The School of Music, Theatre & Dance continues their season with an exciting unveiling of “Antigone”; with the help of director Sam White, the play weaves together contemporary influences in a fully modernized take on the classic Greek tragedy.
The story begins with the death of Antigone’s brothers as they fight against each other in the Theban Civil War. Creon, the ruler of Thebes, orders that one of the brothers, Polynices, be left unburied for his treachery against the crown. Antigone decides to defy Creon’s orders and bury her brother, inciting a moral and spiritual battle across the play.
This conflict of morals serves as a significant inspiration in the Music, Theatre & Dance School adaptation being released this week. In an interview with the Michigan Daily, director Sam White commented that Antigone is “potent at this particular time because so many people, especially in 2020 … weren’t able to have funerals for their loved ones with COVID-19, and that’s exactly what’s happening with Antigone. She isn’t able to give her brother Polynices the opportunity to have a proper burial. She doesn’t get that closure, she doesn’t get that farewell.”
White hopes that this staging of “Antigone” can help provide both closure and validation for those who have lost loved ones during the pandemic. “I was one of those people,” said White. “My father passed away in 2020, and we didn’t get the opportunity to have a memorial.” Through this lens, the ancient Greek tragedy delivers a powerful and personal message to audiences.
White, who is the Founding Artistic and Executive Director of Shakespeare in Detroit, has been brought on as a guest director for “Antigone.” White has been affiliated with the University over the course of the pandemic — she was a guest director for the Music, Theatre & Dance School production of Romeo and Juliet, which was released as a virtual recording in May 2021. This semester, White is also teaching a production class at the Music, Theatre & Dance School as a guest faculty member.
Producing and directing plays throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been understandably difficult. The recent surge of omicron has coincided with the rehearsal schedule for “Antigone,” beginning in early January. Despite the uncertainty around this, White stressed the importance of discussing “what it means to make art, together and in person.”
Overcoming adversity from COVID-19 has only strengthened the show in the eyes of the cast and production staff. “We had some challenging times … but we all grew and expanded from all the things that we learned about producing plays during a pandemic,” said White. “We’ve been able to use and really harness all the difficulties that came at the very beginning of the process and put it into the intensity of the play.” White expressed confidence about entering the opening week of “Antigone.”
This resilience in adapting to a post-pandemic production is not the only aspect of “Antigone” that has been modernized. The theatre has a special way of bringing people together, and White expanded on this, sharing: “I hope it inspires people to open their ears and their hearts to people who are different from them, who think differently from them.”
“Antigone” energizes the average adaptation of a Greek play. As White described, “The movement in it is epic, the energy with the music, the drumbeats; it’s just everything about it is reimagined and fresh. It was written in 441 BCE, but it’s definitely got a 2022 energy to it that I think people will appreciate a lot.”
The Music, Theatre & Dance School will perform “Antigone” on Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 18 and 19 at 8:00 p.m. and Feb. 20 at 2:00 p.m. All shows will be performed at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time on the Music, Theatre & Dance School webpage, and all audience members are required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within the last 72 hours upon entry. The script was written by Sophocles in 441 BCE and translated into English by David Mulroy in 2013, using fluid passages and iambic pentameter. This ambitious adaptation from the Music, Theatre & Dance School offers both excitement and reflection for the audience.
Daily Arts Contributor Connor Jordan can be reached at email@example.com.