'Antigone' production reflects more realistic (colorful) portrayal of the ancients

NEWPORT, R.I. – Contrary to our traditional visions of white toga-clad citizens in a bleached out ancient landscape, new research has revealed evidence that the Greeks in fact created a vividly colorful world for themselves, a world that has been shrouded by theatrical misinterpretation until now.

Salve Regina’s upcoming production of Antigone (Feb. 13-16) will allow audiences to appreciate the ancient Greeks in all their historically accurate (and colorful) glory, without the director taking conceptual liberties with the classic play’s time or setting. The result will be a portrayal of citizens of Thebes who are not only clad in color, but are gritty, and dirty and living in a world of hard labor.

“There have been so many examples of productions of classic works where directors have found it necessary to impose a concept on the piece, placing it in modern times or updating the language to use modern-day colloquialisms,” says Reggie Phoenix, associate professor of theater and ‘Antigone’ director. “I think it is the original settings and contexts that make them the rich classics they are. After all, what can be more compelling than the story of a young girl standing up to male power 3,500 years ago?”

New York City costume designer Jessa-Raye Court is working with students to re-create a world rich in colorful fabrics and textiles for the production based on new research she’s discovered about the ancients. Salve Regina senior theatre majors Olivia Gavriel, scenic designer, and Samantha Gibbons, lighting designer, are using the production as a basis for thesis projects.

“In fact, the world was so filled with explosive patterns and color that it might almost be considered vulgar by today’s standards,” Phoenix says. “It’s something that hasn’t been done yet in terms of approach to ancient Greek theater. I think we might be one of the first productions that takes that into consideration.”

Open to the public, ‘Antigone’ performances will be presented at the historic Casino Theatre, 9 Freebody St., at 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, Feb. 13 and 14, at 2 and 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 16. General admission is $10, senior citizens $8, and Salve Regina community $5. For information or reservations call the Box Office at 401-341-2250 or visit www.tinyurl.com/salvecasino

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Reggie Phoenix

Born in Harlem, Phoenix was trained extensively in the arts during the 1970s and began working professionally at an early age on Broadway and in Off-Broadway productions, including roles in A Chorus Line, Dream Girls and Showboat. At the age of 40, he enrolled as a college freshman at Metropolitan State University (BA in theatre, 2004), and then graduate school at Rutgers University (MFA in acting/directing, 2008).

“One of the advantages I bring to this program is not only have I had an extensive professional career, but I was recently a student,” Phoenix says. “I can understand what 21st century students need, which is a whole different thing than my generation. They need and desire more attention, more hands-on opportunities, opportunities that make them feel like they are contributing. They are not the passive learners that we were traditionally. They like to be engaged, they like to be challenged.”