House Seats

S1 E1 | FULL EPISODE

Antigone in Ferguson

Experience a powerful fusion of Sophocles’ classic tragedy, Antigone, with live music from a contemporary gospel choir and highly personal community discussion. This multifaceted production explores themes of tragedy, trauma and social justice, and shows us that a 2500-year-old play is still relevant today. The all-star ensemble of actors includes Samira Wiley, Chris Noth and Tamara Tunie.

AIRED: February 03, 2019 | 0:57:16
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

♪♪

Man: We can move seats, right?

Places, everyone.

Hello, everyone.

My name is Bryan Carter, and I'm a jazz musician.

Now, normally I'm known as a drummer and a singer

touring around the world with my band, The Young Swangers,

or maybe even teaching in New York City Public Schools,

but today I'll be an audience member here at Harlem Stage

to see "Antigone in Ferguson."

Now, I first heard about the show maybe about a year ago

from my former Julliard classmate Samira Wiley,

and I really love the way that they were using a Greek tragedy

to tackle modern social issues, so let's go check it out.

Since the death of our father Oedipus,

it seems like the gods have set aside only shame

and suffering for us survivors.

Sister, have you heard?

I'm not sure I can take anymore bad news.

Well, I wanted you to hear it from me first.

That's why I brought you outside.

You seem really upset. What is it, Antigone?

Creon has declared only one of our brothers

worthy of burial.

Eteocles will be laid beneath the earth with proper honors,

but as for Polynices,

Creon has proclaimed

that no one may touch his body.

He has been left for the birds!

I am sorry to hear that.

The punishment for anyone who violates this law

will be execution by public stoning.

Creon is serious.

So am I.

"Antigone in Ferguson" is a social-justice project

that presents readings

and performances of Sophocles' "Antigone"

as a catalyst for powerful audience

and community-driven dialogue

about social issues like racialized violence,

police brutality,

misogyny, structures of oppression in communities

across the country that have skin in the game.

Will you honor your family's name or reject it?

You lost me there.

-Will you help me? -Help you what?

Move the body.

Do you mean bury it

when it has been forbidden by law?

Of course I mean bury it.

He was my brother and yours.

Where is your loyalty?!

Creon is our king now. I am loyal to him.

Creon may not keep me from my family.

Do you remember how our father died, Antigone?

He gouged out his eyes with hairpins

before walking blindly into the wilderness.

His mother and wife, who was one and the same,

hung herself with a twisted noose.

And just yesterday,

our two brothers brutally murdered one another.

If we violate Creon's law,

we will only be added to the list.

Our performances are structured in such a way

where the actors and choir deliver

a 1-hour adaptation of "Antigone,"

and then as soon as that's over, then we open it up

for a kind of town-hall-style audience discussion.

It reminds me...

Antigone, whom we typically cast as an actress of color,

asks her sister, Esmene, to help her bury the body of her brother

and, in effect, defy the law of Creon, the newly untested king.

We are the last in the line of Oedipus,

and we no longer rule this land.

Not to mention that we are women,

too weak to defend ourselves against men.

We must do as we are told.

We must perform acts far worse than this,

so seeing as I have no choice,

I will ask our family's forgiveness

and obey those who have authority.

I wouldn't bother asking.

You will not receive it.

I'll bury him alone if I have to.

If love is my crime, I shall plead guilty

and pay the penalty with my life.

You may stay behind and dishonor your family if you like.

Dishonor them? I don't want to dishonor them.

I just don't see the good in disobeying the law.

Then let that be your excuse.

I'm going to bury my brother.

Oh, sister, I am afraid for you.

Worry about yourself.

Promise me one thing -- Let this be our secret.

I will not tell a soul.

Say it loud!

I shall hate you all the more if you don't.

Then you are resolved to do this thing?

I am.

And what if you don't have the strength?

Then I shall die trying.

Antigone, you fool!

You are your father's daughter!

♪♪

♪♪

♪ Oh, light

♪ Light of the sun

♪ That raises the gated city

[ Singing indistinctly ]

♪♪

♪ Breaking upon the waters

♪ Shimmering across the shield of soldiers ♪

♪ Polynices, let them against us ♪

♪ With hatred for our people

Theater of War Productions is a social-impact company

that uses theater as a catalyst for addressing public-health

and social issues.

We got our start with the U.S. military.

That was our first client,

and Theater of War presents ancient Greek war plays

for contemporary military audiences

as a catalyst for discussions

about the visible and invisible wounds of war.

We can bring together a room of 500 to 1,000 marines,

and sure they'd be resistant in the beginning,

but 15 to 20 minutes in, we would disappear,

and they would move forward in their seats,

and then by an hour in,

these marines would be sharing their stories.

We knew we'd stumbled across something incredibly powerful,

so we've been applying that idea

to other social and public-health issues.

On the heels of touring this project all over the country

and the world, we started looking about for a partner

that would get our values and would help us

take the project deeper into New York City

and a place where people come to see

mostly actors and performers of color perform

really take this project to a whole new level.

And Harlem Stage was the place that we needed to do this.

When you listen to Bryan talk about the piece,

there's no doubt that you sort of see the connections

between this ancient Greek play and contemporary society today.

And it fits in almost perfectly with our mission

and, you know, we, as an organization,

look to identify and support artists

and works that address contemporary social issues.

And Bryan talked about specifically reaching out

to people who might not otherwise

think this was part of their "wheelhouse."

It's not something they would do automatically.

That's something we wanted to do,

and we saw it as an opportunity to engage people

who are right here beside us,

who don't feel like they can cross our threshold.

♪ Oh, light of the sun

I am Samira Wiley.

I

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