Review: ‘Antigone in Ferguson’ Greek Mythology, Modern Times, and Social Justice Parallels

Screen Shot 2018-09-18 at 9.09.38 PM

Photo: Gregg Richards, De-Andrea Blaylock-Johnson (center) and choir members 

With so many transgressions of police brutality plaguing African-American communities in our country, daily – it’s quite easy to slip into a path of desensitization. The Harlem Stage in collaboration with Theater of War Productions, the citizens of St. Louis and Ferguson refuse to let that transpire with the production of Antigone in Ferguson. One-part play with gospel chorus inflections; one-part panel discussion and equal parts entertainment, patrons of this unconventional presentation are in store for an eye opening cultural awakening. With scenes from Sophocles’ ancient Greek play, staged readings performed by leading television, film, theater actors and an unusual – yet extraordinarily talented choir – comprised of law enforcement, activists, educators, and counselors – form this experimental show.

At first, I couldn’t fathom staged readings in lieu of customary scenes with verbal and physical components performed against picturesque backdrops to illustrate the highly popularized Sophocles’ play, Antigone – done in past iterations, similar to the Classical Theatre of Harlem Stage production I covered earlier this the summer. The synopis: Antigone, it’s about a young woman who is adamant about burying her brother, Polyneices, whose slain body lays lifeless in the ancient city of Thebes at the end of the civil war, against the wishes of newly crowned King Creon. The courageous Antigone is ready to risk life and limb to honor her deceased brother and seek a proper burial for him even though he was considered an enemy of the state. The parallels, from this more than 2,500-year-old play, couldn’t be timelier, as this rendition focuses on the aftermath of the death of Michael Brown Jr. in 2014 at the hands of a white police officer in Ferguson, MO. The subsequent African-American deaths by white police officers that followed in our country, the lack of action this administration demonstrates, and the perseverance of movements such as Black Lives Matter to affect change.

Screen Shot 2018-09-18 at 9.18.23 PM

Photo: Gregg Richards, (L to R) Actors Tamara Tunie and Tate Donovan

What’s fascinating about this production is that the mix of stage readings from acclaimed actors Tate Donovan (King Creon) from the Damages and The O.C. series, Tony award-winning actress Tamara Tunie (Antigone), Chris Myers from the She’s Gotta Have It and Netflix’s Sneaky Pete series (as Creon’s son, Haemon, among other roles) and Chinasa Obguagu from the Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and A Walk Among the Tombstones films (as Ismene, Antigone’s sister, and Eurydice, Creon’s wife) are instrumental in telling the story, yet their performances don’t overshadow the focal point of this production – which is: solutions communities and lawmakers – can and should – come up with to end senseless deaths as a result of police brutality and gun violence across the nation with much needed conversation. Panel discussions with Michael Brown Sr., community members-turned-activists describing first-hand accounts of the night of the Ferguson shooting, members of the Man Up Project, therapists and individuals committed to make an impact and let their voices be heard – moved the audience in the theater that night: including me.

Screen Shot 2018-09-18 at 9.21.13 PM.png

Photo Credit: Gregg Richards, Panel (L to R): Erica Wright, Lt. Latricia Allen, Michael Brown Sr.

Artistic director and moderator of the Antigone in Ferguson production, Bryan Doerries has presented over 60 performances across all five boroughs. Antigone in Ferguson at Harlem Stage marks a departure from the company’s history of nomadic presentations. Having mounted over 700 events at a range of venues around the world, from Guantanamo Bay to a playground in Brownsville, Brooklyn, this extended run (September 13 – October 13) will be the first time Theater of War Productions will embed itself in one location for an extended period of time. Exclusively supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the 30 free (RSVP required) performances at Harlem Stage will offer expanded opportunities for community participation in this innovative social justice project. Don’t miss upcoming performances by actors: Frankie Faison (Coming to America, The Wire) Chris Noth (Sex and the City franchise, Law & Order), Samira Wiley (Orange Is the New Black), and Kathryn Erbe (Law & Order: Criminal Intent) to name a few. For more information on Antigone in Ferguson and upcoming schedule, click here.

Advertisements

‘Antigone’ Review: Modern, Timely and Necessary

Screen Shot 2018-07-10 at 4.24.54 PM

Alexandria King as Antigone, Photo: Richard Termine

Summer in New York City is replete with outdoor activities to fulfill the public’s yearning for quality music, film, fitness and cultural events. How do you choose from so many worthwhile attractions? If you were a theatre and cultural arts aficionado you’d be remiss not to take advantage of The Classical Theatre of Harlem’s free production of “Antigone.” This modern revival of Sophocles’ Greek tragedy is inspired by the Paul Roche adaption and infuses African-American traditions while adhering to the Greek tragedy format. Presented at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater at Marcus Garvey Park and referred as the ‘Uptown’ Shakespeare in the Park by Ty Jones, Producing Artistic Director of The Classical Theatre of Harlem, lead actor in “Antigone”, and fellow theatre creatives – the space is conducive and complements “Antigone’s” production and set design with the names of those killed by police brutality.

Screen Shot 2018-07-10 at 4.25.16 PM

Alexandria King and Ty Jones as Antigone and King Creon, Photo: Richard Termine

Although the cornerstone of Greek plays emphasize tragedy, what stands out in this particular rendition and lauded by Carl Cofield, Director of “Antigone,” is the valor of conviction. The story of “Antigone” opens at the end of a battle between Antigone’s brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, both were vying for control of Thebes and died in combat. Ultimately, King Creon claims the throne as the new leader and proclaims one brother a hero (Eteocles) while the other a usurper. Antigone demands her slain brother (Polynices) receive a proper burial against the king’s wishes. The timeliness of “Antigone” couldn’t be more appropriate as we face an administration attempting to impose their unjust system on its citizens – and most of these citizens are challenging their ideology and taking to the streets to protests their policies – to salvage our Democracy. Alexandria King plays the main character of Antigone. Don’t be fooled by her small stature opposite King Creon, Ty Jones’s 6 ft. build. King’s powerful voice commands the stage and she does a superb job of portraying the defiant and valiant Antigone. Jones, known for his portrayal of Agent Donovan in the POWER series on the Starz Network is a natural as enforcer and upholder of law and order. But, Creon’s family and citizens of Thebes are reluctant in sharing his views.

Screen Shot 2018-07-10 at 4.23.26 PM

Ensemble from Elisa Monte Dance Company, Photo: Richard Termine

The choreography by Tiffany Rea-Fisher is stellar and the talented singers in the chorus are sensational. “Antigone” offers hope reflected in the selfless acts of sacrifice in the name of justice and even though the play, originally written by Sophocles in 442 B.C. – 2,500 years later, stands the test of time. Check out the free production of “Antigone” produced by The Classical Theater of Harlem at the Richard Richards Amphitheater at Marcus Garvey Park through July 29th, for more information, click here.

CREDITS:

The company of “Antigone” includes: Obie Award winner Ty Jones (as Creon; POWER, Julius Caesar), Alexandria King (as Antigone), Kahlil X. Daniel (as Teiresias), Avon Haughton (as Haemon), Ava McCoy (as Ismene), and Adaku Okpi (as Eurydice). The ensemble features dancers from Elisa Monte Dance.

Inspired by Paul Roche’s Adaptation of “Antigone” by Sophocles
Director: Carl Cofield
Choreographer: Tiffany Rea-Fisher
Costume Designer: Lex Liang
Lighting Designer: Alan C. Edwards
Scenic Designer: Christopher & Justin Swader
Sound Designer: Curtis Craig
Production Stage Manager: Megan Sprowls
Projections Designer: Katherine Freer
Props: Samantha Shoffner

Review: ‘Sancho: An Act of Remembrance’ Emotional, Provocative and Timely

PJoseph.jpg

Photo: Robert Day

If Paterson Joseph’s name doesn’t automatically invoke the phrase “thespian of our time”, then the acknowledgement is long overdue. Joseph’s career trajectory spans over two decades with a vast array of Shakespearean and other notable stage performances, film and television series (The Beach, Aeon Flux, NBC’s “Timeless,” and “Doctor Who,”). The talented and versatile British actor brings to life Sancho: An Act of Remembrance to the National Black Theatre in Harlem with an undeniable vibrancy and a steadfast energy. Written, conceived and performed as a one-man show, Joseph commands the audiences’ attention as soon a he steps on stage.

Paterson Joseph begins with a brief intro to his entertainment background and seamlessly segues into the character he’s portraying: Charles Ignatius Sancho. Sancho, an African man born on a slave ship – who was able to rise from poverty and servitude in 18th century England and become an educated social satirist, composer, abolitionist and ultimately a man of refinement evidenced by his portrait – painted and immortalized – by renowned artist, Thomas Gainsborough. I can’t recall mention of this prominent activist in school and welcomed the education lesson of this character’s vital role in becoming the first British-African to cast a vote in England in 1774; quite a feat for a man of color in this era in history. Joseph does a phenomenal job in reenacting Sancho’s birth, early childhood, and life-changing influences that led to his financial independence as a businessman within the oppressive environment bestowed upon him. Joseph transitions between the narrative with comedic and emotionally charged dialogue with ease. And as a theater patron, you can’t help but glance around the intimate setting, and notice other patrons are captivated by Paterson Joseph’s storytelling ability.

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 11.39.12 AM

Engraving by: Francesco Bartolozzi

The theme of oppression and strength of conviction to affect change is so timely in our current political system. This play is more than homage to a man who paved the way for British Africans, rose above unimaginable adversity and triumphed in light of the circumstances surrounding him; it’s a testament to the spirit of man and the belief that change and acceptance of marginalized groups is possible. Sancho: An Act of Remembrance will be playing at the Black National Theatre through May 6th. For more information on the performance and to get tickets, click here:

Conceived, written and performed by: Paterson Joseph; Co-Director: Simon Godwin; Music and Sound Design: Ben Park; Designer: Michael Vale; Lighting Designer: Lucrecia Briceno; Costume Designer: Linda Haysman.