Written by Sophocles
Directed by Stephanie Burlington
Weber Theatre, Watson Fine Arts
Why did you want to direct Antigone?
Stephanie Burlington I’ve loved this play since I was in it in 7th or 8th grade: I played Creon, and I was so turned on by the concept of this young girl standing up for what she believed in no matter what the cost. One afternoon in rehearsal, the director asked us if we had anything we felt so strongly about that we would die for it. At that time I thought about it, I thought about it a lot and I thought, “Well, there isn’t anything now. As I worked on the play, it inspired me. It was a lesson for all of us, that we should stand up for what we believe in. I think it was one of seeds for my activism later on in high school with AIDS education and sexuality awareness. I did a lot with multi-cultural groups, talking about racism and homophobia, and getting people’s stories that hadn’t been heard before. What I love most about the theatre is that it creates a venue for stories that are, maybe, unpopular; it offers the opportunity to hear someone’s story and connect to it in a way you can’t when reading an article in the newspaper. I’m all for theatre for enjoyment, but what really excites me about the theatre is the opportunities it presents to inspire the audience to be more active. We can educate on relevant issues.
I wanted to direct Antigone because it’s an inspiring story that shouldn’t get lost. [Pictured at left: an October 2002 rehearsal.] I hope in working on it that students realize that they don’t have to die, necessarily, for what they believe in, but they can do something: become active; raise the awareness of others. Since we’ve been rehearsing, I realize how powerful the story of Antigone is as it concerns a political leader and his pride–being stubborn, not listening to the voice of the people, manipulating the voice of the people for your own wishes, your own needs. The play is richer in meaning to me than when I was in 7th or 8th grade. I find it more a story about Creon now, and his struggle as a political leader and how he really does want to do right by his people. But how his own arrogance gets in the way and is eventually his downfall. Relating it to today’s political climate, we [the actors and I] talk about Bush and about Iraq and Pakistan, and what has led us into those political standoffs.
What about this production has challenged you?
So far the challenges were in casting; that’s always difficult. I wanted to make sure the chorus was a large enough voice and an omnipresent one: on the stage at all times, witnessing what is happening in the play as well as witnessing the audience’s experience. So the challenge there was having a vision of 20 on stage and that has come down to 16, which is completely workable. The challenge being having the chorus as actors, as students to have a real ownership of the play and ownership of what their role is in the play. I think as we go further in the rehearsal process that will deepen. During table work, we are trying to figure out what people are actually saying, what do they really mean and what is motivating their actions. The challenges that could have presented themselves but didn’t were my vision of the play in contrast to the set, costume and lighting designers, Jane Stein and Jeff Mailhot, but fortunately we’ve really been on the same page from day one about it. There has been a super collaboration going on which is endlessly exciting to me and really has cemented the process for me in a very good way that allows a lot of experimentation, collaboration with the students. We’re learning to tell the story to the best of our ability.
What do you want the audience to walk away with?
I guess on one level I want them knowing that they have a place in our political system. People have a voice that needs to be heard, that can be heard, that can create change. Just as these characters on stage have a voice–a universal voice, talking about universal issues, pride, struggle, courage of conviction–that we too have a responsibility to stand up for what we believe in. I want them to go away questioning their involvement in our political system or whatever else Antigone and the characters’ struggles have inspired the audience to think about more deeply.