Antigone received commissioning support and was presented as a work-in-progress at the J. Paul Getty Museum’s Getty Villa as part of their Theater Lab series. Additional development support was provided by Carleton College, Department of Theater and Dance.
Antigone was produced by SITI Company with support from Leading for the Future Initiative: Innovative Support for Artistic Excellence, a program of Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF), funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation; the Fan Fox & Leslie R. Samuels Foundation; the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s New York Theatre Program, administered by the New York Foundation for the Arts; and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Quotes from Antigone:
“How does it all begin? How does it all begin? How does it all begin?” —Chorus
“It is easy to die, Antigone. You are afraid of life. It is much harder to live.” —Kreon
“The future is inscribed in the past. I have to remember where I came from to discover where I am now. To determine where I will go. If I forget I will lose my way.” —Tiresias
“Tell anyone who asks about me that you saw me escape to my death.” —Antigone
SITI Company’s first production was Charles Mee’s adaptation of Orestes in 1992. Antigone marked the company’s return to Greek tragedy. Antigone is a starkly contemporary retelling by Irish writer Jocelyn Clarke of Sophocles’ classic tale of family loyalty, patriotism, war, and the powers of the state. Antigone, the cursed daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta, defies the King of Thebes for the right to bury her own brother. In this production, SITI Company embodies one of humankind’s most enduring and influential stories.
“The solid ensemble makes this a perfectly worthy introduction to the play.” —The New York Times
“SITI’s production of the tragedy is bold and powerful, giving a unique, timely new look into this classic.” —NYTheatre.com
The story of a young woman who brought an empire to its knees because she did what she believed was right has resonated down the centuries since Sophocles wrote his tragedy more than 2,000 years ago. It is a story that now seems to have even more resonance than ever before.
Antigone opens with Ismene telling her older sister Antigone of Kreon’s plans for the bodies of their brothers Polyneikes and Eteokles. Appalled by her uncle’s deliberate desecration of her brother’ corpse—an action intended to deny the growing anti-war movement within the city and country of Thebes, a martyr—Antigone vows to perform the necessary funeral rites for Polyneikes and to cover his body with earth, fully aware of the fatal consequences of her actions.
As the story unfolds to its inexorably tragic conclusion, Antigone reveals a complex and compelling drama of personal and political relationships between the central characters of Antigone and her uncle Kreon, her lover Haemon and her sister Ismene. Here, the bonds of family, the demands of leadership and profound moral imperatives divide and ultimately destroy both a family and a country.
Note About Process
The origins of SITI Company’s Antigone reach back into the story of an opera that never happened. Anne and Jocelyn were approached by an opera company to create a new opera based on the story of Antigone. Anne would direct the production and Jocelyn would prepare the libretto. The production eventually fell apart and the commission was canceled, but Jocelyn had already completed most of the libretto. Not wanting his work to go to waste, he finished it and sent it to Anne just to show her what might have been. Anne’s reaction was that she suspected it might work as a play.
A couple of years later, SITI Company was invited by the J. Paul Getty Museum’s Getty Villa to come to Santa Monica and spend two weeks working on a classical play and present a reading as part of the Getty Villa’s Theater Lab series. Anne proposed the company use the two weeks to explore Jocelyn’s Antigone libretto and see if it was “stageable” as a play.
In addition to the SITI Company members, Makela Spielman, who had worked with some of the company at Arena Stage on Intimations for Saxophone, joined the cast to play Antigone, and longtime friend and collaborator Christian Frederickson composed and performed the subtile and deeply musical soundscape for the production.
Originally Anne proposed that the company spend half their time doing research and “table work” on the play and half their time embodying the play with scripts in hand, but the two processes began to merge. The image of a group of actors around a table evolved from being part of the process to the central physical anchor of a staging of the play. By the end of the two weeks at the Getty Villa, Antigone was almost fully staged.
Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, provided support for the next step in the process, and after a week of work there, the play was presented again as a work in progress but this time without scripts in hand. All of this led to the production’s official premiere, as the inaugural production in SITI Company’s New York season at what was then called Dance Theatre Workshop.