Antigone, reeling from a contentious civil war with profound bloodshed, now has the obligation to bury her dead brother. Sounds simple enough, but her uncle Creon, the new king, has decreed that her brother’s body should be left unburied for the birds to devour. If she disobeys her uncle, there will be dire consequences, and yet, Antigone is determined to do what is right by her brother and what the gods demand, even if it leads to her eventual demise.
The character of Antigone, played by Corrie Taylor in the upcoming production at the Purdue University Fort Wayne Williams Theatre from Nov. 15-17, is fearless as she challenges authority and fights for justice. Because so many of the play’s moral, religious, and political dilemmas mirror those of today, audiences often view the ancient Greek tragedy as a contemporary parable.
“Antigone, to me, is this fearless, headstrong, and bravely loud creature with an unapologetic attitude,” Taylor said. “She shakes the ground when she walks and moves mountains out of her way. However, she also has this brokenness, and is living with internal and emotional suffering caused by what happened to her and her family.”
People in our world today will recognize many of the themes and challenges in Antigone, as it speaks throughout the ages to any society, at any time in which it’s produced. That’s what makes it so relevant. Antigone is not willing to listen or compromise and King Creon is exactly the same way, not willing to compromise one inch.
One of the devices used by Sophocles and other Greek playwrights to help us sort out this story is that of the often misunderstood Greek chorus.
While the Greek chorus on the surface may seem foreign to us today, audiences today see it used in virtually every contemporary musical on Broadway. The Music Man and Guys and Dolls are prime examples of how the chorus continually works to propel the story forward. If all of the chorus numbers were to be deleted, with only solos and duets left on stage, the story would be gutted. It’s the same with Greek plays.
“A fully realized chorus is what’s missing in many Greek plays that are contemporarily produced,” director Jeff Casazza said. “Just as a chorus in a musical comments on what just happened or prepares the audience for the next scene by wiping the slate clean, the Greek chorus serves the same function.”
Casazza, who has had extensive training in devised theatre, has approached Antigone as an ensemble piece and has worked with the cast on myriad acting exercises to make sure they are all telling the same story, in the same world, at the same time.
“It takes work, imagination, and an exciting rehearsal process to discover those opportunities as an ensemble,” Casazza explained. “The level of ownership in these devised components of the play happens fairly quickly for the actors and it’s exciting for the audience.”