COURTESY THE ACTORS GROUP
The Actors Group's presentation of French playwright Jean Anouilh's "Antigone" isn't meant to be a political statement on the United States' war in Iraq.
‘Antigone’ no anti-war polemic
Brad Powell, artistic director of The Actors Group, wants to make one thing perfectly clear before TAG's summer production of "Antigone" opens June 21: The show is not a statement about the American presence in Iraq!
Presented by The Actors Group
On stage: 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; 4 p.m. Sunday, through July 15
Place: 625 Keawe St.
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The theater group does promote controversial plays, he said, "but we don't want to take a stand."
When TAG has mounted controversial plays in the past -- such as the "The Guys," about a writer who helps a fire captain write eulogies for his men in the aftermath of 9/11 -- it was for the sake of good theater, not to make a statement, Powell said.
Another show had been planned for this summer, "Mass Appeal," but the cast Powell wanted wasn't available -- and because he was also committed to directing Manoa Valley Theatre's "Working," which opens June 27, the only time he would have had for "Mass Appeal" rehearsals would have been "10:30 (p.m.) to 1 in the morning, every night."
That left TAG without a summer show until veteran actor/director David Schaeffer "said he'd always wanted to do this version of 'Antigone,' and so we quickly put that in as a substitute."
This is where the political factor kicks in. "This version" of the story is significantly different from the tragedy first told in an ancient Greek myth and then by the Greek playwright Sophocles sometime around 441 B.C.
Schaeffer is directing French playwright Jean Anouilh's "Antigone," written during the German occupation of France in World War II. Anouilh eliminated one of Sophocles' central characters and made other changes as well. Given that the French response to the German presence was divided -- some fought the Germans, others collaborated -- it is often assumed that Anouilh intended the idealistic princess Antigone to represent the French resistance, with Antigone's uncle, Creon, King of Thebes, representing either the Germans or their French allies.
And, of course, if the Germans claimed the play was in fact a political attack he could shrug his shoulders, express surprise at their interpretation, and deny that it was anything other than a rewrite of Sophocles.
Anouilh's "Antigone" enjoyed renewed popularity in the late-1960s among opponents of American policies in Vietnam, with the princess seen as embodying the principals of those willing to die rather than participate in an unjust war. Creon represented all that was bad and evil about the U.S. government.
"Antigone" became an "anti-war" play -- at least when the war involved the United States fighting communism.
Forty years later, the United States is involved in another largely unpopular war, this time against non-communist enemies, and Schaeffer -- whose previous directing credits at TAG include "Copenhagen," "Boston Marriage" and "Our Town" -- is returning for "Antigone."
Powell says TAG is committed to being a place where "directors can have a chance to do their thing."
"We believe totally in directorial freedom. We believe in experimenting and in trying things, and yet we don't want to make any kind of (political) statement (as an organization)."
But considering "Antigone" strictly as theater, Powell is "kind of looking forward to it."
"The other day I had a meeting with the cast, just as the artistic director to welcome them to TAG, because we've got so many people who haven't ever been with TAG before, and it was really fun. They're excited about what they're doing, and most of them feel that it's not a political statement, so I'm hoping that that's what it will come out to be."