Parkrose High actors bring ‘Antigone’ to life

In a word, ‘Wow’!  To see a finely played dramatic presentation, plan to attend a performance of this superb production of this literature classic …

The Parkrose High Theater technical crew prepares lighting and sound cues, moments before a performance of Antigone gets underway.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Recalling our own high school days, and prejudices about literature classes, we weren’t that enthusiastic about previewing the literary classic play Antigone [pronounced “an-TIG-oh-nee”] – which is being put on at Parkrose High School’s Theater.

But, after watching a dress rehearsal, we were astonished – in a powerful way – by this fall theatrical offering.

Theater instructor, and director of Antigone, Ms. Zena, gives final stage directions to the student actors.

Every year, the Theater Department at Parkrose High seeks to put on a show connected with the school’s Language Arts Curriculum, according to Drama Instructor Ms. Zena, who is also the show’s director.

“In past years, our dramatic offerings have been from Shakespeare,” Zena said. “This year, we talked about a play that featured strong female central characters. Antigone came to mind, because it met all of our criteria.”

It’s been a very politically polarizing year, Zena pointed out. “And so, it’s important to ask questions such as, ‘Whose rules do we go by?’ ‘Do we go by the rules that are the best for every person?’ Or, ‘do we go by rules that are only the best for certain people, but will be applied to everyone’.”

Sisters Antigone (played by Adriene McInerny) and Ismene (Shawna Appel) mourn the duel-to-the-death battle of their two brothers.

Antigone anguishes over the thought that one of her brothers is decreed to be left in the field to rot …

Decreed, according to the sisters’ aunt, Creon (acted by Kasey Simmons), now Queen of Thebes and ruler of the land.

About the story
Antigone is a tragedy (a dramatic form, opposite to “comedy”) by Sophocles, written in or before 441 BC.

The central story revolves around two sisters, named Antigone and Ismene.

They argue about the new reigning monarch’s decree that, after their two brothers die in battle, one can be buried with honors – while the other is to be left in the battlefield to rot and be torn apart by scavenging animals.

Haemon (played by Hayden Jamison) – Queen Creon’s son, and Antigone’s fiancé – is about to hear some really bad news to his wife-to be.

Haughty Creon tells her son, Haemon, she does not need his advice.

Antigone goes against the decree, and – even though she knows it will cost her life – gives burial rights to her fallen brother.

It seems that all might work out well in the end – but will the pompous ruler “see the light” in time to create peace – instead of more death?

Yuri (Johnathan Woodward), Creon’s husband, is “worried sick” about his wife’s capricious diktat – and how it might impact their family.

Creon admonishes Antigone after she openly admits she gave last rites to her brother – in opposition to the queen’s edict.

A superb production
Across the centuries, this play has been adopted by numerous playwrights.

Zena’s brilliant adaptation captures the full essence of the story, yet makes it accessible, interesting – and real.  This isn’t the dry “Cliff Notes” version you may recall from your high school days.

Antigone is supposedly being groomed for her wedding. But, Ismene is in agony, because she knows her sister is about to be taken off to her death.

And, the student actors of Parkrose High School Thespian Troupe #1783, who portray the central characters in this tragic tale, play their parts with a knowing pathos far beyond their calendar ages.

These thespians take their lines way beyond mere recitation. They live the parts, every night, on the Parkrose High Theater stage.

Haemon pleads with his stubborn mum, Queen Creon, to free Antigone.

The stage set is sparse, yet effective – after all, this is a “theater in the round” presentation. The lighting is unpretentious, and frames the actors beautifully from any angle of viewing. And, the “atmospheric” music sets a dramatic tone, providing continuity without drawing attention to itself.

At the dramatic conclusion, we found ourselves uttering just one word, surprisingly, aloud: “Wow!”

There isn’t dramatic live play in town that can rival this presentation. Is that too big a claim? Go and see for yourself.

The “Chorus of Elders” suggest that Creon seeks advice of the oracle.

Antigone on stage for six November performances
The student actors at Parkrose High bring Antigone to audiences as a “production-in-the-round” on the theater’s stage, starting on opening night, November 8.

Guests are seated on all sides of a central stage as the characters explore the repercussions for both sides of what turns into a life-and-death argument, when decisions collide with one another.

The production runs about 90 minutes without intermission. Due to mature subject material, this show is recommended for teens and older – it’s not for children.

The blind prophet Teiresius (Llake Anderson) lets Ceron on in a big – and deadly – secret.

Because it is produced “black box” style, on the theater’s stage, audiences are limited to only 100 per performance.

The show also runs on November 9 and 10 – and then continues on November 15, 16, and 17.

TICKETS: $8 for adults, $5 for students 18 and under, and Senior Citizens 65+, and are available at the door, which opens at 6:30 p.m. The show begins at 7:00 p.m.

It’s at the Parkrose High School Theater, 12003 NE Shaver Street – a block west on NE 122nd Avenue.

You’ll applaud after you experience Antigone, in the Parkrose High Theater.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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