It all started in 2017, when Prison Performing Arts (PPA) began a collaboration with St. Louis University’s (SLU) Department of Fine and Performing Arts.
Lucy Cashion, Assistant Professor of Theatre (and ERA Artistic Director) teamed up with PPA Director of Youth Programs (and SATE Artistic Director), Rachel Tibbetts, to teach weekly poetry, playwriting, and development workshops with PPA participants at the Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic, and Correctional Center (WERDCC) in Vandalia, MO. For about 8 weeks during the summer of 2017, the group studied, explored, and wrote about the Ancient Greek Princess, Antigone.
The story of fighting civic law to obey divine law became famous in the Classical Greek tragedy Antigone, which premiered in Athens in 441 B.C. Since then, scholars, poets, and playwrights have written their own translations, adaptations, and critiques of the Antigone story, each from a different point of view.
During the workshop, the women of WERDCC wrote a large amount of content that was eventually curated into a script; this script was initially produced in October 2017 at SLU by an ensemble of students. Later, the same ensemble performed the play in prison, in front of an audience of women who wrote much of the play’s original content.
“It was really cool,” says Rachel Tibbetts about the experience of watching SLU’s performance of Antigone at WERDCC. “I mainly watched the women watching the production. Their faces would light up when they recognized their own words.”
The continuation of this tradition resulted in a performance by PPA participants at WERDCC in March 2018.
“Lucy and I started going up to the prison on a weekly basis to direct a version of Antigone with the women at the prison,” says Tibbetts. “It was essentially the same script as the SLU production, but we added more roles so we could cast more actors.”
This new version included all of the women’s original workshop writing as well as scenes from various adaptations of Antigone, including the Sophocles version.
ERA and SATE are bringing Antigone back to the stage in St. Louis this August.
Included in the 7-woman cast is Laura Hulsey, who was recently released from WERDCC and who acted in the prison production. Other cast members include Miranda Jagels Félix and Victoria Thomas, who acted in the SLU production. The rest of the cast is comprised of professional actors from St. Louis.
About the play, Christopher Limber (PPA Artistic Director) remarks, “One of the things that I recall is that, up in Vandalia, Lucy [Cashion] spoke about how inspired she was to do the play with just women, as opposed to a co-ed cast. She really liked something about the all-female version up at Vandalia, which inspired this upcoming female-only production. That’s one of the things that SATE focuses on—doing important new work that highlights women. Part of PPA's mission is to support new work and to collaborate with other excellent colleagues. The journey of this Antigone reflects the brave and resilient resonance of its classic theatrical roots."
We’re thrilled to see Antigone arise again with this ERA/SATE co-production in St. Louis.
Get your tickets for the August production here.