Demetra Louvrie was born in 1931 and grew up in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood. She attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and later finished her degree in education at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. She was exposed to Karagiozi shadow puppetry by her great-uncle, John Katses, who performed along Halsted Street in Greektown. She taught in Chicago at the Plato School in the Austin neighborhood and the Peterson Elementary School in the North Park neighborhood. The interest her great-uncle sparked in Karagiozi puppetry led her reach out to radio host George Kefalopolous, the last remaining repository of knowledge about the Karagiozi tradition in Chicago. Louvrie began studying Karagiozi seriously in 1975 and began teaching and performing the shadow puppet art professionally in 1981. She also reached out to Frixos Ghazepidhes, a master Karagiozi performer living in Greece, to learn various plays, performances, and the art of making puppets, and also joined him on tour during the 1980s. Louvrie created several English translations of the plays and also performed them for schoolchildren throughout Chicago under the sponsorship of the Illinois Arts Council. She worked to expand the plays to highlight Greek culture and history and use them to craft lessons relating to contemporary issues. Louvrie passed away on December 22, 2001 at her home in Melrose Park, Illinois. Karagiozi shadow puppetry originated as a Turkish art form and a common entertainment in Anatolia. Present day Turkey was once the Anatolian plain of Greece and beginning in 1000 A.D. Turkish tribes migrated from the Central Asian steppes and occupied Asia Minor. Mainland Greece was finally occupied by the Turks beginning in 1453. Karagiozi means "black eye" in the Altaic language spoken by Turks and became a popular form of entertainment in Greece. The earliest documented performance of Karagiozi in the Greek mainland occurred as early as 1800. Yannis Brachalis, a puppeteer and immigrant/refugee from Asia Minor, is credited with bringing Karagiozi to mainland Greece in 1853. Demetres Mimaros, the first Greek-born Karagiozi player, turned the shadow puppetry into a Greek art by enlarging the screen, the puppets, and creating heroic plays. There are two types of Karagiozi plays in the Greek tradition, comic and heroic. The plays reflect national character of Greece after the 1821 revolution when the country struggled to establish a national identity. Socio-political themes were satirized, and social types from the diverse population were immortalized in the twenty-five stock characters, which are each identified by distinctive stances and music. The regular figures of the Karagiozi performance were established between 1890 and 1910. Twelve of the twenty-five figures that were used were essential to the plays. These twelve include Karagiozis, Hatziavatis, Barba Giorgios, Kolitiri, Aglaia, the pasha, the old bey, Solomon, Stravrakas, Omorphonios, Dionisios, and Veli Gekas. Karagiozi, the most important character, is the fool-hero of the performance who is preoccupied with thoughts of food, money, and fighting. His elongated arm grew to its present length due to his fist fighting. The shadow screen for the performance consists of a sheet illuminated with a light placed behind it. There is a covered table set up in front of the screen and another behind the screen to serve as a stage and to hold the puppets. The present day shadow theater, with Karagiozi as the lead actor, has become a Greek tradition and a popular art form.
Additional Sources "Demetra Louvrie, 70." Chicago Tribune, December 26, 2001. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2001-12-26/news/0112260005_1_puppet-tradition-field-museum-assumption-greek-orthodox-church (accessed August 7, 2017). Leroux, Charles. "Every Artifact Tells A Story." Chicago Tribune, April 21, 2004. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2004-04-21/features/0404210116_1_pullman-porter-story (accessed August 7, 2017).
Scope and Content Note
The collection contains newspaper articles describing Demetra Louvrie and materials related to a puppet show including notes and a script, supply notes, and a drawing of puppeteers backstage. The collection also includes a packet describing Karagiozi puppetry written by Louvrie and a short biography of Louvrie's mentor, Frixos Ghazepidhes, who taught her the style of puppetry. There are newspaper articles and handwritten notes, along with typed documents and a drawing.
This collection is organized by topic.
Open for research without restrictions. Permission to publish or reproduce materials in this collection must be secured from the National Hellenic Museum Collections & Archives Department.
Collection is in English.
Source of Acquisition
Donated by Thianda Manzara in 2002 from the Estate of Demetra Louvrie.