Translated by Jeremy Sams
And so here we are. This spring, Prenzie Players presents Jean Anouilh’s “Antigone”, a deeply moving adaptation of the classic Greek tragedy revolves around the conflict between the idealist Antigone and her rigid uncle, Creon, over the proper burial of Antigone’s brother, Polynices. Seen through the prism of our current time, Antigone raises a crucial question–when the towers of society/politics/finance are crumbling around us, do we fight for what works even if it’s wrong or do we fight for what’s right even if that means our end? Integrity versus compromise, individual versus the state, divine law versus human law–Antigone rips into these timeless issues and iconic characters in a triumph of modern theatre.
March 22nd 8:00pm
March 23rd 8:00pm
March 24th 2:00pm
March 28 8:00pm
March 29 8:00pm
March 30th 8:00pm
At the Quad City Theatre Workshop
1730 Wilkes Ave Davenport Iowa
“Antigone (Sams, trans.)” is presented by special arrangement with SAMUEL FRENCH,INC.
Prenzie presents complex moral dilemma
By Jonathan Turner, email@example.com
If you believe something is morally right but legally wrong, what would you do?
This is the central conflict of the title character inJean Anouilh’s “Antigone,” a moving adaptation of the classicGreek tragedy by Sophocles, opening Friday in aPrenzie Players production. The rebellious idealist Antigone and her rigid uncle, Creon, clash over the proper burial ofAntigone’s brother, Polynices, who was killed in a civil war.
“I was fascinated with the Anouilh, because it was written in 1942, during the Second World War and the German occupation of France,”director Catie Osborn recently said of the French playwright. This version is much different than other adaptations of the 5th-century B.C. tragedy, “because no one is wrong,” she said.
In the original, “Antigone is this powerful, right character and Creon is this villain, this horrible person,” said Ms. Osborn, who directed Prenzie’s “Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged)” last year, and directed at St. Ambrose University (from which she graduated in 2010).
“The way it’s written, the audience is given a choice about who to side with,” she said of the 1942 “Antigone.” “The play doesn’t take sides, and that’s what I like most about this version. That’s the most interesting thing about this play.Antigone represents the resistance and Creon represents the government.”
“Greek tragedy as a whole has a tendency to have very one-note characters,” Ms. Osborn said. “In this play, they are fully realized characters,” and more complex. Anouilh “just made them real people,” she noted. “It’s really easy to write characters that are high and mighty and awesome. Antigone is kind of a brat at times; she’s rude. Creon is much more sympathetic in this play.”
Antigone’s two brothers have been killed in the battle for Thebes, and one is considered a hero and given a ceremonial burial, where Polynices was the rebel and his corpse is left in the street to rot. Creon, the ruler, has executed anyone who is a threat to the state, and Antigone — the daughter of Oedipus Rex — faces a similar fate if she insists Polynices receive a proper burial (so his soul does not wander the earth forever).
“For Antigone, it is the right thing to do,” said Jake Walker, who plays Creon. “The world is still almost childlishly black and white to her.”
“For Creon, he gives the order — if anyone is caught trying to bury him, they will be executed. When his niece does it, he does not want to execute his own niece,” he said. “At the same time, if word gets out he made an exception for her, he is weak, and becomes a threat to the state.”
“The battle of wits between them is the crux of the show,” Mr. Walker said. “It’s up to the audience who to side with.”
“I liked how fleshed out all the characters are,” he said. “I love the extended verbal battle between Antigone and Creon throughout.He is a powerful man, he is a leader, but this is nothing he ever sought out. The city fell into anarchy, and somebody had to take charge. To maintain order, he has had to do some terrible things — things he’s not personally proud of.” But, Mr. Walker noted, no one is above the law.
Set in the present day, “Antigone”‘s potent themes remain applicable today, Ms. Osborn said. “Prenzie’s whole thing is that these shows are still relevant.I love directing forPrenzie — the way that Prenzie works, the support that you get.”
Student and teacher dazzle in “Antigone”
QC Online Review
By Jonathan Turner, firstname.lastname@example.org
Gini Atwell is a Rockridge High School senior and Jake Walker is her drama director and band director. But inPrenzie Players’ gripping production of “Antigone,” the student and teacher are intense, powerful equals — the irresistible force meeting the immovable object.
Ms. Atwell embodies the stubborn, rebellious title role in Jean Anouilh’s “Antigone,” the moving 1942 adaptation of the 2,500-year-old Greek tragedy by Sophocles. And Mr. Walker is the ruthless rock of a king, her uncle Creon, and the two face off in a titanic clash of wills, with life-and-death consequences.
Antigone’s older brothers have been killed in acivil war — one is considered a hero and given a ceremonial burial, where Polynices was a “traitor” and his corpse is left in the street to rot. Creon has executed anyone who is a threat to the state, and Antigone — the daughter of Oedipus — faces a similar fate if she makes good on her wish to give Polynices a proper burial (so his soul does not wander the earth forever).
In this version, we can relate to the motivations behind the main characters; they’re not black and white good versus evil. Antigone didn’t even like her mean brothers, but they were family and she feels it’s her moral obligation, so they are not unburied and unmourned.
Creon — who is not a power-hungry, ambitious ruler, but it just trying to keep order and do an unromantic job — claims she gets her willful, stubborn pride from her father. We know how that turned out.Creon at first wants to save her but she refuses, saying, “What a person can do, a person ought to do.”
Mr. Walker is very self-assured, threatening and lecturing in protracted arguments with Ms. Atwell. “Antigone” still does not feel long or drawn-out. The show is a fleet, meticulous 110 minutes with no intermission.
It helps greatly that the personable Aaron Sullivan is the accessible, even-handed narrator, who takes the place of the traditional Greek chorus of the original — introducing characters, plot points and the themes of the story, even interacting with Creon at some points. It’s a very helpful dramatic device.
Mr. Sullivancomments during the show on how tragedy differs from drama. Drama is not as inevitable and pre-ordained as the inexorable march of tragedy, which is neat and wound-up tight, with everyone playing prescribed roles, “a well-oiled machine.” In drama, the narrator says, there’s always the chance for unpredictability, surprise — a dramatic shift, if you will.
I also really like the intimacy in this production at Q-C Theatre Workshop, ably directed by Catie Osborn. There is no raised stage, but theaudience surrounds the action on three sides, and the cast of just 10 is up close and personal. Actors in smaller roles are equally strong (the thankless part of Eurydice has no lines).
Thenurse/grandmother (Dee Canfield) is appropriately worried and comforting; Antigone is jealous of her sister Ismene, an innocent, beautiful blonde, passionately played by Abby VanGerpen. William Scott Bray is great as the idealistic, ardent boyfriend of Antigone, and Andy Koski is a standout as themain guard who gets in trouble for letting Antigone start to bury her brother. He is scared and nervous in scenes with Creon, a very human, sympathetic character. Nine-year-old Brody Ford is cute as Creon’s page.
Mr. Walker directed Ms. Osborn in Prenzie’s “Titus Andronicus” last March, and is drama director at Rockridge, where he’s also the band director. He set a terrific example during “Titus,” Ms. Osborn recently said — “very receptive to other people’s ideas, very open, very honest, very focused, very driven. Those are all things I respect of any director. The cool thing about Prenzie is, everyone has a valid thing to say.”
Ms. Atwell has been directed in school by Mr. Walker (including her new role as the wicked witch in “Wizard of Oz,” which will be performed in early May). She also plays flute in the band.
“It’s been really cool to work with one of my students in a capacity outside of school,” Mr. Walker said. “She’s doing a great job. Here we’re just fellow actors, on the same level. It’s been really cool. It’s been a lot of fun, especially since our characters have such an adversarial relationship in this show.
“It was almost weird for a little bit. I kind of got used to it; you get over the school and theater thing, just have to separate them,” Ms. Atwell said. “I’m learning a lot from a lot of different people.”
She also understands Antigone’s dilemma. “She does what she thinks is morally right, but may not be what is legally right,” she said. That act is appropriate “as long as you’re not hurting anyone else, as long as you believe it is morally right,” Ms. Atwell said.
Preview QC Times
by David Burke
Osborn directs boyfriend Walker in ‘Antigone’
A year ago on these pages, the Quad-City Times photographed and published a picture of Jake Walker and Catie Osborn, each wearing all-white, kissing as fake blood slathered over them.
It was to promote the Prenzie Players’ “Titus Andronicus,” Shakespeare’s most violent play, wherein the character played by Osborn loses a hand and her tongue and is physically assaulted. Walker, her boyfriend of 3 1/2 years now, was the director.
Twelve months later and the tables have turned. Now it’s Osborn directing Walker in Prenzie’s “Antigone,” which opens next weekend.
“Catie isn’t as awful to me as I was to her,” Walker said. “I’m not getting dismembered or thrown around. Most of my character’s damage is emotional.”
Walker plays Creon, the king of thieves, whose niece Antigone lives with him after the death of her father, Oedipus. Creon’s two sons go to war, and he must choose one to be the hero and another as a traitor to the state. This leads to a heated argument between the uncle and niece.
“ ‘Antigone’ is the show I’ve always wanted to direct,” said Osborn, who recently began work as entertainment manager at the Isle of Capri Casino in Bettendorf.
Osborn became fascinated with “Antigone” about five years ago, during a theater class at St. Ambrose University in Davenport. The version studied then is the same one Prenzie is performing now. It was written by a French playwright in 1942 while the Nazis were occupying France.
“It’s meant to be a modern version of ‘Antigone.’ It’s not Greek masks and togas,” Osborn said, adding that the Prenzie version will be set in the modern day.
Playing the title role is Gini Atwell, a senior at Rockridge High School and one of the players in the band that Walker directs.
“During the day, she’s playing principal flute in my band,” Walker said, “and then we spend most of the night at rehearsals screaming at each other.”
Atwell is one of four newcomers to the Prenzie cast of 11.
“Somewhat of a point of pride for our organization is that we’re in our 11th season. … close to 30 shows, but we’ve had at least one new person in every single show we’ve ever done,” Walker said.
QC Times Review
By David Burke
‘Antigone’ made accessible by Prenzies
Between its modern language, compelling narration and a haunting portrayal of the title role, the Prenzie Players’ “Antigone” provides a splendid entry point into Greek tragedy.
Jeremy Sams’ 2002 translation of the Jean Anouilh 1940s version gives the performers a lot of modern language (even talking about how the dog “wees on the carpet” and the phrase “stuff like that”). It’s very approachable on the audience level, and the Prenzies keep a bit of formality in the delivery.
And for those of us who still may have trouble following along, there’s Aaron E. Sullivan wandering, barefoot, in the role of Choragos, a one-man Greek chorus and occasional bit player. Sullivan’s narration takes up the first of 10 minutes of the one-hour, 45-minute production, but it’s essential to knowing the back story of the daughter of the late Oedipus, living with her uncle Creon and fighting for the dignity of her brothers.
In the title role, Prenzie newcomer Gini Atwell is potent and compelling. The senior at Rockridge High School plays the role of the 20-year-old with the innocence of a child and the rebellion of an adult. She plays both defiance and calmness in the same breath.
As Creon, Jake Walker puts a bit of sinister calm in the role, as if it were Donald Trump ordering executions. The anguish on his face shows often as it reddens in contrast with his cream-colored, pinstripe suit.
Among the excellent performances are Abby VanGerpen, a classic beauty as Antigone’s sister, Ismene; Andy Koski, as a Radar O-Reilly-ish guard, and Dee Canfield as the sister’s nurse.
In his Prenzie debut, William Scott “Grecco” Bray looks a bit too “Sopranos” as Antigone’s fiance/cousin (you read correctly), but he does give an impassioned and forceful plea to his father to spare the girl.
Catie Osborn’s direction is full of nicely staged moments, including an opening tableau while Sullivan introduces the characters, the decision to play the action in three-quarters-round on the former grade school gym floor, with stairs to the stage for entrances and exits, and concluding with a Tom Waits song played over the speakers.
There are brief glimpses of humor as well, and a pleasing delivery of what could have been a dry, overwrought tale.
Palpable Pain: “Antigone,” through March 30 at the Quad City Theatre Workshop
River Cities Reader Review
by Thom White
Before the production officially begins and without uttering a single word, Gini Atwell effectively sets the tone for the Prenzie Players’Antigone. On Friday evening, during the ad-libbed pre-show that’s a staple of Prenzie productions, Atwell sat at the front of the stage, half-cradling her knees while wearing a far-off look in her eyes and a deep sadness on her face, as though lost in thought on woeful memories or circumstances.
Not long after the play begins, it’s made clear that Atwell’s expression is due to her character’s resignation to her own death. She is passionate during the course of the play – particularly as she attempts to garner her sister’s help in burying their brother (who lost his life in battle with their other brother for the throne of Thebes), and as she embraces her fiancé as if it’s the last time they’ll ever hold each other. But her ability to maintain the cheerlessness at the core of her Antigone is remarkable, creating a palpable pain that’s punctuated by her inevitable death.
Directed by Catie Osborn from a mid-20th Century French modernization of Sophocles’ Greek tragedy, Antigone centers on the title character’s desire to properly bury her brother against the orders of Creon, the current ruler of Thebes. Antigone makes multiple attempts to honor her fallen brother despite facing death for doing so.
The update – by playwright Jean Anouilh and translator Jeremy Sam – is notable for its exploration of fate without the intervention of a higher power. Yet Sam’s translation is especially eloquent, with stirringly poetic lines (“I’m here to say ‘no’ to you and die”) and bits of wit and humor; when Andy Koski’s First Guard blathers on about how little guards are paid compared to sergeants, Antigone interrupts him to say, with utter bafflement at his nonchalance, “I’m going to die soon.”
Osborn sets the ancient actions in a modern environment, for example positioning Jake Walker’s stern Creon as what seems to be a business executive rather than a king. Dressed by costume designers Kate Farence and Osborn in a cream-colored suit with a grayish-blue shirt and tie, Creon sits at a wooden table turned so it juts straight out from the leader’s leather executive chair. For his part, Walker maintains a focused, serious tone as Creon but impresses with an evident softening in grief for what befalls him for defying the gods. There’s also a moment when Creon forces Antigone to her knees in a display of power, threatening to punch her – an action that clearly conveys the core of his character.
Aaron E. Sullivan deserves high praise for his portrayal of the play’s one-man Chorus. Speaking with empathy as he talks about Antigone’s plight, Sullivan addresses the audience as if we know each other – sharing a sad story he thinks is important for us to hear, with a notable familiarity that’s sincere and moving. In contrast, Dee Canfield’s Nurse possesses a proper nature that’s much more aloof, with a disciplinary tone in much of her delivery as she chides Antigone for sneaking off at night.
Playing Antigone’s sister, Abby VanGerpen’s virginal beauty lends itself well to Ismene’s described attractiveness, but she shades the character – wearing a draped gown in a flowingly light material reminiscent of a toga – with a touch of meanness and a hint of arrogance. William Scott Bray uses a bit too much effort to feign Haemon’s emotions, with slow, calculated speech and somewhat exaggerated diction. However, his pain feels real when Haemon is told of his fiancée’s fate, with Bray holding nothing back while wailing and collapsing to the floor. Nine-year-old Brody Ford is worth mentioning for the singular focus he brings to the Page, ever at Creon’s side except when leaving to carry out the ruler’s bidding.
At roughly 100 minutes without intermission, the Prenzie Players’ Antigone is packed with stirring anguish, adeptly conveyed by Osborn’s cast. However, it’s also brief enough to prevent the grief from becoming overwhelming.