Theatre department offers timeless classic ‘Antigone’ starting Feb. 22
The next offering in the Walter Gloor Mainstage Series may very well be the definition of a timeless classic.
The Department of Theatre and Dance will present six performances of “Antigone” from Feb. 22 to March 2 in the Alice E. Bartlett Theatre of Rockefeller Arts Center on the Fredonia campus.
Written sometime around 441 B.C. by Greek playwright Sophocles, “Antigone” has themes that are still relatable to modern audiences, according to Director Daniel Lendzian, a Theatre and Dance faculty member.
“The intrigue of Antigone lies within its ability to encapsulate the philosophical nature of the Ancient Greeks and how easily the echoes of those spirited conversations still resonate today,” Lendzian said. “There are so few of these Greek masterpieces which remain for us to study and perform in the present; the fact that it’s been over two millennia since this work was created and it still carries such a great weight is remarkable.”
Lendzian said “Antigone” is an ideal work to take on in an educational environment, given “the polarizing sociopolitical atmosphere that we currently find ourselves in, and the dynamic debate regarding authoritarianism that unfolds within.”
The plot centers on the dilemma Antigone faces after her brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, kill each other in a duel over the crown following the death of their father, Oedipus.
Rule of the kingdom then falls to Antigone’s uncle, Creon. He grants an honorable burial to Eteocles, but decrees Polynices was a traitor and will remain unburied as punishment. Antigone attempts to defy Creon’s decree, leading to a clash of wills that has tragic consequences for many.
“This particular adaptation that we’re presenting was penned by Jean Anouilh of the French Existentialist movement in the 1940s and takes great care to preserve Sophocles original intent with this piece while being inclusive of more modern sensibilities,” Lendzian said.
The setting for the Fredonia production will be a history museum.
“The text itself very simply suggests that the production take place within a neutral toned decor, with three doors framing the stage to create balance,” Lendzian said. “In an effort to provide an updated environment that will be more identifiable with audiences and capitalize on the content of the play, my concept transfers the action within the portals of a museum. The events of the inevitable tragedy unfold before us, guided by the Prologue who serves as a docent, as we explore the past through a modern lens.”
More than 60 students are involved in this Mainstage Series production.
“We’ve also got a diverse, incredibly talented ensemble that is coming together to breathe life into this play,” Lendzian said.
The director added there are many highlights in the production.
“What sticks out in my mind at the moment is the extensive monologue work of the Prologue which immediately sets the tone of the entire piece, framing the tragedy brilliantly from beginning to end,” Lendzian said. “There’s also the lengthy, impassioned contention for moral supremacy between Antigone and Creon which paves the way for the tragic conclusion.”
In the end, Lendzian is hoping “Antigone” is a production that will spur discussion and increase tolerance for other viewpoints.
“My greatest hope is that the audience will walk away from our production with a heightened desire to open their hearts to perspectives alternative to their own,” the director said. “Many of us have become so entrenched in our personal and political beliefs that we isolate ourselves within a network of like-minded individuals and immediately disregard anyone else. The greatest power we have as individuals is to collaborate in an effort to find common ground, working towards a greater good for all involved, and that simply cannot happen without the willingness for open conversation.”
To that end, there will be a special “talk back” session after the Feb. 24 performance for interested audience members.
“Antigone” is sponsored by the SUNY Fredonia Federal Credit Union as part of the Lake Shore Savings Season. Dates and show times are Friday, Feb. 22 and Saturday, Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 24 at 2 p.m.; and Thursday, Feb. 28 through Saturday, March 2 at 7:30 p.m.