Antigone: A Timeless Tale of Defiance

Antigone is the gut-wrenching finale to Sophocles’ soul-and- spirit-wrenching Oedipus trilogy, which details the rise, fall, and inevitable fulfillment of prophecy of Oedipus. Following his timely death in the previous installment, Oedipus at Colonus, his lifelong battle with fate is passed down to his next of kin – sons Eteocles and Polyneices and our titular heroine, daughter Antigone. Their prophecy, foretold by the prophet Teiresias, states that the two brothers will kill each other in a battle for their late father’s seat as the King of Thebes. Antigone returns to Thebes, hoping to halt this prophecy, only to discover her brothers already dead and Polyneice’s body rotting in the town square. Creon, believing Polyneice a traitor, has made it illegal for him to receive proper burial rites. Refusing to accept Creon’s word as law, Antigone decides to bury her brother, leading to her imprisonment. Knowing she likely faces torture and death, Antigone hangs herself in her cell, defying Creon once again. In the wake of her suicide, Creon’s son (Antigone’s fiance) is stricken by grief and kills himself as well, leaving Creon to end the play in anguish.

Antigone is, at its heart, a story of defiance, of civil disobedience, of doing what is morally right in the face of unjust laws. The entire Oedipus trilogy revolves around these themes but the previous two installments focus mainly on the conflict of free will vs. fate (or prophecy). The battles are heady and internal and in many cases a character’s enemy is themselves, or what they may one day be. But Antigone is unique in that the prophecy has been fulfilled before Antigone ever enters Thebes. Her brothers lay dead and the wrong person is in power. So, what is she going to do about it?

For once, it is up to her.

As long as we as a society have governments and centralized powers, stories of civil disobedience will resonate. We often hear of protests and boycotts, walk-outs and sit-ins; in this Post-Ferguson, Post-Occupy world, people are realizing the power of like-minded groups. But what if you have no group? Antigone stands alone throughout the play. Her family is dead and the city she once called home is against her. She is a young woman fighting for what she knows to be right in a patriarchal society which views her as objectively lesser. It is not an uphill battle; it is a gravity-defying climb up a jagged rock face in a storm. Still she is defiant to her last breath.

Antigone is the perfect example of fighting for what is right, of overcoming the odds, of looking fate in the eyes and saying “not today”. Many ancient Greek plays became archaic long ago – but Antigone holds up and speaks as true today as the day it was written.

 

-London Bauman
Profile Dramaturgy Intern

 

Get tickets to Antigone Project: A Play in 5 Parts

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Mythic Heros Through a Different Lens

What does it mean to be a character? What does it mean to be a person? How many lives can one person live? How can Spider-Man be black?

The answers to all of these questions usually mix together and boil down to two key principles of story-telling: the speaker and the audience; or, what the story means to the person telling it and who they are shaping it for. Perhaps they change certain important aspects of the story and yet keep others. Maybe a character changes gender or the setting is shifted a thousand years. It is very rare for a story and all its details to stay enduringly unique forever – which is why modernized Shakespeare plays are the norm and why in the current Marvel canon, the man under the Spider-Man mask is Miles Morales – an outcast black teen from New York – following Peter Parker’s death in past issues. One explanation is simply that the next man to receive Spidey’s superpowers just happened to be of African-American descent; a coincidence.

But nothing in storytelling is a coincidence.

So, the other explanation is that the story of Spider-Man, a nerdy teen who didn’t fit in from New York (a city which is 30% Black), resonates with young African-Americans and tells a story which makes sense and inspires a demographic who doesn’t typically get to see themselves represented by super heroes. A classic story of heroics and redemption is taken and reworked when a new storyteller took up the pen and a new audience was designated as the listeners.

The exact same mechanic is at work amid all 5 stories of  Antigone Project, as 5 different playwrights take the basic framework of the ancient Greek story Antigone and dissect it, scrutinizing it’s details and fitting them into a fresh skin with new words and characters but the same few strands of truth present in all of them. In Tanya Barfield’s Medallion, Antigone is embodied in Antoinette, a young African-American woman demanding she receive the purple heart she believes is owed to her deceased brother from Carlton (Creon), who tells her she “oversteps herself” with her requests. It is a story of civil disobedience and rightful burial just as Sophocles’ 2500 year old play is and the same resonant strands are present, but it is a new tale told by a new teller and for a new audience. It is not a rendition, nor it is an homage, but a retelling – allowing Antigone and her fight to breathe in the air of 1918 and show how different times are … or, exactly the same.

All 5 playwrights within Antigone Project offer their own personal reworking of Antigone and her struggle while mixing in their own intimate impressions of the ancient woman they write about. Sometimes it is startlingly different, sometimes entirely familiar. It all depends on who tells the story and who they tell it for.

-London Bauman
Profile Dramaturgy Intern

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In Dialogue Events: Antigone Project

Profile Theatre is proud to be partnering with Blacque Butterfly Presents on the In Dialogue Main Stage events for The Antigone Project: A Play in Five Parts.  We have collaborated to feature a series of local spoken-word artists performing in our lobby prior to each performance of the production.  Mirroring the collection of diverse voices embodied in Antigone Project, the artists are from varied backgrounds, experiences and perspectives, all of which come to bear on the profound and provocative  work that they will be sharing with our audiences.

To find out more about Antigone Project, click here.
To see past In Dialogue Events, click here.

Wednesday, September 7th:
Angela Davise | 6:55pm

Thursday, September 8th:
ShaRhonda McCauley | 6:55pm

Friday, September 9th:
Nafisaria Scroggins-thomas  and Akela Jaffi | 6:55pm

Saturday, September 10th Matinee:
GG Warren and Anayla Warren-Premsingh** | 1:25pm

Saturday, September 10th Evening:
Habiba Addo | 6:55pm

Sunday, September 11th:
Wilma Alcock and Blacque Butterfly** | 1:25pm

(**): Mother-Daughter Pairing

Additionally, as part of our year-long collaboration with Geezer Gallery, we will be displaying the work of Farooq Hassan in our lobby for the duration of this production.  Mr. Hassan's varied exploration of the female form and the female psyche reflect the versatility of expression embodied in The Antigone Project.

Artist Bios:

Habiba Addo is a native of Ghana, West Africa.  She holds a degree in Theater and a Certificate of Dance from Portland State University.  She has performed and taught in the United States and internationally for over fifteen years.  She teaches and performs dance, rhythm and stories from Ghana, Guinea, Gambia and Senegal.  She also shares the rich African cultures present today in Cuba and Brazil. A guest teacher and performer for Portland Public Schools for over fifteen years, Habiba has also performed and taught the community in dance, storytelling and theater through organizations such as Young Audiences, White Bird, Oregon Ballet Theater, Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, Tygres Heart Shakespeare Company, Mambo Queens, Northwest Afrikan American Ballet, Montessori Schools, Cedarwood Woldorf School, Oregon Episcopal School, Miracle Theater, Milagro Bailadores and Portland State University's World Dance Office. She is a recipient of the Lila Jewel award (2000), an Arts Alive grant (2000) and multiple technical assistant grants from Regional Arts and Culture Council (1998, 2002 and 2012).

Wilma Alcock – Wilma has written poetry as a Write around Portland participant and spokesperson.  She was also  featured in Give!Guide and the voice of the Portland Harbor River clean project and she is also a freedom writer.

Akela Auer “Akela Jaffi” is a Portland native. She has been performing since she was small because it's in her bloodline and because she knows nothing else. While her craft is made up of many different mediums, dance has been her main boo for over a decade. She recognizes the power movement has to open up the darkest doors of the self and inspire others to seek within for guidance. She intends to always dance as a form of prayer and healing.

Darlene Solomon “Blacque Butterfly – Blacque Butterfly is an entertainer. Her love for the arts has allowed her to explore several layers of her calling. Be it spoken word, motivational speaking, singing, dancing, theater or event promoting she has allowed the Creator to use her ministry to inspire others to follow their calling. Darlene is a native Oregonian, born and raised in NE Portland she has released and published a chapbook entitled “Black girl can I comb your hair” and a spoken word CD entitled Collide -A – Scope (Where life, love and grace collide.) She is currently in the studio working on her sophomore project. She is featured on a variety of collaborative projects.

Angela Davise, Georgia born,  California Grown,  Portland Grounded, started her journey with musical expression several years ago.  From the time she was a child she searched for outlets to release the emotional depth of her heart through the expression of, poetry, art, and dance. The music of Angela Davise evokes an emotional response to the deepest of secret cries within the heart.  The total abandonment to the world of listeners to be completely transparent in songwriting paints a very clear picture of struggle and survival, sadness and joy, defeat overcome by victorious cries of an unrelenting hope.

Farooq Hassan spent his youth in crowded cafes and on the docks in Iraq, striving to capture on paper the colorful scenes playing out before his eyes. As a young man, he taught high school. “We did our best to create art, not politics,” Hassan recalls. For 50 years he built his standing as an artist. His work was exhibited in London, Amman, Basrah, and Baghdad. In Iraq, he was considered a national treasure.

Then, politics changed his life forever. Between 1980 and 1991 Hassan moved 22 times, always one step ahead of political strife in Bagdad. Life in Iraq was especially perilous. In 2010, Hassan and his wife, Haifa, joined their daughter in Portland. Hassan was 71 years old and he had lost everything: his reputation as a master artist, the paintings he had created in Iraq, and his home. So, he set about renewing himself through painting.

ShaRhonda “Rose City MissChief” McCauley is a spoken word and hip-hop performance and recording artist.  The rapoet most recently self-published and released her first anthology of poetry called Rhyme Scheme:  Power Edition Volume 1.  The Portland, OR native has performed at many community events, schools, and local concerts as a soloist and as a group as one of the original members of the hip-hop trio Rose Bent.  She recorded two projects with the group and also a limited play spoken word album and mixtape as a soloist.  She has collaborated with many other local talents and has had opportunities to showcase her talents in other regions as well.

Sherrie Warren “GG Warren”GG Warren is a writer, photographer, bass player, jewelry designer, licensed massage therapist, and proud mother. Her writing stems from emotions, and situations she has personally experienced, or what she would like to experience. Love, loss, tragedy, loneliness, triumph, and undefinable happiness are all her inspirations.

Anayla Warren-Premsingh – Anayla Warren-Premsingh is 18 years old and just graduated from Jefferson high school. She will be attending the University of Oregon in the fall. Her major is undeclared, but she's looking into getting into international studies and minoring business, or possibly, majoring in human physiology. She started writing “creatively” when she could string words together in a sentence on a piece of paper. She writes poetry and short (and maybe one day) long, stories.

 

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We All Have a Story to Tell

Photo courtesy of Tony Funchess

On Sunday, April 10th, a group of men of color attended the matinee of Blue Door and then had a private discussion, led by community activist Tony Funchess, in the rehearsal hall following the play. Below are Mr. Funchess' thoughts on that discussion and Blue Door.

We all have a story to tell! The story that men tell in public, a story of confidence, strength, assuredness is not always the story they keep locked within. Lewis, the reflection of so many men of color allows us the ability to cross the chasm that exist between the full “dimensionality” of being a man, and a man of color. As we sit in the theater we are transformed into the role of primary in our own narrative as we each assume a role and identity of Lewis’ as he is visited by his ancestors on his reflective journey into his past; the road map to defining and finding himself.

This journey of introspection and liberation is not one easily taken. As the men who showed up for this experience of watching Blue Door and the post post-show discussion that took place for men of color, expressed behind closed doors. This experience of having an affinity space; a space solely for men of color, became a transformative space. Guards down, titles set aside, and brotherhood established we discussed our experiences with American theater, predominantly white spaces, and our commonalty in struggle as men of color, as well as our shared desire for liberation.

As we reflected on Lewis’ journey we discussed the recent scientific discovery of genetic memory of experiencing encoded into our DNA, the impacts of Mass Incarceration, the historical fairy tale of the black man as rapist, and our own journey’s that brought us into this circle. These men who had traveled from as far as Texas, and southern Oregon to be in this room expressed their deep need for spaces like these were the truth of our strength, and frailty can be discussed without damage to our external images.

The insomnia of Tanya Barfield’s Blue Door is the waking nightmare that many men of color experience in silence. Conditioned by society to “man up” we are often denied the opportunity to “let our hair down” and just be. As men of color there is this ever present awareness of our own presence in a room and the recognition of the multiplicity of thoughts and judgements about our presence in that room. Well thanks to Profile Theater this time the room was just ours. It was a room of breathing; exhaling the frustration of societal pressures to live up to ideologies often foreign to our internal design and historical make-up, and inhaling; the friendship, brotherhood, and healing of transparency in expression without pretense.

This room was our Blue Door the symbol of locking the evil of this world out and keeping the harmony of self and family in throughout eternity. This process of shared existence and experience is one that we must all approach in our own time and in our own way. Thanks to the intentional directorial approach to this piece, Bobby Bermea focuses with laser precision, a moon beam for us to follow out of the dark night of hidden history and identity and into the liberated space of fullness as men of color. Undeniably a need story to be told and experience to be had.

-Tony Funchess