A political scientist, a classicist, a philosopher and a theatre educator walk into Cairns Atrium. What happens?
Four faculties gathered Oct. 31 to discuss the Greek tragedy Antigone, a production put on by Brock’s department of Dramatic Arts. Key questions the panel focused on included: what makes this play so interdisciplinary? What might we learn about this play from departments other than our own?
“Antigone provokes dialogue because of its timeless nature,” said Mike Griffin.
After nearly two and a half millennia, Antigone still has a way of making itself relevant in many fields of study. Speakers at the panel discussion included Dr. Athena Colman of the Department of Philosophy, Dr. Stefan Dolgert of the Department of Political Science, Drs. Robert Nickel and Adam Rappold of the Department of Classics and Mike Griffin of the Department of Dramatic Arts. The moderator of the panel was Dr. Elizabeth Vlossak of the Department of History.
The discussion was launched by Vlossak granting each panelist five minutes to explain why the play is applicable to their field of study.
Dr. Nickel began in a historical manner, providing context of the way the play has manifested itself into Brock theatre. Antigone remains a staple in the teaching of classics. Dr. Rappold explained further why this is the case by remarking on Athenian democracy and justice.
“The story is a celebration of Athenians championing justice. In Sophocles’ version, this role is given to a single woman, Antigone,” said Rappold. “Sophocles seems to highlight the voices of those who are oppressed.”
As classicists, Rappold and Nickel both described the play with a focus on its development and historical context. Dolgert took a different approach when he applied Antigone to modern political organization.
“Political theorists use Antigone in teaching because it illustrates in dramatic form what many say is the fundamental human division in political life. As an example, Creon defends the role of the state and Antigone defends the role of the family or clan,” Dolgert explained.
Taking politics further, Colman explained that Antigone is relevant to many feminist readings, particularly in her study of Hegel. In a philosophical manner, Colman added that, much like Antigone, one might struggle to understand one’s place in society today due to the constraints of social context.
“You do not have a real sense of the rights of the individual, you simply have a sense of the rights displayed through that individual’s social role,” said Colman.
Griffin shared that he chose to reproduce Antigone onstage this year because of its continued relevance.
“When I first was looking for a play to direct for this year, I wanted to find something that really spoke to the cultural and political climate of today. As a result, I kept coming back to Antigone. When I watched the news: I saw Antigones. When I scrolled online: I saw Antigones. When I engaged with the theatre community: I saw Antigones,” said Griffin.
Ultimately, Griffin concluded that theatre today too often submits to a patriarchal lead and he wanted to question this approach by following a female lead.
Each panelist articulated the play differently but no one strayed far from the themes of justice, feminism, religion, family or the state. This play brought four faculties together to speak about controversial events taking place in our society today.
These professionals came together to discuss the play, but also to discuss the intersection of their fields of study and the current human condition. According to Dolgert, we must not forget that the Antigones of the world are the reason we have pushed past what has been perceived as impossible.
“Antigone pushes back against the cynicism of politics. These are the people who think beyond the impossibilities,” said Dolgert.
Vlossak prepared questions for each panelist such as: Is Antigone an appropriate feminist icon? And would the world be a different place if we all read Antigone?
The panelists received praise from the audience. In particular, an individual gave thanks to the panelists for coming together to talk on the subject, as an interdisciplinary panel is something they envisioned taking place for some time now.
It is not everyday that we witness multiple faculties coming together to evoke such valuable dialogue. Brock students, staff and faculty attended the novel panel in great numbers; it was a full house.
Antigone is a complex production and the interdisciplinary approach taken was necessary to begin it’s unraveling.
After the discussion, Griffin also noted his appreciation.
“I thought the Round Table was a fantastic opportunity for colleagues from across disciplines to come together and share such a wide range of knowledge and perspectives on Antigone. It was wonderful to hear new perspectives on the play which inspired me to analyze the decisions I made in directing the show,” said Griffin.