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Ancient Greek Play, Antigone, Still Relevant Today

Ancient Greek Play, Antigone, Still Relevant Today

(EDWARDSVILLE, Ill.) Antigone, one of the Greek tragedies by Sophocles, will be staged at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville later this month and Director Diane Sol points out that even though the play is hundreds of years old it still has relevant issues for today's audiences.

Antigone runs at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 23, to Saturday, April 26, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 27, all in the theater at SIUE's Katherine Dunham Hall.

The play is straightforward. Antigone wants to bury her brother, Polyneices, but he's considered an enemy of the state by Creon, king of Thebes. If you recall from your Oedipus handbook, Polyneices and Eteolces, sons of Oedipus, the king, were to share the kingship of Thebes after Oedipus kills his own father, marries his own mother and then puts out his own eyes in shame.

Antigone, daughter of Oedipus, cares for him in exile until he dies. Meanwhile, Eteocles decides he doesn't like the shared leadership arrangement, so he banishes Polyneices.

The play focuses on the aftermath-Polyneices returns to overthrow Eteocles. War ensues and the two of them meet and kill each other. Then, Creon becomes king of Thebes and he declares Polyneices a traitor; therefore, denying Antigones' request to bury him.

Several issues come into play here and Sophocles, as well as the other ancient Greeks, loved to put those issues onstage for discussion, according to Sol, an SIUE assistant professor of theater and dance. "This play is about the choices people make, it's about law and order, a lot of different issues.

"The Greeks loved an argument. They loved fighting on the battlefield and they loved an argument in the courtroom," Sol said. "Family conflicts and sibling rivalries in this play will resonate with today's audiences."

Sol points out that this version of the play has never been performed in English, although it has been the basis for a film in Greek. There are several versions based on Sophocles' version including a Croatian version in 1985. "This play has a love story as well as conflicts between father and son.

"All these elements are in this play," Sol said. "There's even an element of politics. I'm telling my students to watch televised debates between the current presidential candidates.

"Watch the gesturing. It all comes from the Greek tradition."

Sol teaches theater history and the cultural theory of performance. She believes Antigone has a lot to offer modern audiences. "Some of my students were concerned that a Greek play would be boring, but, if you consider our form of government, consider democracy ... it's all there," she said. "I asked them not to have any preconceived notions. Just watch the play and let it wash over you."

For ticket information, call the SIUE Fine Arts box office, (618) 650-2774.

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