By: Omar K. Elmore, senior writer
Wofford Theater’s 2017-2018 season is titled A Season of Justice. The first of the four performances in this series will be Antigone, a Greek tragedy by Sophocles.
The theater department will use the Jerome Johnson Richardson Theatre for its staging of Antigone, one of the two new theater spaces in the new Rosalind Sallenger Center of the Arts. Now housed in the Arts Center, the theater faculty includes professors Kerry Ferguson and Daniel Day along with Mark A. Ferguson who directs Antigone and Colleen Ballance who is the set and costume designer.
“The new Arts Center is critically important for Wofford because it gives the arts visibility,” says Balance. “Before, exhibits were tucked away in hallways or the basement of the library.”
Balance references the two former exhibit spaces. The Martha Cloud Chapman Gallery is located in the back hallway of the Campus Life building and the Sandor Teszler Gallery sits near the staircase in the bottom of the library. The Arts Center features two new exhibit spaces: the Richardson Family Art Museum and the Richardson Family Art Gallery.
“We just made a quantum leap as a college,” says Balance. “A liberal arts education includes the humanities, the sciences and the arts. The fine arts now have a place to thrive and be alluring and enticing.”
Balance calls the focus on the fine arts “long overdue,” describing the way the school would have to work around the outdated theater space in recruiting students.
“You couldn’t really take students into the Black Box Theater because, if someone is interested in a school with an advanced theater program, it simply would not do it for them,” says Balance. “Now we have this modern shining beacon that is the Arts Center. I hope it leads to a diversification of the student body.”
Sophocles wrote Antigone around 441 B.C. The story follows the eponymous character, who is the daughter of Oedipus, as she, in defiance of the king of Thebes, buries her allegedly traitorous brother and is subsequently given the death sentence.
“[Antigone]’s still the most powerful and important tragedy ever written,” says Department Chair and Director of the Wofford Theatre Mark Ferguson, director of Antigone. “No one has been able to top Sophocles, even after 24 centuries of trying.”
The play deals with the battle between the law of the land and morality as Antigone, the character, has to decide which of the two is more important when they are in conflict with one another.
“The play is exciting because both Antigone and the king, Kreon, have very persuasive arguments,” says Ferguson. “But, because of the unusual circumstances in the play, Antigone’s resolve becomes an irresistible force crashing into the immovable object of Kreon’s unwillingness to yield.”
Because of the battle between two seemingly-equal arguments, the play allows the audience to draw its own conclusions. According to Ferguson, these arguments make Antigone relevant some 2,400 years later.
“It is about the dangers of tyranny, the cost of justice, and the importance of speaking truth to power,” says Ferguson. “But maybe more than anything else, it’s a close examination of what our responsibilities are as engaged citizens, and a cautionary tale about how people get exactly the government they demand and ultimately the government they deserve.”
Wofford’s theater program has, at times, played with setting and costume design to allow the audience to view the text of a work in a different light. For instance, during the performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the set resembled Wofford’s Greek Village while actors were cross-dressed as stereotypical fraternity members.
“Our production is set neither in Ancient Greece, nor in contemporary Washington, D.C,” Ferguson says. “But the parallels with our current political situation in the United States and around the world are certainly arresting, and I’m hopeful that the show is as provocative and exciting for audiences as it has been for me and the students to work on these past months.”
Antigone premieres Nov. 2 at 8:00 PM. Its run continues on Nov. 3, 4, 8, 9, 10 and 11. For tickets, visit the website for the Wofford Theatre Box Office.
Antigone: Mary Thalassinos
Ismene: Libby Lindsey
Kreon: Kevin Quis (Hartman Wendling as understudy)
Guards: Khalil Gamble, Kyle Jamison
Haimon: Sammy Verdino
Teiresias: Alex Rizzo-Banks
Messenger: Lawson Giles
Eurydike: Rachel Rutowski
Chorus: Tess Hall, Adam Osella, Savannah Talledo, Math Wynnemer