Two groups of high school students, one in Greece and the other in the United States, performed a selection of Sophocles’ Antigone, then met via Google+ Hangout to discuss their experiences of learning and staging this ancient tragedy. The selected passage (lines 441–581) focuses on the highly charged moment when Creon first confronts his niece, Antigone, and accuses her of burying her brother, Polyneices, against his decree.
Antigone Performance: Nafplion, Greece
Note: to select subtitles, available in English or ancient Greek, click on the Tool button at the bottom of the video playback, and choose the language you prefer.
Antigone Performance: USA
During the one-hour hangout, the students shared the process and the unique challenges that they faced when performing and staging this ancient drama. Differences in the texts the groups used helped to shape two very different productions. Working under the direction of Dr. Yiannis Petropoulos, the Director of the Center for Hellenic Studies in Nafplion, Greece, the students performed the text in Ancient Greek, which meant that they learned the ancient pronunciation and meter. This was not a trivial task given how much the Greek language has evolved in the over 2400 years since Antigone was first produced. As a point of comparison, this would be comparable to teaching modern English speakers to perform Beowulf in Old English. What the performance in Ancient Greek captures for a modern audience is the musicality of the text, as the American students noted, allowing us to imagine its performance within the ancient song-culture tradition. For the American production, the issues of meter and pronunciation were not central. Guided by Michael López-Sáenz, Director of the Acton-Boxborough Regional High School Drama Department, the students used a modern English translation. They began by memorizing their lines, planned the staging, and then got into character. It was not until the performance itself that the tension between Creon and Antigone exploded into a very tense and even physical confrontation. Thus two groups of students on two continents, working with two languages—Ancient Greek and modern English—offer us two very distinct performances.
An interesting difference of opinion emerged when the students discussed in greater depth the characters that they played. When asked whether Antigone or Creon is the hero, the American students replied unanimously that it was Antigone who was willing to die for a deeply held conviction, whereas the Greek students asserted that it was Creon who tries to stop the revolution, discovers too late his error, suffers every loss, and is left to endure. The Greek students argued that from a modern perspective, the play should be named Creon to emphasize this tragic character. We would therefore like to ask members of the Hour 25 community: who is the hero of Antigone?
Quotes from Students
Greek Students’ quotes:
“It was an unbelievable experience. I feel grateful to be able to learn Erasmian pronunciation, to study Antigone outside the school and to embody Ismene. Special thanks to the whole team!” -Alexandra Galstian (Ismene)
“One of the best performing experiences I’ve ever had! Feeling thankful being a part of it!!” -Vasiliki Georgopoulou (Chorus)
“This program was the best way—besides the opportunity to experience directly as a Greek person the work of Sophocles—to accomplish as a student of ancient Greek literature to delve into the great accent and meter of this linguistic treasure, which shows very interesting differences with the modern Greek language for one to observe, thus allowing me to improve as a philologist and especially as a human. The deep preoccupation with the ancient Greek improves my education, it was my honor and I am thankful to those who have worked to make this venture a success.” -Orestis Tentzeris (Creon)
“Marx once said: ‘It is better to have a miserable end than a misery without end’. That is exactly what Antigone is for me! A revolutioner who prefers to die than live a life that is against her beliefs! It is my honor to have embodied this role!” -Antonia-Nefeli karaleka (Antigone)
“It was a unique experience!” -Anna Katsoulieri (Chorus)
“It was a wonderful experience and it gave me the chance to learn more about my ancestors’ history!” -Vasiliki Antonopoulou (Chorus)
US Students’ quotes:
“It felt kind of like a Greek version of Shakespeare, with its old timey phrases and abstract characters and concept; then seeing the Greek version of it made the show have even more depth.” -Leah Brandstein (Ismene)
“I had never acted in anything like Antigone before, and I didn’t know what to expect, but the experience opened my eyes to, although ancient, a fascinating form of theater and a fantastic piece of drama. Plus, playing Creon was AWESOME!” -Roshan Davé (Creon)
“My experience with Antigone was very different than any other play I have ever done. It was a different kind of play, and I really liked it. I think I have learned a lot from doing this, things such as it’s important to be able to interpret your lines and character the way you think they should be interpreted, and to have artistic freedom. Though this was one of the hardest plays I have ever been in I had a lot of fun doing it and would surely do it again!” -Joanna Gaspar (Chorus)
“Being in and learning about Antigone was an incredible experience, made more so by the chance to speak with the Greek students and get a tiny peek of another culture.” -Samantha Whittle (Antigone)
Greek Students’ Performance
Antigone: Antonia-Nefeli Karaleka
Creon: Orestis Tentzeris
Ismene: Alexandra Galstian
Member of the Chorus: Vasiliki Antonopoulou
Member of the Chorus: Vasiliki Georgopoulou
Member of the Chorus: Anna Katsoulieri
Guard: Nektarios Kouloukis
Helias Polychronopoulos: Video recording, artistic photographer
Matina Goga: Communications Coordinator and Programs Development, CHS Greece
Yiannis Petropoulos, Director of the Center for Hellenic Studies in Greece
US Students’ Performance
Antigone: Samantha Whittle
Creon: Roshan Davé
Ismene: Leah Brandstein
Chorus: Joanna Gaspar
Michael López-Sáenz: Drama Teacher/PC Advisor at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School
A special thank you to Acton-Boxborough Regional High School, USA (http://www.abschools.org/) and Trianon building in Nafplion, Greece (http://www.discovernafplio.gr/en/articles/136?article_category_id=21) for letting us film on their premises.
Hour 25 Antigone Outreach Team
Jessica Eichelburg, Claudia Filos, Christina Lafi, Zoie Lafis