By Matthew Smith
Elena Carapetis (third from right) will use her family’s story as background research. (ABC News: Matthew Smith)
State Theatre Company South Australia will delve into the rich migrant history of Port Pirie as part of its 2018 season.
The company believes more regional stories need to be told on stage and will examine the key roles played by Greek, Cypriot and Italian migrants in the city next year.
The Gods of Strangers is being written by emerging playwright Elena Carapetis, whose family will form a central part of the background research for the new play.
“I want to honour the struggle, I want to honour their story, they were very simple people, they were very honest people and humble people,” she said.
Her father George Carapetis was born in Whyalla to Greek parents and is proud of the role they all played growing up in and around Port Pirie.
“Those people, our people, are my heroes, they came out here without a language, they came out with little education, no money, no school and they forged a beautiful life in Australia,” the 75-year-old said.
Waves of migrants made the long journey to a new life in Australia, with the numbers especially high up until the Great Depression and then again after World War II.
The ‘holiday’ that never ended
Mr Carapetis’ wife Nina travelled to Australia aged 11 and immediately felt homesick.
“Came for a holiday and then of course I wanted to go back, but it was very expensive go to back, so just stayed,” she said.
It was a tough life, with fishing and market gardening popular ways to eke out a living for many migrants.
Family member Stavros Carapetis has fond memories of a hard upbringing.
“Getting up early in the morning, working in the market garden, going to school, coming back after school and doing more work and sometimes packing till midnight or longer,” he said.
‘We had nothing when we go married’
Mrs Carapetis said she and her husband had little in their early years together.
“We worked hard and we lived in houses, trust houses that had little, we had nothing when we got married,” she said.
Noted actor Rosalba Clemente will feature in Gods of Strangers and believed there would be a strong migrant representation in the audiences when the play premieres late next year.
“The young ones to learn more about their ancestry and their heritage and the older ones to actually feel identified with that story that’s on stage that is their story,” she said.
Gods of Strangers will open in Port Pirie, before moving to Adelaide in mid November 2018.