The Howard Playground in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn was the scene for “Antigone in Ferguson,” a dramatic reading of Sophocles’ 2,500-year-old Greek tragedy. The story tells of what happens when personal conviction and state laws clash. “Antigone” is about a teenage girl who wished to bury her brother Polyneices. The new untested King Creon ruled that the body must stay above the earth. Antigone refused his edict and buried him in the earth. For this, and to make an example of disobedience, Antigone was sentenced to death. The play examines a timeless question: When everyone is right (or feels justified), how do we avert the violence that will inevitably take place?
Theater of War Productions, the company that staged the event, applies the arts to social impact prompting dialogue addressing today’s societal clashes. Keeping with the lofty goal of the “Theater” in mind, the circumstances prohibited realistic dialogue.
The free outdoor performance placed itself smack-dab in the middle of the Howard Houses, a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) complex with a live full-court basketball game, and over 600 patrons listening to the talented cast and choir. The dichotomy was worth the dialogue alone!
“Antigone” is a perfect example of state versus proletariat. And, if Ferguson, Missouri was the antithesis for the production, then Ocean-Hill-Brownsville was the appropriate “begin-again” venue. Because here was waged the historic fight for decentralization of public schools, exactly 50 years ago.
Fix the schools administratively and structurally; apply the arts…particularly Jazz, America’s only classical art form; enhance gymnastics, athletics; introduce prayer; employ the populace, and violence will cease. There were several interesting comments coming from the predominately white audience, such as “There has to be a willingness to give up privilege. How can we all become comfortable?” Other comments were: “We must listen more,” and “Give of yourself and end the politics,” and “Are there any Brownsville residents in attendance?” To that, twelve hands raised.
To stage this type of production again without the required elements, the indigenous community, would be a tragedy.
Was the low community turn out a result of being unfamiliar with this Greek tragedy, or because someone dropped the ball, and didn’t advertise this upcoming free event? It would be interesting to know!