Theater ensemble reinterprets “Antigone” to address modern issues

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Theater ensemble reinterprets “Antigone” to address modern issues

Ensemble creating new vision for ancient play.

Ensemble creating new vision for ancient play.

Nellie Tamboe

Ensemble creating new vision for ancient play.

Nellie Tamboe

Nellie Tamboe

Ensemble creating new vision for ancient play.

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While the upcoming fall play is titled “Antigone,” it won’t be Sophocles’ original Greek tragedy. The ensemble, as well as the director, Assistant Professor of Performing Arts Isaac Eddy, have been working for weeks to rewrite the script.

 

The rewriting process began with the reading of five different “Antigone” translations, including those by Jean Anouilh and Bertolt Brecht.

 

“We kind of became mini experts on the play after reading all these translations,” said Eddy. “Then we tried to figure out, ‘Okay, so what is it we want to say?’”

 

The ensemble explored issues they were dealing with personally all the way up to issues on the global scale. The group wrote all these issues down on Post-It notes, which Eddy said totaled about 200. “We started organizing them on the floor just to see what it is that our group mind is wrestling with right now, politically and personally. After we did that, we went back to the script and did these improvs based on the things we’re dealing with and put them back into the script to see how it can change the story,” Eddy said. “It was really, really interesting to see how these improvisations with these characters could flip the story around a little bit.”

 

Jacob Müther, JSC sophomore and “Antigone” ensemble member, said he’s excited about reworking the script. “It was one of, I think, the key attractions for everyone in the cast to do this show,” he said.

 

Eddy shares a similar passion for the work. “Devised theatre is a really amazing form of creative expression, and it’s happening a lot in the country and in the world right now where you create work with the ensemble,” he said. “It’s this amazing kind of leveling hierarchy where myself as the director doesn’t necessarily have more say than the cast. We all have our own creative input, and by having this kind of group mind you can create something that’s stronger than the sum of its parts.”

 

Eddy said he feels this play will be an important event for his students and the rest of the JSC community. “It’s a world premiere of this version of Antigone, which I think is really exciting,” he said.

 

This rewrite has given the ensemble a chance to create something that is in-part original, which Eddy says is an integral part of the theatrical profession.

 

“‘Antigone’ has been kind of reinterpreted throughout history, and originally the clash was religious freedom versus the state,” Eddy said. “That she wanted to give burial rights to her brother who fought against the city of Thebes.”

 

In the story, King Creon grants burial rights to only one of Antigone’s brothers: the one who remained loyal to the state. His reasoning for this was that if he gave burial rights to the traitor brother then anyone could potentially rise up against the state. “Antigone was kind of galvanized by this — she was revolutionized by this — and decided that she had to, even though that it was punishable by death, give burial rights to her brother,” said Eddy.

 

This new rewrite, like the translations before it, will feature the conflict of personal rights versus state’s rights. “We live in a political world right now — a very intense political situation — and we don’t really want to just push forward one idea,” Müther said. “Everyone seems to be really passionate about the politics involved, and for the most part we’re all pretty into the idea of presenting more than one perspective and not making it just about our own views.”

 

Eddy hopes the finished product will portray how divided our country is due to how the public gets its news through the concept of Blue Feed, Red Feed. “If you believe one way, say about Trump, you get, on your newsfeed in Facebook, all of the stuff that supports your side of what you believe on positive and negative sides of the story,” Eddy said. He believes this affirmation of what people already believe is making the divide of the country more severe.

 

The ensemble is planning to execute this by having the audience question whether Creon or Antigone is on the righteous side, and they hope the answer won’t be so easy.

 

“We want them to question their ideas and the ideas of others, and kind of come to a conclusion on who was wrong and who was right,” said Müther. “We’re hoping that when the show’s over and people talk after, that they’re actually going to be arguing about who they think the good guy was and who they think was the bad guy.”

 

Another new aspect of the play is that it will be considered “experimental” theatre. “There could be an element of immersion where the audience is not just simply sitting and watching a play on a proscenium,” said Eddy. “They could be more immersed in the world, meaning characters could maybe interact with them a little bit more, or they could be asked to submit some information for the play itself.”

 

This interaction with the cast is not a mandatory task for the audience, and those who wish to just sit and watch will be more than welcome to.

 

Müther said he and the rest of the ensemble are hoping to find a balance with the immersion element so that the audience won’t get overwhelmed. “But,” he said, “there are going to be things that you don’t hear or see and things that you do, which are going to be in contrast with the things that other audience members see and hear, so that everyone kind of has their own experience — much like in reality where we have our own experiences and perspectives on politics.”

 

The rewritten “Antigone” will hopefully become a new tool for discussing the division of the nation. “You hear it all the time like, ‘Hey, we need to talk more,’” Eddy said. “But I think we all find it pretty hard to be able to communicate with those who don’t have similar views as us. I feel like it’s harder now than almost ever before.”

 

“Antigone: Red Feed, Blue Feed” will arrive on the Dibden stage on Thursday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. It will run again Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., and return for a final matinee on Sunday at 2 p.m.

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