By Allihies Melton
How do we measure justice?
Is it by morality, or is it by legality? As we witness police officers not being indicted for killing innocent black people, or President Trump saying NFL players should be fired for kneeling in protest during the national anthem, a sense of governmental law and a personal ethical obligation is certainly at odds.
“Antigone” is a Greek tragedy that struggles with this philosophical debate. The original “Antigone” was one of the three extant Theban plays written by Sophocles around 497 BC – 406 BC. The theatre version of this story, performed at The Clarice Oct. 6-13, was translated by Brendan Kennelly and appeared in the book “When Then is Now: Three Greek Tragedies.”
Lisa Nathans, director of “Antigone” and assistant professor at the university’s School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies, wrote in a director’s note, “This juxtaposition of right vs. wrong feels incredibly relevant to me given the current climate of our world.”
The play is based on a young woman named Antigone, whose brothers were killed in battle against each other; Eteocles is hailed a hero and Polynices, a traitor. The new king, Creon rules that Polynices cannot be buried. Antigone is at odds with the law of the land and her love for her deceased brother.
The performance in the Kay Theatre was an all-sensory and outstanding show. The smell of sage satiated the entire room, as audience members were awakened to flickering lights and the reverberating beats of drums overhead. There were three different cast members for both Antigone and Creon, the Ego, Id, Superego trio. This was at first confusing, but once realizing the creative purpose of it, the technique was powerful to listen to and observe.
Antigone’s Ego was played by April Monu, senior theatre performance and English double major, her Id played by Molly Boyle, junior theatre performance major, her Superego played by Karen Dolle, senior theatre performance major. Their lines were spoken independently, in a duet or conjoined as a trio. The autonomy of one speaking or them being in sync highlighted the grueling mental process it takes to make a decision — especially one between law and life or wrongdoing and death.
The heroine of the story, Antigone is in the face of death yet still does what she believes is right and buries her brother. Creon (Ego played by Ken Johnson, senior theatre performance major, Id played by Radcliffe Adler, senior theatre performance major, Superego played by Eric Jefferson, junior theatre performance major) is strong in his burial ruling and the sentencing of Antigone to death. He is unwavering until he is told by the blind prophet, Tiresias (played by Andrew Saundry, junior theatre performance double major), despite the previous outcries from his son and his people.
The Chorus of Thebes was essential to this play. Their poetic voices not only spoke the words of the people but echoed the pull between law and love. Without their beautiful songs, the play would be nothing but a quarrel between a fearless woman and a misogynistic man.
The performance ends in offstage tragedy and devastation with Antigone killing herself just before Creon comes to release her. Her death then causes the suicide of her beloved Haemon (played by Ivan Carlo, junior theatre performance major), Creon’s son whom she was arranged to marry. Creon’s wife, Eurydice (played by Briana Downs, senior vocal performance major), also commits suicide in the wake of her son’s death, but not before cursing Creon’s name.
Creon’s change of heart could not prevent his ultimate despair. He is now faced with the fact that he should have listened to all the people who said Antigone should not die for her nobleness and loyalty.
As Nathans said in the director’s note, “This play presents the five most basic human conflicts: between the genders, between the generations, between the individual and society, between the living and the dead, and between the mortals and the immortals.”
The sexist, law-rules-all rhetoric in this performance, although based on a story created over 2,000 years ago, is still expressed today. The cast of “Antigone” artistically and whole-heartedly performed this tragedy as if this sort of storyline was abnormal to them. But as we watch news of leaders all around the world and in this country, we see that perhaps little progress had been made in regards to humankind’s ego.
If only Creon had listened to the people.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Geoff Sheil.
Allie Melton is a senior journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.