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.
Man: We can move seats, right?
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,
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?
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.