Jason Isaacs Stars in Virtual Reading of “Antigone in Ferguson”
Racism is one of the great injustices of our time. In 2020 alone, we have witnessed the atrocious and callous murders of countless Black people and a cruel response from the federal government to the Black Lives Matter movement. In light of all these tragedies, it is critical now more than ever to raise awareness and talk about racial inequality in our daily lives.
Theater of War Productions’ latest production, Antigone in Ferguson, seeks to achieve just this. Written in response to the shooting of Black teenager Michael Brown in 2014 by a White police officer, this modern adaptation of ancient Greek tragedian Sophocles’s Antigone combines the original play’s themes of state violence and civil disobedience with the unrest and outrage that followed Brown’s murder. In between the scenes, a diverse gospel choir, comprising teachers, activists, and police officers from St. Louis, Missouri, and New York City, performs uplifting choral music. After the performance, writer, translator, and director Bryan Doerries will lead a panel and audience members in a meaningful discussion about racialized police violence.
Dated to 442 or 441 B.C., ‘Antigone’ tells the story of Oedipus’ daughter and her quest to honorably bury her brother Polynices, killed during a civil war, against the decree of her uncle Creon, Thebes’ new king. The play deals with themes of divine justice and human law, family and civic loyalty, and gendered power dynamics. In the Theater of War production, which premiered in 2016, actors perform a staged reading of the work alongside a chorus of community members; the reading is followed by a facilitated public discussion about racism and police violence.
The stars of the show include many acclaimed actors, including Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter film series), Tracie Thoms (The Devil Wears Prada, Looper), and Nyasha Hatendi (Alex Rider, The Front Runner). The show is translated and directed by Bryan Doerries, with music composed by Phil Woodmore. Professional singer De-Rance Blaylock leads the choir, while Doerries and social worker De-Andrea Blaylock-Johnson will moderate the panel discussion. A collaboration between Theater of War Productions and community members from Ferguson, it has toured the country since its premiere at Normandy High School, which is Brown’s alma mater, in September 2016.
For many cast members of Antigone in Ferguson, this production resonated deeply with them, since they shared a personal connection with Michael Brown, whose murder inspired the show. Both lead vocalist Blaylock and soloist Duane Foster taught Brown at Normandy High School.
His murder took a huge toll on me. So when I was given this opportunity to be a part of ‘Antigone in Ferguson,’ I jumped on the chance, because I wanted to let people know that Michael Brown was human. Michael Brown was not the thug that everyone claimed him to be. He was a human being; he was a kid who just graduated from high school and was ready to take care of business when it came to his life.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the show has been moved online to Zoom. The next performance will be taking place on October 17, 2020, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET. Tickets are free and can be reserved on Eventbrite. More details can be found on the production’s website. In particular, Theater of War Productions has chosen to shine a spotlight on Baltimore, Maryland, to foreground the perspectives of people in Baltimore whose lives have been affected by police brutality, community violence, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In light of the uprising and protests catalyzed by the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, Dion Johnson, and many others, and the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on black and brown communities, Antigone in Ferguson aims to generate dialogue, consciousness, compassion, outrage, understanding, and positive action at this critical moment,” the cast of Antigone in Ferguson shared. Will you be joining them?