inspired by Aphrodite (and some vodka). A line goes, "I have no bonds or boundaries; I love whom I choose and when I want. I'm free in my love; I am in bliss."
In the warm glow of the fireplace and the feminine company, Stassinopoulos had her listeners close their eyes and try to uncover their hidden treasures. As the workshop progressed, audience interaction increased and Stassinopoulos encouraged all the women in the audience to write love letters to themselves, to be mailed back to them at an undisclosed time in the future. She passed around a microphone, asking the women what their gift to their fellow audience members was. One woman near the end said, "The more I see of the world, the more I feel that there are no strangers. There are only loved ones I haven't met yet."
With the talking, singing and dancing that followed, it's doubtful that many left there as complete strangers. And it's certain that no one left without embracing their inner goddess(es).
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