Antigone in Ferguson: Intergenerational Phenomenon

Bella White '23, Assistant Arts and Entertainment Editor

Bryan Doerries’s Theater of War Production Company adapted Sophocles’s Antigone, with the intent of putting it in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement. Directed by Bryan Doerries with music by Dr. Philip Woodmore, Antigone in Ferguson has toured nationwide. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Antigone in Ferguson closed in-person productions and began efforts to perform virtually. On October 17, 2020, the cast performed from their homes in the United States and London via Zoom. After the show, a panel of activists and health professionals conversed with audience members about racial violence, police brutality, systemic oppression, gender-based violence, health inequality, and social justice. 

Antigone in Ferguson tells the story of Creon, the newly appointed ruler of Thebes, and Antigone, Creon’s niece who defies his law by providing her brother with a proper burial. After hearing of Antigone’s defiance, Creon views her decision as undermining his authority and condemns her to death. In the end, Antigone, Creon’s son, and Creon’s wife succumb to fate, Creon’s arrogance, and Creon’s inability to listen to other people. 

Despite the constraints of Zoom, the performers remained engaging and true to character for the duration of Antigone in Ferguson. Tracie Thoms, the actress who played Antigone, portrayed her as a dynamic character. At first, she aggressively scorns and mocks Ismene, her sister, raising her voice and changing her inflection to one of resentment. However, later in the show, Tracie Thoms begins to cry as she delivers Antigone’s final lines of the play. In her final scene, Antigone realizes her life will soon end and Thoms reacted aptly. Comparatively, Jason Isaacs, the man who played Creon, portrayed Creon as a harsh and brash man who realizes his mistakes. Isaacs slowly escalated Creon’s reactions until he reached a climax by yelling at those who opposed his character. This is specifically seen when Creon’s abrasive nature damages his relationship with his son permanently and unalterably. 

Overall, I enjoyed watching Antigone in Ferguson and think the show provided audiences with a positive experience. I would also like to mention that the introduction and panel discussion afterward complemented the show nicely by placing an ancient classic in the context of modern-day.* Thoms and Isaacs captured my attention with their interpretations of Antigone and Creon and the disagreement between them. I also found the songs sung by the chorus extremely catchy and entertaining. The show left me grieving for Creon and desiring an encore. I would recommend Antigone in Ferguson to a friend if I knew for certain they would enjoy the show, because the production quality and message provide audiences with an exceedingly positive and profound experience. However, audiences would need to have a clear understanding of Sophocles’s Antigone in order to separate the underlying themes from the death that pervades Antigone in Ferguson’s style of tragedy. In summary, the well-performed production of Antigone in Ferguson will leave audiences craving for more.

*Due to previous commitments, I was unable to watch the entirety of the panel discussion, so I don’t feel that I can justly review this particular aspect of Antigone in Ferguson’s presentation.