by Sophokles | translated by Anne Carson
Design by Raphael Mishler
New York University | Gallatin School | 2016
The blind prophet Teiresias to Kreon:
to err is human but to persist in error is imprudent unlucky and just stupid
that pile of rot that was the son of Oidipous
the boy is dead stop killing him
Teiresias speaks of the body of the dissident Polyneikes whom Kreon has left unburied for “the dogs to chew” outside the city. Spoiler alert: by the end of the play, there will be more bodies for Kreon to contend with including Antigone and those of his son and wife.
It’s been more than two millennia since Sophokles wrote Antigone and the play has seen no shortage of productions. Just a few weeks ago, the Onassis Cultural Center here in New York hosted an international Antigone festival with adaptations from Syria to Ferguson.
Why Antigone again?
During fall 2016 I've had the great privilege of taking up this very question while co-teaching the seminar “Antigone(s): Ancient Greece/Performance Now” with classicist Laura Slatkin. Many of the cast members for this production are also in the class. Together, the course and rehearsal process have allowed a deep investigation into Antigone’s complexities and the many readings and interpretations the play has inspired.
A particularly illuminating class visit by fellow Gallatin faculty member and legal scholar Vasuki Nesiah offered insights into the ways the play stages a debate about democracy and in particular, “the tension between the notion of democracy as a ‘form of government’ and ‘democracy as a form of social and political life.’” According to Nesiah, rather than closure with the past, Antigone’s action represents “an effort to open the space for contestation in the present” thus serving as an example of dynamic participation and engagement in the social and political spheres.
Citizenship, belonging, changeability, and stability. Who gets status in a city or state? What constitutes good citizenship? Who gets deemed an enemy? Who gets to decide and how? What does democracy look like? These are the on-going questions that animated our rehearsal process, and the ones from which we invited the audience to live in with us as they engaged with our production of Anne Carson’s new translation.
Photos by Em Watson and Melanie Flanagan.