Posts Tagged Jamila Joiner

A conversation with MJ Kedrowski

A conversation with MJ Kedrowski

Marcia Aubineau, retired St. Thomas faculty member and part of Park Square’s Educator Advisory Board, connected with MJ (Meagan) Kedrowski, the director and adaptor behind the upcoming production of Antigone, to discuss what makes this production unique and why in makes sense to produce Greek tragedy today.

You can find this interview and more resources and activities in the Antigone Study Guide.

Antigone will be performed on the Boss stage Feb 1 – March 3. Buy Tickets Here.


Marcia Aubineau: What brought you to this play in the first place? Why and how do you think it will resonate with today’s audiences? What are your hopes for the production?

Meagan Kedrowski: I’ve always been drawn to classic Greek theatre. The dramatic stakes are so high, and the lessons are so rooted in the human experience. Most of the lessons being taught and examined that many years ago are still lessons that apply to a modern audience. It’s actually surprisingly easy to adapt most of them to a modern context. Meaningful topics being explored in ancient Greece, and in the world today, fill the world of this play.For this version of Antigone, we create an original, devised adaptation of the classic Greek drama but continue to explore themes of civil disobedience, fidelity, and family love. We face head-on the ever-changing and difficult debate: which law is greater— gods’ or humans’? The play also holds up a mirror to what a loving family torn apart by power, greed, and humility can look like. In addition, in a time when natural law and contemporary legal institutions so often overrun our personal fights for justice, we ask the question: For what would you be willing to die?

MJ (Meagan) Kedrowski

What goes into adapting a play from the original text?

I really love taking old works and using them as a baseline to create a new piece of theatre. This is an adaptation, but also, it’s nearly a full new script. It’s got many of the same characters and many of the same plot points, but we see people take a whole new path to get where they are going. I love to examine the things we haven’t yet seen in a story: the motivations that are deep-seated in a character and the possibilities that have not been looked at. It’s my hope that an audience seeing this version of the story experiences the characters and the story in a fresh new light. I hope people walk away with a new perspective of this timeless classic, questioning how the themes in the material resonate in their own lives.

In your adaptation, you have made several changes to the original text. For example, why did you reduce the chorus and eliminate the choral odes?

The chorus is actually four characters. I’ve combined the roles that exist in Sophocles’ original text of the Guard, First Messenger, Second Messenger, and the Chorus of Theban Elders into an ensemble of four characters who do it all. These four actors work together as an ensemble to give a nod to a traditional Greek chorus. I did this partially to pare down the cast size in order to make the piece more intimate and to utilize these actors for more of the action.

And bringing the action to these characters is actually why I’ve altered the Odes. These characters still take the agency of guiding the story and filling the audience in on things, but they do it on stage and in real time. The show is bookended in the traditional presentational style of talking right to the audience, but then it flows into a modernization that uses these characters as part of the action instead of just talking about the action.

Jamila Joiner (Ismene) and Lauren Diesch (Antigone) in rehearsal.

You also added flashbacks and references to childhood events including the use of nicknames. What was your intention here?

I really wanted to focus on the deep love of family. Often, this particular family is seen as all god-like, and they come off as cold or hard to relate to. In looking at their history and the love that keeps them going through the first two chapters of this trilogy, I wanted to illuminate these deeply nuanced, history-filled relationships. The more history we get to witness, the more context we have to the connections the characters have to each other, and the more understanding we have for why they do what they do. It forces empathy in a way. It gives more perspective to why Antigone fights so hard for her brother when we see the love they had for each other as children. We get a new look at why it’s so hard for Creon to condemn Antigone when we get to experience happy moments they have had in the past. We get to see more layers of the internal struggle they each face. It raises both the stakes and the humanity of these people, and ultimately makes the story all the more devastating.

Another change was the omission of Tieresias and the addition of the brother-monster to convince Creon to change his mind.

In the copy of the Sophocles text that I have, one of Tieresias’ first lines is, “This is the way the blind man comes. Princes, Princes, two heads lit by the eyes of one.” I read this over and over and over, and the more I read it, the more I wanted to explore the idea of “Two Princes” that make up “the eyes of one” otherworldly character that still has a prophetic message. In trying to keep the resonance of these dead brothers wandering the earth, I explored what it would mean to have their combined ghosts talk to the king. I was excited to create a new tension and fear for Creon. So, I asked the question, “What is the most terrifying thing this king could see?” Encountering the faceless contoured ghosts of the young boys that he had loved deeply and decided the fate for, seemed like an incredible obstacle to throw at Creon.

You’ve made Creon a more sympathetic character than he appears to be in the original. What was your motivation for this?

I very purposefully deepened the conflict in this character because I was uninterested in a two dimensional right vs. wrong argument and more interested in the struggles we face in the everyday human experience. These choices aren’t easy. Human conflict is never easy. The richer the characters are, the more difficult it is to pick a side. My hope is that both Antigone and Creon are deeply passionate, potentially both right, and potentially both wrong. They are flawed, realistic humans, and it’s interesting to see those flaws.

Actually, you added the ghosts of the dead brothers earlier on including Eteocles’ spirit saying that the gods won’t accept him without his brother. We also see the dead Polynices “reviving” during the burial scenes.

Kelly Nelson (Eteocles) and Antonia Perez (Polynices) in rehearsal.

If the dead brothers have any agency in the story, and if they are going to mean anything, they have to be more present, so the audience has the opportunity to develop some sort of relationship with them. This gives them more power in the story. In making them more present, we can better understand their relationship to Antigone and in seeing them ask her for help, the audience can feel her heart strings being pulled. We see why it’s so important to her to fight this fight. Again, it ups the stakes and lets us view these moments rather than just talking about them.

For what purpose did you move much of the action from offstage to onstage?

I believe that asking an audience to psychologically be on the same journey as the character often causes them to invest more in what the outcome of the journey is. It’s my view that an audience should experience a play, not just watch it. Audiences are explorers, not spectators.

There is great attention in the play given to the burial ritual including the symbolism of the bracelets.

I read a book in a college drama course entitled Objects as Actors: Props and the Poetics of Performance in Greek Tragedy by Melissa Mueller. Objects as Actors charts a new approach to Greek tragedy based on an obvious, yet often overlooked, fact: Greek tragedy was meant to be performed with props. The works were incomplete without physical items—theatrical props.

In this case, I wanted to create a bit of plot line that could enhance the story via a prop, and endowing that prop with power in the storytelling. After doing research into the world of materialism in ancient Greece, I found that personal possessions held great meaning. We wanted to have a personal possession that did just that. Also something that could deepen the connections between characters. I brought in several objects to a rehearsal one day, and the bracelet idea really stuck. The moments the bracelets were used were then created by the actors in the room through devised composition work.

Do students need to be familiar with the role of women in 5th century Greek society in order to understand the audacity of Antigone’s actions?

Potentially. Part of the reason for casting this iteration of the project with all women/women+ is to empower these people. There are several times in the original Sophocles text when people tell Antigone “you are only a woman” in reference to something she can’t do. Also, there are several times when a character says “women can’t” do something. I tried to keep these moments to reflect on what the culture was back then and what the culture is now. My hope is that an audience of any kind, but particularly young people, will hear this and know that they can still fight for something they think is right. No matter what their gender.

Marcia Aubineau (right) with McKenna Kelly-Eiding and Marika Proctor at the opening of BASKERVILLE.

Interview conducted and dictated by Marcia Aubineau.

 

Antigone is a classic tragedy for a modern audience

ANTIGONE IS A CLASSIC TRAGEDY FOR A MODERN AUDIENCE

Second production features an all-women cast

Saint Paul, Minn., December 18, 2018 – Park Square Theatre announces the second production of ANTIGONE adapted and directed by MJ Kedrowski. The play is adapted in modern language from the Greek tragedy by Sophocles and brought to life by an all-woman ensemble of actors who work with Kedrowski to devise the script and action. “I’ve always been drawn to classic Greek theatre,” said Kedrowski. “The dramatic stakes are so high, and the lessons are so rooted in the human experience.” ANTIGONE plays on Park Square Theatre’s Andy Boss Thrust Stage from February 1 to March 3, 2019, including a series of ten nearly sold out student matinees.

“Richard Cook, who programmed this piece, was moved by MJ’s original production at Theatre Coup d’Etat in 2016 and thought it might be a perfect “cross-over” play that would engage both adults and school audiences,” said Michael-jon Pease, Park Square Theatre’s Executive Director. “His request to MJ was to see if the casting for the new production could be more racially diverse and inclusive to better align with our mission. After realizing the names they were coming up with all happened to be women, the idea of a cast of women and women-identifying actors emerged as a way to explore the feminist themes in the play and, as always, hire more diversely.”

“There are several times in the original Sophocles text when people tell Antigone ‘you are only a woman,’ in reference to something she can’t do,” says Kedrowski. “I tried to keep these moments to reflect on what the culture was back then and what the culture is now. My hope is that an audience of any kind, but particularly young people, will hear this and know that they can still fight for something they think is right. No matter what their gender.”

The story of ANTIGONE, the last in a trilogy by Sophocles, is rooted in civil disobedience, set in the aftermath of civil war. Oedipus’ two sons have killed each other in a fight for the crown of Thebes. Their uncle Creon becomes king and declares that Eteocles will receive holy burial while his brother Polynices is left unburied to rot at the gates of the city as a warning to other traitors. Their sister Antigone can’t accept this desecration. Knowing full well it will result in her own death, Antigone determines to bury Polynices, so his soul may rest.

Kedrowski was inspired by both a translation of the original Greek script and the 20th century version by Jean Anouilh. “I really love taking old works and using them as a baseline to create a new piece of theatre. Our script has many of the same characters and many of the same plot points, but we see people take a whole new path to get where they are going. And, unlike the original Greek script, where all the most dramatic action happens offstage and is told to us, we bring the action onstage for the audience to witness. We also include some of the character’s backstories to build more context and empathy for the emotions that are at play.”

The cast for ANTIGONE includes Lauren Diesch (Antigone), Laura Leffler (Creon), Kelly Nelson (Eteocles), Antonia Perez (Polynices), Vinecia Coleman (Haemon), Jamila Joiner (Ismene), Jamie Jachimiec (Eurydice) and an ensemble of Meredith Kind, Erin Farste, Teresa Mock and Kelly Huang.

The production team for ANTIGONE includes Sophie Peyton (Assistant Director), Jaya Robillard (Stage Manager), Kyia Britts (Lighting Designer), Morgan Groff (Costumer Designer), Sarah Modena (Sound Designer), Steve Modena (Sound Designer), Meredith Kind (Fight Choreographer), Kelly Nelson (Movement Coach), Lars Nisswandt (Silks Coach), Ruth Coughlin Lencowski (Vocal Coach), Lea Bruker (Sound Consultant), Hannah Holman (Producing Consultant), Natalia Petersen (Musician), Jo Kellen (Musician).

Ticket prices: Previews: $20-$37. Regular Run: $25-$60. Discounts are available for seniors, military personnel, those under age 30, and groups. Tickets are on sale at the Park Square ticket office, 20 W. Seventh Place, or by phone: 651.291.7005, (12 noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday), or online at www.parksquaretheatre.org.   #PSTAntigone

 

CALENDAR INFORMATION

Previews: February 1 – 7, 2019

Opening Night: February 8, 2019

Regular Run: February 8 – March 3, 2019

Tickets: Previews: $20-$37; Regular Run: $25-$60

PARK SQUARE THEATRE, 20 W. Seventh Place, Saint Paul

Ticket office: 651-291-7005 or www.parksquaretheatre.org

 Green: 7:30pm  Orange: 2:00pm

P – Preview
B – 99¢ Bargain Preview
D – Post-show Discussion
O – Opening Night
ASL –American Sign Language
AD – Audio Description
C – Open Captioning

PHOTOS Antigone photos by Petronella J Ytsma

UP NEXT ON PARK SQUARE’S PROSCENIUM STAGE:

Park Square Theatre Presents Girl Friday Production’s:

The Skin of our Teeth

By THORNTON WILDER

Directed by and designed by Joel Sass

Preview: February 7- 8, 2019

Opening Night: February 9, 2019

Regular Run: February 9 – March 3, 2019

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PARK SQUARE THEATRE. 20 W. Seventh Place, Saint Paul. Ticket Office: 651.291.7005. www.parksquaretheatre.org

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