Mainstage “An Antigone” debuts a new adaption

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Photo by Patrick Goodman

Dr. Teresa Danze of the Classics department and Professor Kyle Lemieux of the Drama department have been married for almost 19 years. They have recently collaborated for the Spring 2020 Mainstage production of “Antigone,” with Danze translating and Lemieux bringing it to life as a director. 

The production will not just be the play “Antigone” by Sophocles, but many other Greek plays that involve the character Antigone edited together to condense five plays into one: “Antigone,” “Seven against Thebes,” “Oedipus the King,” “Oedipus at Colonus,” and “The Phoenician Women.”

Danze was interested in exploring the work and Lemieux wanted to put on a Greek drama for the spring 2020 mainstage production. Danze is also interested in Antigone as a mythical figure outside of just the play “Antigone.” 

“The timing was right in terms of Teresa having the availability to do the translation and then work with me on structuring the adaptation,” Lemieux said. “We got really excited about the idea of looking at Antigone and looking at the events of the Theban plays through her lens.”

This script is a true adaptation, not just a translation. “An adaptation is when you leave out certain words that are excessive or, to emphasize something about a character, adding a few words or draw meaning out of a phrase to make it clearer,” said Danze.

In the process of writing the script, Danze would translate parts of the stories from the original Greek, and Lemieux would look at them and see what needed to be added to make a narrative. They kept Antigone as the focus and built the story around her. 

“I tried to make it literal but also comprehensible,” said Danze about her translation. “I was trying to keep some sense of the root words and their literal meanings, but what they also really mean in the context. And that was really difficult to do because that involves some interpretation on my part.”

“She would translate and I would look at those translations and start to adapt it into texts that seemed to fit what we were trying to do in terms of the scenes themselves,” said Lemieux.

Though audience members may think the play is simply a production of Sophocles’ “Antigone,” Danze and Lemeiux regard it as a new play.

“There are little snippets of things in there that we have written that are connecting parts that we have put together to make it more clear,” said Lemieux. 

However, the adaptation of these plays is as rooted in the classical tradition as the original works themselves.  

“The Romans used to do something very similar with comedy where they would take different Greek comedies and do translations, but they were really adaptations,” said Danze. “They would take one or two plays and put them together and throw something new in there to make it unique.”

The way Danze and Lemieux have chosen to structure their adaptation has added to its uniqueness. 

“Where we’ve landed is a structure where there are scenes and then the chorus talks for a while,” said Lemieux. “The scenes sound very casual. It is juxtaposed with these very formal, in-verse choral odes.”

When asked what they hoped the audience would draw from this production, Lemieux answered, “Things we don’t anticipate. Part of the experience of attending a play is discovering something that is unknown to the audience. It will be a different experience for every one of them.” 

“Antigone” will be performed from March 26 to April 4. Tickets go on sale in mid-March. Be sure to get yours!

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