Thoughts on Antigonick from the players

Photo by Pak Han Hope Mohr (left), Mark Jackson, Soren Santos, Kevin Clarke, Megan Trout and Monique Jenkinson rehearse Anne Carson’s play, Antigonick.

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Antigonick   March 19—April 19

this article appeared in the Piedmont Post March 11, 2015

On March 19, the Shotgun Players will start previews of Antigonick, a translation of Sophokles’ Antigone by classicist and poet Anne Carson. I must admit I’m a fan of Carson’s lean and immediate translation, and that I’ve long been impressed with the Shotgun Players’ fresh and inventive work. I can’t think of a better opener for Shotgun’s new season of twelve plays by women playwrights. Recently I asked Kevin Clarke, who plays Kreon, and Monique Jenkinson (a.k.a. Fauxnique) who plays Ismene and Euridyke, a few questions about this compelling remix of Sophokles’ 441 B.C. story of civil disobedience. Co-directed by Mark Jackson and choreographer Hope Mohr, Antigonick takes a streamlined, deeply physical approach, and draws together a talented cast with backgrounds in theater, dance, performance art, and drag.

“Hope and Mark’s staging highlights each individual’s strengths,” said Clarke. “There are sharp shifts in tone, movement and style that give our show the feeling that anything might happen, just like in Carson’s book.”

Both performers enjoy the immediacy and economy of Carson’s language, and find in it an exciting framework from which to build the performance. Jenkinson pointed out that the movement plays an equally weighted expressive role in this piece of physical theater, but expressed her admiration for Carson’s capacity, as a translator, to hold an unusual position with regard to time.

“I love how Carson’s text lives in the contemporary world and in a kind of non-linear position regarding history,” said Jenkinson. “…for her, the act of translation exists in the present and acknowledges the simultaneity of present knowledge regarding the play—of  Hegel, of Beckett, of all of the translations that have come before.”

The cast of Antigonick is as lean as Carson’s language—three of the six cast members play more than one role, and the chorus is played by a single actor. Although in Sophokles’s time, the chorus would have been a group of actors, I’ve learned that doubling up on roles for the other characters would have been a common practice. I asked Jenkinson how she felt about playing Ismene and Eurydike.

“I love the way the casting got worked out…Ismene could grow up to be Eurydike, so that is a kind of thread, but we [have made] them quite different. Traditionally, Ismene has been portrayed as a mousy character, and it was really important for all of us not to do that to her here. She is a strong, rational voice who sees the big picture and wants to move beyond the tragic family legacy. Eurydike is a political wife who has held it together, and now the stakes are so high that she just can’t. She has a lot of antecedents, both fictional and real.”

Clarke weighed in on the complexity of playing Kreon, who on the surface of it is the villain of the piece.

“Kreon is a fascinating challenge…. He’s got a long arc over the Sophokles’s Theban plays, but Antigone shows him at his worst. I’ve played my fair share of villains, but lately I’ve been thinking more about the distinction between antagonist and villain. Kreon’s arguably doing what he believes he must do to be a good king. [Is he] an outright villain or is he an antagonist whose actions amplify—by contrast—Antigone’s position. Carson’s translation has a lot of tooth in this department; it’s a feminist text. Which makes Antigonick the best possible kickoff to Shotgun’s season of all women playwrights. I’m so proud of my company for leading the charge in this way.”

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