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Thursday, September 10, 2015

In Context: Antigone


Director Ivo van Hove's Antigone, featuring Juliette Binoche and a new translation by Anne Carson, comes to BAM on September 24. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #Antigone.

Program Notes

Antigone (PDF) 

To bury or obey the law? Share your thoughts on Antigone using six words (or fewer) on Twitter and enter to win 2 tickets to an upcoming Next Wave show! Be sure to tag your post #Antigone and #BAMNextWave.

Podcast



Read

Article
The unanswered question–how to get to the dark soul of Antigone (BAM blog)
Learn why van Hove calls Antigone "a play about survival: not the survival of an individual or a family, but of a whole society, perhaps even the world."

Article
Antigone, Interpreted (BAM blog)
Philosopher Bonnie Honig and playwright Ellen McLaughlin joined performer Kaneza Schaal to discuss the play at the Brooklyn Book Festival on September 20.

Article
Juliette Binoche on Relating Antigone to Modern Audiences by Playing a "Woman in Control Beyond Men" (Playbill)
Contemporary resonance abounds for the play's star.

Article
Freaks and Geeks (Artforum)
Ann Carson, philosopher Simon Critchley, and choreographer Trajal Harrell discuss Antigone’s history and significance, as well as the play’s trenchant themes, from war and democracy to belonging and autonomy.

Watch & Listen

Video
Festival Portraits | Juliette Binoche
Art is a "link between the real and the invisible," says Binoche. "Eternity in something so ephemeral."

Video
Juliette Binoche on Antigone (YouTube)
The play's star discusses Anne Carson's "skin and bones" translation, the "Adam and Eve" inside of us all, the humanization of King Kreon, and why this story continues to resonate.

Now your turn...

What did you think of Anne Carson's colloquial translation? Do you side with sisterly love or kingly law? Tell us what's on your mind in the comments below and on social media using #Antigone.

23 comments:

  1. It was a great honor to be able to view the utterly radiant
    'Juliette Binoche' in one of the greatest plays ever written.
    The play was brilliantly directed.
    So, I think that I'll head back for a 2nd view!
    Just one thing:
    Where are the other dramas scheduled for production this season
    at BAM???????? There is none.
    What a wasted opportunity.
    And what a waste of the old but immensely beautiful 'Harvey'
    theater........

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  2. director disregards audience members in the balcony by having the characters speak so softly that they can't be heard.

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  3. Antigone, as a play not Antigone the character, lacks of the essential vitality of this well known Sophocles drama. There is something that is missing and the tragic story of a rebel woman and an obstinate ruler, refusing to change the course of actions until is too late, does not cross the prosenio.

    The scenery concept and the use of video technology do not support the main conflict. The big circle in the middel of the back wall does not have a specific meaning, or maybe has many in the director's conceptual approach, but it is dissociated with the characters' drama.

    Moments of silence are well used, allowing time for the audience to meditate and understand the characters' choices. The chorus, as well as, Antigone's opposite view are clear, giving the play the contrast that define it. But, even with the modern approach and the resemblance to actual world's situations, the play fails in transmitting the essential of Antigone's character that expounds a powerful argument: what is the right thing to do contrary to what the rulers want people to do. Let's think for a moment in WikiLeaks as a moderm Antigone.

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    1. I thought the circle had plenty of meanings. Mainly, it representes the two/double authorities: that of the gods (by representing the sun and the moon), and that of Man and Power (by being an architectural symbol in the castle).
      Having said that, I think there were a lot of problems in that production.. And the ending is really dissapointing.

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  4. Visually striking and interesting as a piece of theater, but--and despite the abundant talent on and behind the stage--this production was a bit of a leaden muddle. Hove's high stylization, which has worked to considerable effect for other plays, here unfortunately mutes the sharpness and ultimate horror horror, yielded from even a reading of the play. (I cannot speak to its "typical" performance, as this is the only rendering of the play I've seen.) This, along with an (overall) strangely affectless Kreon and an often incomprehensible Binoche (whom I've always admired in film) made for an outing that was more like a lecture than a dramatic performance.

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  5. Sorry; only one "horror" was intended in the above comment.

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  6. I have to disagree. The production was true to the text and mise en scene, at least in translations I've read. I appreciated the adherence to classical rules, restraint of passion and movement, and overall didactic thrust, set within a very modern and elevated theatrical sensibility. The level of acting was extraordinaire.

    The large 'circle' (I think) represents the dawn to dusk time frame of Greek tragedy. A classical 'skene' was also incorporated into a very minimal modern design. The only quibble I have is the reflective quality of some of the furniture. Could be more matte.

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  7. This was one of the worst theater pieces we've seen in a long time. The actors did not act; they merely spoke into a microphone, giving the whole thing a pre-recorded quality. The acting was generally lackluster (with the notable exceptions of Samuel Edward-Cook and Kathryn Pogson), uninspired and very, very predictable. Juliet Binoche brought no depth of character to the role. At times she mumbled her way through her lines, as did several of the other actors; frequently, the words sounded like a mere murmur (this from the front row of the upper orchestra). The staging was bland and uninteresting; the modern dress was vapid and detracted from the substance of the play. Unfortunately, this translation brought little substance to it; it trivialized Sophocles, destroyed anything vibrant and vital about this work. Would anyone dare to update the language of Shakespeare? I think not. Also, I did not get the sense that the chorus' function was to simultaneously reflect both the Theban populace as well as the royal court; the chorus was all the kings men, but not the people. Finally, the soundtrack and projected images did nothing to enhance Antigone; they were merely a side distraction. All in all, this performance was a complete waste of time and money. Had we been seated on the aisle we would have left after fifteen or twenty minutes.

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    1. Yeah, we had had great expectations and ended up absolutely disappointed. It is incomprehensible how a production could be so primitive . It was a huge waste of money, time and efforts. Our trip to NYC was planned around this performance; and was one of the worst theatrical experiences in our lives.

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  8. This was my first production of Antigone. Because it is by Sophokles and because Juliette Binoche starred as Antigone, I feel pressure to make some profound pronouncement on the whole evening. I will leave that to the scholars in the audience. What I will say is that Ivo van Hove directed a production that made this Greek tragedy seem modern and relevant. I was not expecting to relate to the story so readily, but the superb acting and the clear translation of the text by Anne Carson made this play leap to life for me. Juliette Binoche's Antigone was at times both fierce and vulnerable. Patrick O'Kane's Kreon was calm as a bomb: chillingly restrained and measured and explosive in equal measure. The actors doubling as the chorus worked beautifully, and the moments of unexpected humor were a delightful surprise. I had the same problem finding the histrionics in this play believable that I often have in opera, but I know those dramatic scenes are attempting to express primal human emotions. After the performance, BAM hosted a Q&A with the cast. It was a very lively and informative discussion, with full -- almost too full -- audience participation. It was especially interesting when Ms. Binoche and Mr. O'Kane slipped into their respective characters as they attempted to defend their actions in the play. As for the new seating in the gallery of the Harvey Theater? I'll give it some time before I comment -- and thank you, BAM, for trying to improve it.

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  9. Oh,my, I didn't realize there was a Q&A after last night's MARVELOUS performance. Sorry I missed that. My husband and I both LOVED everything about this production. While I am reasonably steeped in Greek tragedy (have read and seen many plays/ productions); my husband is less so. I say that to say one need not be a scholar to thoroughly enjoy this production. Anne Carson's translation is pitch perfect for our time; she gives the actor's true contemporary conversational speech, which in turn is totally realized by what I would call a cinematic acting style. My heart did sink momentarily when, in the opening scene between Antigone and Ismene, I recognized the voices were to be mic'd. Typically, I dislike that and think it a failing in modern theater that so many actors no longer learn to project their voices. That dismay soon dissipated as there was genuine consistency across the entire cast and the dialog felt very very real. Obi Abili as the Guard/Chorus was outstanding in that regard as was Partick O'Kane as Kreon. We sat in a front row of the mezzanine and had no trouble at all hearing every word. At times the mic'g even enhanced the emotional aspect of the actor's performance as the breathing became appropriately audible. The soundtrack and lighting exquisitely aligned with and deepened the director's dramatic meditation on the central "arguments" of the tragedy. The staging of action on and around the burial site was pure magic. Juliette Binoche is a beautiful choice for Antigone: her silent gestural moments were absolutely riveting. Overall I thought she fully lived and communicated the anguish of Antigone. I felt the meditative aspect of the direction collaped a bit toward the end, however. In particular, the music and song at the very end were totally off-putting for me; so unnecessary, tacked on, adding nothing. Why?? It caused me to think van Hove lacked trust in the audience' intellectual ability to draw its own conclusion.

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  10. just hideous; waste of time and money; huge disappointment

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  11. I am teaching Antigone to college classes right now and this production made the family tragedy in the play, which college students see as remote, visceral and moving. Please invite fewer film stars with little stage acting ability and more stars like Binoche. I know, ticket sales and fundraising are easier with Hollywood names, but please do otherwise.

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  12. I left the theater without being able to judge: the staging was captivating and the acting was generally good but the tragedy was… missing.
    Thinking about it I have to say to be disappointed, or better my disillusion about ancient Greek plays rendered in English to be sadly confirmed.
    Antigone’s disobedience was passion-driven (filial, brotherly and sensual love) as well as Kreon’s despair (loss of loved ones), leaving the conflicts between universal and city law, divine and human justice, natural and civil order almost out of the action, merely painted with undecided pale colors on the background.
    I’m glad I was there though to enjoy Mr. O’Kane’s masterful performance: finally an actor aware that “playing” means making music.

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  13. There are reasons why Aristotle modeled his Poetics on Sophocles's “Oedipus Rex” and not his “Antigone.” The narrative of “Antigone” presents challenges that are difficult to overcome. Who, for example, is the tragic center of this play — Creon or Antigone? Except for some hand-wringing before she goes to her death, Antigone changes very little during the course of the play; she is essentially a static character. It’s Creon who tangles with an existential crisis. The production offers no solution to this dilemma — except perhaps to hand-off a messenger’s speech to Antigone, which may have extended Binoche’s presence, but ultimately only further diminished the tragic aspects of her character. In the end, this new, in-the-vernacular translation offers no new insights that established translations such as that by Robert Fagles have already examined.

    I wanted to like this production as it is the only show that I care to see at this year’s Next Wave festival, but I left the theater disappointed and dissatisfied. This is a lackluster, rudderless production best forgotten.

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  14. Add to the great tragedians (Sophocles, Euripides) a newly discovered hack, Quaaludes, who must have scripted this somnolent version of Antigone. Why does Creon whisper all of his lines? An all Greek production of Aeschylus's The Persians which I saw in Epidaurus made more emotional sense than this unintentional tragedy. I've never sat cross-armed and not applauded any other play. Ever. Best part of the evening was getting lost in lower Manhattan after the show.

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  15. Carson's translation is adorable, and as "Greek" as it should be; Kreon and Antigone as good as in a dream. Actors and actresses, under a good direction, knew how to respect the rhythm in the language. I loved their slow way of articulation: so often we listen to actors running through the verses, the verses which were once upon a time sung, with their lengths and breadths. I loved Kreon's character. How often is he caricatured! Very well-balanced, as any Greek polemos. The cinematic elements so fitting, so thoughtfully integrated: how often do directions of these classical works condemn themselves to mediocracy, directions which wish to shout how "modern" they are; I experienced many suchlike "dramas" in Epidaurus.
    Hats off and great respect for everyone. The trip to NYC "payed off", to express myself in "our" language. We are indebted to Sophocles, and to BAM for staging this performance.

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  16. What a grave disappointment. Having the actors voices mic-ed was horrible, and it was often difficult to find the person speaking since all sounds were coming from the same place. The translation was often just silly ("What's up, Tiresias?") and Ms. Binoche spoke almost throughout in a breathy, almost disembodied voice that suggested nothing of the inner strength Antigone must possess to do what she does. I wish I could get my (quite significant amount of) money back. I had been so looking forward to this and left utterly disenchanted.

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  17. My husband and I went Friday, Oct. 4 and loved the show. On the way up from Maryland he acted out the script from another translation as I drove the car. This gave us a good sense of what was going to happen. We both liked the current translator's interpretation of the script. I liked the modern dress. I liked very much the staging and visuals projected onto the background. We both thought the acting was excellent. He didn't like the visuals, thought they were distracting. I loved them. Overall, we found it inspirational.

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  18. It was a huge disappointment. Maybe we are not prepared to enjoy Greek classics dressed in a modern clothes (BTW, transparent negligee revealing Binoche's underwear was not simply tasteless, it was plain vulgar). Everything was boring, pretentious, false, out of place, out of touch with present time. Banal monologues (sorry, Sophocles, you need a better director and actors to translate your emotions to XXI century) were aggravated by boring staging. Hysterical convulsions of actors, meaningless background images of the present time, contemporary attitudes of the personages - everything was FALSE and MEANINGLESS. Juliette Binoche's performance was not an exception. What did this performance was supposed to convey to the audience? If, as the brochure insinuates invoking tragic events of the recent past in the Eastern Europe, the play tried to relate to the contemporary events, IT FAILED. If you want to express your opinion of Putin and Ukraine, do it directly, not under disguise of Sophocles's monologues. If you do not have guts, keep silence.

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  19. Harvey E. PhillipsOctober 4, 2015 at 10:58 PM

    As usual with Ivo van Hove, the production was distinctive for being distinctive. I usually feel that he works from the outside in and sees his texts as excuses for exploring different facets of theatricality. The results, as they were with Antigone, which I was this afternoon, are more bloodless than revelatory. Still, the elements were arresting, and many of the performances virtuosic, But too many different styles and keys were struck, indicating that, again, a central interpretayive statement was of secondary importance.. What in the end rather sank the whole enterprise for me was the electronic funnel through which all voices were sifted. This had a deadening effect that none of the actors was really able to overcome. I was involved, I’ll admit, but I wanted to be invested.

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  20. It all sounded like Cliff notes, so primitive, so uninspiring , like a newspaper article --- a 6-grade reading level. The people in the audience were laughing because the message was confusing to them. The translation was horrendous, and hopefully the experiment like this won't be repeated.

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