With ‘Antigone,’ theater department hopes to make Ancient Greece seem modern


Neima Fax

UPDATE: A multi-level stage and choreographed fight scenes are some of the ways Shalhevet Theater hopes to modernize Sophocles’ 2500-year-old play, ‘Antigone.” Donna Grunfeld, at center in white shirt, rehearsing her role as Antigone with Daniel Medovoy, Amin Lari, Shana Lunzer and Albert Gordon in the Wildfire Theatre.

Written in 430 B.C.E. by Sophocles, the Greek tragedy Antigone might be expected to be outdated. But Shalhevet’s theater department believes that it will prove relevant to its audience, with complex family feuds, rebellious teenagers and intense twisted turns of plot.

In fact, cast members say it has fight scenes and a fast pace that students and faculty will find very modern.  

“Teenagers connect when there’s a lot of angst,” said senior Shana Lunzer, who plays Antigone’s sister, Ismene.  “Long story short, everyone dies.”

Junior Donna Grunfeld plays the title character, who in the play — based on Ancient Greek mythology — rebels against her uncle Creon, played by senior Amin Lari.

Competing for the king’s throne, Antigone’s brother Polynices, played by junior Dylan Corn, is killed by their other brother, King Eteocles, played by junior Daniel Medovoy. They die in each other’s arms.

“They kill each other and then it falls out of control from there,” said junior Adam Ritz, who plays Haemon, Antigone’s husband-to-be.

They’ll be performing the second play of Sophocles’ Oedipus trilogy, as modernized by Greg Banks.

At the auditions in August, some of the students were still skeptical.  Cast members said that Antigone and most Greek dramas are usually long and tedious to sit through, especially for a contemporary teenage audience.

But several said they trusted drama director Ms. Emily Chase since they have worked with her for so long, and they believed her directing would be able to bring the story to life.

Sure enough, by the end of October, they began to get accustomed to their characters, depending on the mood of the scene. They said they learned to adapt, and at the same time, brought themselves out of their comfort zones.

Donna Grunfeld said the students “tried to get a good handle on it” and the lines and characters have become more defined.

“You have to get used to this old-fashioned way of talking, which always is a challenge,” Donna said.

Also modernizing the play is the physical way it will be presented.  The stage will have different levels and the actors will stand on platforms, and seats for the audience will surround the stage on three sides.

“It’s a very interesting type of theater,” said Adam Ritz. “It’s a different format, and things are gonna be on different levels and a lot of movement, and a lot of things are going to be everywhere. Cool percussions.”

The plot is complicated, and the battle between the brothers is not the end but the beginning of the action. Polynices and the king both die, but since Polynices instituted the battle, King Eteocles receives a formal burial, while Polynices does not.

Antigone, however, tries to bury Polynices on her own. But she is caught doing so by her uncle Creon, who locks her alone in a cave. There, she takes her own life; Haemon discovers she has died and kills himself as well.

Students have been finding their own ways to connect to their characters.

Amin Lari said he had found it difficult, because he sees himself as more the “comedy type” and is here portraying Creon, the strict, uptight uncle. He thinks he is ready for his bold part, but is still adapting.

Donna Grunfeld is excited to play Antigone. She says that Antigone is “young, and rebellious and reckless” and she loves that about her.

“She has a sort of softness about her,” said Donna, “which makes Antigone a much more dynamic character.”

The play will be performed for students Jan. 8-11, and for a public audience Jan. 14. Times, prices, tickets vary depending on dates.

Ms. Chase said the student cast would deliver a “heightened text in a real, emotionally connected way.”

She recommended the ages of viewers be 13 and over because of the fights. 

“I try to produce a diverse range of plays, in order to educate students about the many genres and styles of theater,” she said.