One of the principles behind our project is that we want to be an outward-looking company; we want to have a production with its eyes open to the world around it. Antigone in the world.
There’s a firm belief in our company that there are Antigones and Kreons (and Ismenes and Hamons) nearly everywhere you look. And so we’ve begun to gather material, not necessarily for any aesthetic purpose, but to probe outward from our story into the real-world situations it seems to describe and presage.
On Wednesday, Mosher brought in newspaper images. We looked at a group of women gathered in mourning following the earthquake in Nepal, other members of the community scattered behind them. We saw a close-up on faces warped by grief.
I pause to note that there was in fact a slight aesthetic component to this study: Mosher flipped between the front page images of shared sorrow and the arts section stills of a current Broadway production to demonstrate the phoniness of the latter. A recurring theme in his direction is that we must find what it is really like – short hand and cliché will not do.
Another guiding image of the production also came from the Times. The photograph features the women of Kabul carrying the coffin of Farkhunda, a woman stoned to death in public for allegedly burning the Quran (it quickly became clear that the woman, who was mentally ill, did no such thing). Protests rose quickly in response to the murder, and the anger of the women of Kabul is as powerful as the source of their grief is horrifying.
I have been picking up stories like these, as I come across them, to link on our website, which should be up any day now (thanks to Benita and Regina). The cocktail of agony and uplift is becoming familiar to me. Women in all parts of the globe – America is by no means excluded – suffer horrible mistreatment and deprivation of their rights. Yet those same women, or their sisters, their mothers, their friends (and yes, in many cases the men in their lives, too) stand up and demand more.
Last week I came across “After The Seven Summits” from espnW, about a group of women taking on the world’s greatest mountains. The story begins with Maya, who, as a girl in Nepal, excelled in school and wanted to be the first girl in her village to graduate high school. But her father felt there was no point and tried to take her from school to place in an arranged marriage. Maya took what she had (and stole what she could from her father’s pocket) and ran away. When she later returned to her village, her father made it graphically clear that as far as he was concerned, she had died the day she ran away rather than be married off.
Maya and a group of other extraordinary women she met years later became the first Nepalese women to summit Mt. Everest. They went on to tackle the rest of the famed seven summits, inspiring legions of young people, especially girls, from their hometowns. And when catastrophe struck this spring, in the form of an earthquake, Maya and her climbing companions returned to put their skills to use rescuing people from the rubble at the top of the world.
Once we begin to look, we see Antigones everywhere. And their stories, unlike that in our play, have not and need not all end tragically. In fact a great commonality in these stories is that the women and men and young people who act out so bravely, who stand up in defiance of terrifying entrenched powers, believe that they can bend the world towards greater justice.
I return to our friend Kennedy Odede, who started Shofco with little more than the vision of a brighter future for girls in Kibera and the certainty that such a vision could become reality.
We hope that those interested in our project and the world that it addresses will visit our website and share images and stories of their own. We are so excited to see where Antigone is alive in the world today.
Header image photographed by Rob Frost for espnW story “After The Seven Summits”