All around effort really ramped up this week. In the rehearsal room, the actors are on their feet going hammer and tong at long stretches of the play. Imagine coming in for a day of work knowing you’ll be spending the first hour on your knees grieving for your dead child. Or that you’ll be walking towards the tomb you will spend the rest of your life in, that you will never see the sun again.
The Greeks don’t make it easy.
My last entry described this as an “outward-looking” production. We spend a pretty unusual amount of time in rehearsal discussing current events, relating our material to stories we find in the newspaper or online. We do it to understand the life of the play and so that play can speak back to the stories that engender it. But then to talk about these “sources” later can be, at least for me, slightly distasteful. After all, Sophocles’ Antigone is not a real person; Farkhunda was. Comparing human beings to fictional characters runs the risk of trivializing real-life tragedy, even though neither the real Farkhunda nor the invented Antigone is remotely trivial to us. I guess I write this as a way of taking a breath before describing another story we’ve been talking about in the rehearsal room.
Last Saturday Kalief Browder committed suicide. He was arrested at age 16 on charges of stealing a backpack — charges that were never proved – and spent three years in jail waiting for trial. During that time, he endured abuse from inmates and guards. He was held in solitary confinement for approximately two years, eventually become suicidal. His life was destroyed. I bring this up because it’s infuriating and sad, and it’s been talked about in rehearsal every day this week.
Sometimes the connections really are trivial: Kalief was put in solitary confinement, Antigone is put in solitary confinement. Kalief hanged himself, Antigone hangs herself. These things do not have equal weight, can’t even be measured against each other. But when Antigone does its job, as it has done for more than 2,000 years now, the performers and the audience recognize in the tragedy of the young woman buried alive the truth that we live in a world where young men, in a liberal society, in what many call the greatest city on Earth, are buried alive.
Mosher has spoken frequently of Kreon’s choice to have Antigone sealed up outside of the city. He does it because to execute her publicly is to invite dissent. People might be horrified. They might question the authority that choses to abuse its citizens. But outside the cities walls she is no longer “an object of our city’s shame.” That is: no one will notice, or care, what happens to her. “I think that’s Rikers,” Mosher said in rehearsal on Monday. “It’s where we seal up black kids so we don’t have to think about them.”
One of our chief goals for the fall is to bring Antigone In The World to men and women held in prisons around the US and the world. Theirs are stories we desperately want to hear. And we hope Antigone is a story they will connect with.
Our July schedule is taking shape. We’re excited to have crafted, with our partners abroad, a performance schedule for Nairobi and some dates for Johannesburg and Cape Town as well. We’ll be in Nairobi starting July 4, then traveling to Johannesburg. We’re thrilled to be in Cape Town on Mandela Day. So far it looks like we’ll be performing mostly for girls high schools. I’m hoping to have an interview with Producer Regina Vorria one of these days so she can talk more about the huge undertaking of putting this all together.
Header Image photographed by Zach Gross for The New Yorker