“Wise conduct is the key to happiness.”
These words echoed throughout Tom Miles Theater during the weekend of October 25-October 27, bringing “The Burial at Thebes,” to a sorrowful, insightful ending at each performance. The play’s cast and director agreed that this phrase is the overall theme of the play.
“It’s important to follow your own moral compass and not let anyone deter you,” explained freshman Grace Ashford, who played the role of Antigone. “While I’m not encouraging people go to such drastic lengths as Antigone does, I think it’s the idea to stand by what you know is right no matter what.”
Antigone is the story’s heroine, who goes against King Creon’s decree that one of Antigone’s brothers not be given a proper burial due to his questionable conduct. Creon, played by senior Quinn Ramsay, is enraged by Antigone’s rebellion and makes it his mission to teach the young woman a lesson.
“Antigone is the fire-starter,” Ashford said on behalf of her character. “Once she’s made a decision to act, there’s nothing anyone else can do or say to stop her.”
These actions to defend the honor of her brother are what introduces Antigone’s sister, Ismene, to the story. Played by senior Carolyn O’Brien Dunn, Ismene attempts to be Antigone’s voice of reason at first, insisting that she fear for her own life in front of Creon and abide by his rules.
“Ismene is certainly more diplomatic than me,” said Dunn.
“I wish I were a little more like her because I tend to be more like Antigone and get myself in trouble.
Ismene, however, has a great deal of love for her family, which is what drew me to her.”
Ismene and Antigone are both brought in front of Creon to stand up for their familial actions and collectively decide their fate. However, the thoughts of Creon’s son, Haemon, who is preparing to marry Antigone, do not go unnoticed.
Haemon attempts to defend his soon-to-be-bride but his words go unheeded by his father, resulting in drastic consequences for the young lovers.
Both Ashford and chorus member junior Jeremy Likens agree that Haemon is the most relatable character in the tragedy.
“His character tries to reason with Creon and get him to see reason and can be related to also by the conflicts that often happen between children and parents,” said Likens. “Haemon is young and in love, which also makes him more identifiable.”
Character preparation was something that all of the actors had to go through each night to prepare. Each had their own methods, but Dunn’s was a bit more personal.
“I mentally prepare by thinking of my brothers, who are twins like Polyneices and Eteocles,” said Dunn. “It’s very difficult to imagine losing them both in such a sudden and violent manner.”
Director Gemma Whelan saw secondhand the process that each cast member went through and was very pleased with the results.
“This is a very challenging play. It’s not exactly realistic; the language is poetic, and the chorus is a group of people who function as a unit and stand in for the citizens,” said Whelan. “It also has long speeches and a lot of exposition. The cast has done an amazing job of making this language as natural as possible, and allowing the human emotions to come through.”
Human emotion is a key element in “The Burial at Thebes.” Furthermore, it is a cautionary tragedy that speaks to the audience about honor, bravery and when human morality should come before communal politics.
These messages brought interesting reviews from the audience.
“Hearing the stunned silence after the lights go out is pretty great,” said Ashford. “This isn’t really a show where you want to hear the audience erupt into excited chatter right afterward. Tense, unnerved silence means we’ve done our job.”