Antigone,

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of mother and son. Antigone and her sis­ter, Is­mene (Gemma Har­ris) are their daugh­ters; their older broth­ers, Polyne­ices and Eteo­cles, have killed each other in war, fight­ing for lead­er­ship of Thebes. Creon, Jo­casta’s brother, took on the throne re­luc­tantly at first; but by the time of the ac­tion in the play, he has em­braced his role as ar­biter of life and death if not with en­thu­si­asm than with the same tun­nel vi­sion and sin­gu­lar­ity of pur­pose that have de­fined (and marred) lead­er­ship, na­tion build­ing, and party pol­i­tics since time im­memo­rial.

“The play is dark, even sort of ter­ri­fy­ing, but it’s also beau­ti­ful,” Ol­son said. “In our own world, now, we’re wrestling with all sorts of things over which we have no con­trol, but as the play says, in the nearly 3,000 years since Sopho­cles wrote it, there have been many Antigones. I put a photo on the call­board, from the March 20 New York Times, of a group of women in Ye­men, stand­ing in silent protest with their [faces cov­ered], ex­cept for one woman, who had her face [un­cov­ered]. I told the cast, ‘ There she is.’ And we don’t know what price that woman had to pay for ap­pear­ing in The New York Times that way. Prob­a­bly a ter­ri­ble price. Antigone plants her feet over one is­sue — cov­er­ing the body of her dead brother — and that’s the mo­ment. Creon tries to tell her that Polyne­ices isn’t who she thought, that he was a scum­bag, but it doesn’t mat­ter. Her obli­ga­tion is to cover his body, and Creon can’t make the choice for her.”

Ol­son is set­ting his play about 50 years in the fu­ture — “just imag­in­ing some of the out­comes of some of what we’re see­ing in the news right now. We’ve added a group of young women who come up out of the deep end and be­come at­tached to Antigone’s story, and we have a com­poser, Robert Jager, and a chore­og­ra­pher, Karen Brettschnei­der, work­ing with us on the mu­si­cal­ity — both lit­er­ally on the score as well as on the way words are spo­ken.”

Santa Feans who are es­pe­cially in­trigued by the Antigone story have the op­por­tu­nity to hear Ol­son lec­ture on April 18 and see a staged read­ing of Sopho­cles’ Antigone by St. John’s Col­lege stu­dents, di­rected by Ol­son and per­formed out­doors on April 23. And on April 20, five fe­male po­ets who have writ­ten po­etry in re­sponse to the story per­form their work at 333 Mon­tezuma An­nex. Lines from their po­etry were in­cor­po­rated into the set and cos­tumes of the Theater­work pro­duc­tion. “The ma­jor idea here is youth chal­leng­ing tyranny and what it means to say no,” Ol­son said in ref­er­ence to the graf­fiti-like scrawls on the ac­tors’ over­coats and the bot­tom of the swim­ming pool. “Creon tries to con­vince Antigone to say yes to life, and she’s will­ing to say yes to life, but she’s not will­ing to say yes to tyranny. So she has to choose. Anouilh took a big risk in telling such a story, be­cause no one wanted to go to Auschwitz for be­ing in a play. We’re see­ing that, aren’t we, in the streets of Ye­men and Syria? I’m not say­ing there’s any com­par­i­son be­tween what’s go­ing on there and be­ing in a play, but the themes are the same. Where are the lines drawn around jus­tice? Free­dom? And then, if the lines are drawn, where does one stand on those lines? The play is dark, but the telling of the story is not a dark thing to do. It’s kind of an en­cour­ag­ing thing to do. In this [pool] that was aban­doned, that had no other pur­pose other than stor­age, we can say to each other that no mat­ter how dark or trou­bling things be­come, peo­ple are so ca­pa­ble of not be­ing par­a­lyzed but mak­ing some­thing in re­sponse.”

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