Antigone: Bringing the Past Into the Present

October 05, 2009

The performance of the Greek tragedy Antigone, presented for three nights in the open air, was a theatrical experience like no other.  The setting sun cast a warm glow on the historic Annie Russell Theatre, altering the crisp campus air into an ancient Greek environment.  Robed musicians created an ambience of classicism as the stoic-faced chorus entered slowly in sync.  Two by two, the torches lining the concrete stage were lit, casting light on the iconic scenery, while a fountain trickled center stage. “THEBES!” the assembled chorus shouted in powerful unison.  The stage was set for drama, but as sudden as a lightning bolt from Zeus, a motorcycle roared down Fairbanks Avenue, disrupting the aura with modern noise pollution. 

In theory, the concept of an outdoor performance piqued curiosity and added authenticity to the production.  Yet auditory interference from planes, trains and automobiles, coupled with the lack of acoustic amplification out of doors, forced performers to scream in order to be heard.  The Chorus Leader, enthusiastically portrayed by Megan Borkes (Class of 2010), grew hoarse at times in her attempt to overcome the sounds of Winter Park and move the plot along.  King Creon, however, executed exquisitely by Max Highland (class of 2010), had no difficulty being heard and commanded the stage and his subjects with power and ease. 

The archetypal setting added Mediterranean flavor to the iconic architecture of the “Annie.”  Still, the audience’s appreciation of this aspect of the performance was entirely dependent upon where they were seated, as the ground inclined upward toward the stage unlike in a theatre auditorium. Perhaps the most enjoyable moments of performance were directly influenced by the innovative lighting and dramatic effects, including the use of fog and unfurling banners, which took advantage of every aspect of the theatrical structure. Set against the backdrop of a clear autumn sky, complete with full moon, the light and fog emanating from the theater’s balcony succeeded in completing the transformation of audience belief. 

Original music, composed and performed by Jennifer Ritter (Class of 2013), added to the ambience.  The costumes, designed by Lisa Cody-Rapport and built by a student crew, were eye-catching.  Light-reflecting armor and billowing, ornately-designed robes adorned the players in simple Theban fashion.   In a standout performance, Tieresius, mastered by Ryan Lambert (Class of 2013) in his first role at Rollins, mystified all with his enchanting movements and articulate tales of the future.  Dressed in a magnificently intricate, tattered robe, the hypnotic Tieresius, physically supported at all times by “Boy,” well-played by Meghan Gordon (Class of 2013), was mesmerizing to watch.

Sophocles’ play, written in 442 BC, is as relevant today as it was then, with a theme of familial loyalty vs. loyalty to the state. Antigone defies the edict of her uncle, the King, and gives her brother, an enemy of the state, a proper burial.  Her choice, and the King’s stubborn response, has tragic consequences for all. Director John DiDonna recognized the timelessness of that sentiment as he drew the audience into the unraveling of events, heavily influenced by fate. 

Antigone, performed outdoors, had elements of dramatic intensity that satisfied the audience.  The weather cooperated perfectly and distractions, although numerous, were of little consequence to the quality of the performance.  The Rollins community is especially blessed to have such a talented, forward-thinking theater department.  Nevertheless, future outdoor performances should embrace the modern technology of sound amplification. 

- Justin Braun (Class of 2010)

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