Young players stage ancient drama

Perseverance's youth theater troupe tackles honor, self-righteousness and a higher law in its production of 'Antigone'

Posted: Thursday, October 24, 2002

Sometimes sticking up for a brother can get a girl killed.

Antigone, the heroine of Sophocles' classic play, defies her family and the law of the land to do what she believes is right. This weekend Perseverance Theatre's Young Shakespeare Training Company brings the Greek drama "Antigone" to life in Juneau.

As the company's name implies, members tend to focus on drama 2,000 years newer than this ancient Greek play. But after doing several Shakespearean plays in the past couple of years it was time for a change, said Anita Maynard-Losh, who heads up the program at Perseverance and directs "Antigone." Theater intern Christy Burgess of Anchorage is assistant director.

"We wanted to explore a different classical period and do a shorter piece," Maynard-Losh said. "These kids have all done Shakespeare with me in the past, and in the summer (with the Perseverance STAR program), and we're doing Shakespeare again in the spring."

"Antigone," written about 450 B.C., is the final play in the Oedipus cycle. Sophocles offers the conventions of classic Greek drama, which complements the training that performing Shakespeare provides theater students.

"The structure of Greek drama is very interesting," Maynard-Losh said. "It has great language and characters, and a formal, classical structure. It's great for the students to have the opportunity to see a formal structure and physicalize it, rather than just read about in textbooks like they will in college."

The Greek dramatic convention of the chorus figures prominently in the play. The chorus uses dance movement, chants and poetic language to help tell the story and comment on the action.

"The chorus is cool," said actor Kai Christian, 12, who plays the part of the messenger and is a member of the chorus. "Sometimes I think of them as the muses, other times as the little villager people, and sometimes they are the voice of reason."

The play is set in the city of Thebes. Antigone's two brothers are vying for the throne and her uncle Kreon hands it to one and banishes the other. The brothers fight and kill each other. Kreon names one brother a hero and the other a traitor.

"The one who fought for Thebes is buried with honor, and the one who fought against is left to be eaten by the dogs and crows," Maynard-Losh said. "Kreon says that anyone who touches the body will be killed."

Antigone wants to bury her brother with honor, out of respect to him and her religious beliefs, and she does it in defiance of the law.

"She has a great part of the speech where she says, 'I'll be spending more of my existence in the afterlife than I will in this life, so I need to please the gods more than I need to please man,' which is an interesting way of seeing things," Maynard-Losh said. "She believes the laws of the gods are more important than the laws of man."

The play will be staged at an unusual venue, the Marie Drake Planetarium. The relatively small room is square with a circular dome. Christian said although the room has a funky echo in some spots, she thinks it is a cool space for a play.

"The audience is on all sides," she said. "It's a challenge having to talk to everyone without looking like a ballerina in a music box turning around in circles."

Because seating is limited to about 35 per show, it is necessary to call Perseverance in advance for a reservation. The play is free but donations will be accepted. Call 364-2421, ext. 26, to reserve seats.

What: Greek classic by Sophocles presented by Perseverance Theatre's Young Shakespeare Training Company.

When: 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25; 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday Oct. 26; 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27.

Where: Marie Drake Planetarium.

Seating: Limited; call 3642421, ext. 26 for a reservation.

Tickets: Free.

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