Week 2: Prompt 1

Evaluate Antigone in Ferguson and Antigone Sr. using Richard Schechner’s terms: drama, script, theater and performance (video links are available on the syllabus).

(first of all, apologies for the lateness–won’t happen again!)

Drama, script, theatre, and performance. Schechner defines these four terms as such: drama, the most well-defined and innermost “circle,” as the story and characters the playwright has written; script, which encompasses drama but also other things and is less defined, as any words said in a performance, whether they be ritual words of a non-theatrical performance or an actual play; theatre, which again encompasses script and is even less defined, as any sort of formal event where there is something being presented (in other words, everything on a stage); and performance, the outermost and least defined “circle,” as everything going on onstage and off, in the audience as well as in the show. Both Antigone Sr.and Antigone in Ferguson make use of all four elements, but in different ways.

Antigone in Ferguson‘s drama, strictly speaking, is sourced from Sophocles’ drama but edited to a one-hour, condensed version by director Bryan Doerries. Some characters are combined and others completely left out. This is the ritualized text that the performers use every night. The script, however, contains these words but also Doerries’ direction to produce a more holistic experience. This includes the gospel choir behind the performers. The theatre of Antigone in Ferguson takes all of this into account plus the lighting, costume design, set (what there is of it), and other elements to give a night of theatre. But the performance of Antigone in Ferguson is what transforms it into the impactful piece that it is. After the one hour drama, the cast facilitates a discussion with the audience about what the piece means to them, and reflecting on Ferguson, Michael Brown, and the rise of police brutality and racism. Including the audience in this picture is what makes this all a performance, and what separates Antigone in Ferguson from other productions.

Antigone Sr. takes all of these conventions and blows them up, which is why it is more of a piece of performance art rather than straight theatre (as Antigone in Ferguson is primarily seen as). Again, the drama is originally from Sophocles, though Trajal Harrell has modified it extensively as well. The script includes this, but also the songs performed by the actors. The theatre is more loose than in Antigone in Ferguson, due to the lack of a traditional proscenium–instead, it’s translated to a series of catwalks. And while there is no audience participation or discussion in Antigone Sr., the audience takes on an equally important role, considering that the catwalk allows the audience to see different sides of the performers and each other, and can interact with the performers in unconventional ways–similar to Schechner’s own production of The Tooth of Crime.

One thought on “Week 2: Prompt 1

  1. Dear Allie,

    Schechner indeed illustrates the components of performance into concentric circles, indicating that the wider circles can “contain” the ideas of the smaller tighter circles. Schechner is very specific and here he uses the term “script” in a way that we don’t usually in everyday life. As you write, a script also functions in a “non-theatrical performance” but here it’s important to look at the means through which it is communicated – for Schechner pays attention to transmission — in many ways “script” is transmitted like orature — from body to body and that transmission communicates modes of embodiment like physical gesture, choreography, music and dance. A script communicates a mode of doing something or how it is manifested, and it is usually not written down. So if, in Antigone in Ferguson, we think about the term “drama” — drama is complicated too, for there is the “story” of Michael Brown which is the impetus for the event, and then the “drama” of Antigone, a version of the story that was then formulated into a dramatic text by Sophocles .. but then we have the way in which the theatrical event depends on certain “scripts” or conventions, like how the gospel choir performs and how the audience also “knows” how to respond to the conventions of preaching or musical performance by the choir. These “instructions” are passed down through church practice — but there is no “originator” of these modes of embodied response. The idea of “script” is tricky — in many ways we can look to dance and ritual where certain physical and theatrical practices are communally understood — but there is no “author” of these practices that one can pinpoint — just people who transmit it to others and through whom the practice remains vibrant and alive.

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