Students may recall reading the Theban Plays—a series of three plays written by Sophocles—in their Core Humanities classes upon entering college.
The ancient Greek tragedy, Antigone, while written first, is the third installment in the Oedipus Trilogy, which consists of Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone. Even though this play is part of the trilogy, it can stand on its own.
The Department of Dance and Theater presented their rendition of Antigone on Feb. 28, with follow-up performances through March in the Redfield Proscenium Theater at the Church Fine Arts building.
Directed by Yasmine Jahanmir, Antigone used costumes ranging from different eras in history and also incorporated an all-female cast. With all male roles replaced with female pronouns, the production switches up the norms in which many greek plays have been performed over the years.
“The play contributes one of the first and most popular representations of a strong, decisive, and brave female hero,” wrote Jahanmir in the director’s note. “The use of an all-female cast reiterates this impact—further celebrating the characters’ feminine power…”
Along with the raw stage-setting and fun costumes, Antigone’s cast entrapped the audience with powerful imagery and stage presence. With no mics to amplify their voices, the casts’ vocals surprisingly reached the entire theater.
The storyline of the play contains bravery, solemness and tragic death. Antigone, played by graduating senior Emily Dunn, is the daughter of the late King Oedipus of Thebes. Prior to the play beginning, Antigone’s brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, lead opposite sides of the Thebes’ civil war, fighting for the throne. Both brothers end up killing each other, leading Creon to become king. The death of the brothers leaves Antigone and her sister Ismene grieving and alone, with which we pick up the play.
Both sisters are arguing because King Creon has chosen to give Eteocles a warriors burial while Polynices is shamed, and is to stay unburied for being a traitor to Thebes. Antigone is enraged by this proclamation and informs Ismene that she is going against the King’s wishes and will bury her brother. Ismene tries to dissuade her for fear that she, too, would lose both her brothers and her sister. Antigone, ashamed that Ismene is a coward, goes to bury Polynices alone—and unfortunately pays dearly for it.
After this scene, an ensemble of actors appear on the stage. Antigone is separated by scenes, or “episodes” in which a chorus will sing and dance to inform the audience of the unfolding events.
“In the spirit of this production, I took choreography inspiration both from past and present sources,” wrote Jahanmir.
Jahanmir later explains in her director’s note that these dance styles come from the early women’s movement history. The Delsarte system and synchronized swimming were a few styles mentioned.
In the two following episodes of the play, Antigone is captured and sentenced to death by starvation while being locked into a dark cave. King Creon’s madness drives “her” to subject Antigone to this fate, and deny the union of Antigone to Haemon, Creon’s son (or in this case daughter). Haemon is overtaken with grief and goes to Antigone, who’s been locked away from the sun for eternity. While many try to persuade King Creon to take back the punishment put on Antigone, Creon doesn’t budge until the blind prophet Tiresias warns Creon that what he’s done has displeased the gods.
In Creon’s efforts to please the gods, he orders Polynices to have a proper burial and the release of Antigone. Unfortunately, upon arriving at the cave, Creon finds Haemon mourning the death of Antigone, who has killed herself. Haemon kills “herself” in distress, and Creon is heartbroken. Low and behold—when Creon returns to his house, his wife has also killed herself, for she could not live without her “daughter” Haemon. The play ends with Creon in despair.
This Greek tragedy depicts the lengths one woman will go for her family, and the destruction that comes from it.
The audience clapped and whistled as the cast took their bows after the 90-minute performance.
“Antigone was a wonderful experience because of the collaboration result of every voice in the room,” wrote assistant directors Jolene Stewart and Sam Crabtree. “We truly believe, and hope that you share in the notion, that Antigone is a story that continues to resonate today.”
Emilie Rodriguez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.