Collaborating on Antigone
Adriana Baer first reached out to us at String House last year about collaborating on Antigone Project, and we (Alex Leigh Ramirez, Kaye Blankenship, and myself) were instantly hooked on the prospect of a project so crammed with amazing female artists working on such potent and timely stories. When she pitched us the script for Antigone Arkhe, however, the third piece in the festival written by Caridad Svich, I was admittedly daunted. Arkhe is arguably the most structurally experimental of these one-acts; the text alone is tricky to grasp in its poetic and fragmentary nature, but the added elements of tightly integrated projection, video, and sound also make it a logistically ambitious piece to implement on its own, let alone as part of a larger suite of work. A collaborative co-production made immediate sense as the best way to deliver it to an audience, and despite the obvious challenges I couldn’t help but get more hooked on the script the longer I sat with it. The ideas this piece contains about narrative ownership, female empowerment, and the politics of storytelling itself are just too interesting for a director like myself to pass up exploring. In the end we simply couldn’t say no.
To me, Arkhe is a story about a woman who has had her story stolen. Here she has been relegated in death to pieces of what she once was– shards of memory, artifacts of experience, and bits and pieces of hearsay. In her absence these pieces have been collected and commodified without her consent in order to reshape the story of what happened to her. The Archivist represents this act of appropriation. She has taken ownership of everything that once belonged to Antigone, primary of which is the trauma of her experience, and neatly packaged it all so that it can be delivered to us, the audience, in a palatable form. The journey of Antigone Arkhe, therefore, is that of Antigone’s attempt to reclaim what is rightfully hers.
String House is keenly interested in the practice of storytelling, and it is something we have focused on tightly in our previous theatrical work. However, examining this particular subject through the lens of race yields an even greater depth of field than what we’ve worked with before. As a mixed race artist working in the world today, I am avidly interested in how we as an artistic community tell the stories of people of color; as such, this piece raises fascinating questions for me. For instance, when are depictions of racial trauma on stage empowering, and when are they disempowering? At what point as art-makers do we cross the line from giving voice to a community’s experience into co-opting it for titillation, edification, or dramatic affect? In the terms of this particular story, whether or not the Archivist’s intentions are good or bad, right or wrong, what right does she have, at the end of the day, to Antigone’s story? All loaded questions. Difficult questions. Questions I am excited to drop into a room filled with other amazing female artists of color for some deep exploration.
– Emily Gregory, Co-founder of String House Theatre and Director of Antigone Arkhe