Director Marlette Carter said her new production of Sophocles's “Antigone” is the feel-good play of the season.
“No matter what you're going through, odds are your life is better than what's happening to the characters in this play,” she said. “Your brother is probably not your father, and you're not engaged to marry your cousin.”
The play, which opens Friday at the Alban Arts Center in St. Albans, centers on the daughter of doomed King Oedipus, who seeks honorable burial of her brother, Polynices, branded a traitor.
“Antigone is trying to do right, regardless of what the government says and what her family is saying,” Carter said. “She's trying to follow the laws of the divine.”
The divine laws — the laws of the Greek gods — said the body should be buried. But that’s in conflict with the decree of King Creon, the reigning authority in the land, who said Polynices' body should be left to rot outside the gates of the city.
The play explores the costs of right and wrong and the repercussions of pride.
“And it's oh so relevant today,” Carter said.
“What I like to tell people is there are no bad people in this play,” she added. “There's no one setting out to cause a disturbance because they can. They're all acting on behalf of their consciences."
Everyone means to do right and everything goes wrong, leading to tragedy.
The story of Antigone is almost 2,500 years old. Carter said it’s one of the few relevant pieces of ancient Western culture that shows what people of the time actually thought about.
"I think this is a good play to open up discussion," she said. "A lot of students read this in high school or college, but this was a performance piece. It was never meant to just be read, but seen. Its purpose was sacred. It honored their god Dionysus. The play entertained, but it was also supposed to provoke thought."
Carter said putting this production together has been a fairly smooth process. A lot of work has gone into the set, makeup and costumes to make the show resemble ancient Greek art.
"The women in the show will be extremely pale, and the men will all be extremely dark," she said.
This has presented some technical challenges.
"We can't light the stage with white light," Carter said. "You throw white light on someone in white makeup, and they turn into a sunburst. So, we're using some colors not usually used."
The costumes for the cast, she added, took a little getting used to as well. The Greeks of the time wore a garment called a chiton, which was a single piece of fabric that was draped over the shoulders and ended in a kind of skirt.
For Greek women, the skirt went to their ankles. It was usually a bit shorter for men.
"The guys were not thrilled about their short chitons," Carter said.
She noted she sometimes had to remind the men to keep their legs together when they sat.
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