Greek tragedy meets ’70s disco at Harvard Stadium

Inventive production of "Antigone" on football field caps annual Arts First weekend

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Raider Times photo / Malcolm Cooke
“Antigone” was performed on the field at Harvard Stadium as part of the annual Arts First weekend.

    On Sunday, April 29, 2018, a group of six Watertown High School students and English teacher Malcolm Cooke braved the cool evening temperatures and met at Harvard Stadium to see “Antigone,” the last event of a four-day festival held by Harvard’s Arts First.

    After reading Sophocles’s play as part of their application to 10th-grade honors English, students were able to see a live version to enhance their understanding. They went expecting a serious reenactment, and were surprised when the play took a delightful twist.

    After a few minutes of dialogue that followed the original storyline closely, the whole cast broke out into Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September,” singing and dancing exuberantly around the field. The disco twist on a play from 2,500 years ago was cheered by the audience members, many of whom rose from the cement coliseum-style seats to join the dancing.

Raider Times photo / Malcolm Cooke
“Antigone” was performed on the field at Harvard Stadium as part of the annual Arts First weekend.

    Despite the disco interlude, the main play told the story of Antigone and her quest to bury her brother Polyneices, considered a traitor to Thebes for his part in a recent war. The story follows the downfall of Creon, Antigone’s uncle, after he forbids Antigone to bury Polyneices. While tragedies normally have a serious mood, this joke-filled version included comical characters similar to Shakespeare’s jesters.

    The production took place in the end-zone section of Harvard Stadium, with hundreds of people packing the seats in the surrounding sections. In some scenes, characters delivered their lines from the stands; in others, they recited speeches walking toward the audience all the way from the far end zone. This use of all parts of the stadium gave the show a grand scope. The intriguing production kept everyone rapt as the cast performed the serious scenes.

    Despite the mainly somber plot line, the play also elicited some laughs from the crowd. In addition to “September” the cast performed a spirited rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours.”

Raider Times photo / Fizza Khan
Watertown High teacher Malcolm Cooke (center) and members of his English class saw “Antigone” performed on the field at Harvard Stadium as part of the annual Arts First weekend.

    During the show, the cast took playful “intermissions,” with characters singing songs and showcasing their best disco moves to make sure that the crowd was engaged and to break the heavy mood. These breaks in the main story included disco selections, as well as Spanish music. The musical intermissions also provided an opportunity to get up and stretch since it was a very cold night sitting on concrete seats.

    The whole production was the final event of Harvard’s Arts First, a four-day festival of free events with something new each day. This year’s Arts First lineup included a conversation with 1999 Pulitzer Prize winner Colton Whitehead, as well as a concert with professional piano player André Watts and the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra. Topping it all off was “Antigone,” an amazing capstone event to the successful arts festival.

   Overall the play was at once funny, serious, lively, and engaging. and gave the audience something to laugh about throughout the tragic moments. Although the night was cold, “Antigone” made it all worth it in the end.

Raider Times photo / Malcolm Cooke
Watertown High teacher Malcolm Cooke (left) and members of his English class saw “Antigone” performed on the field at Harvard Stadium as part of the annual Arts First weekend.

Raider Times photo / Malcolm Cooke
Watertown High teacher Malcolm Cooke (left) and members of his English class saw “Antigone” performed on the field at Harvard Stadium as part of the annual Arts First weekend.

–May 10, 2018–

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