Becoming Polyneices Part 2: The rehearsal


Written around 442 BC, Antigone explores the struggles of a woman’s decision to honor her brothers, Eteocles and Polyneices, after their deaths in a civil war. Photo courtesy of Nathan Vineyard

“I just like books – I’m not a fighter!” was all I could think to myself as the fight choreographer was going over my character’s moves for the first time, teaching me how to act.

After getting a callback from the audition in August, I have been rehearsing with the cast and crew of Antigone almost every evening for the last month and a half, trying to become the character Polyneices. I’ve never tried acting before, and going behind the scenes is like discovering that there are laws in physics.

Antigone is a rich, deep, ancient and powerful play written by a Greek general, Sophocles. But it’s much more than a classic; it’s one of the cultural jewels of Western civilization. It doesn’t just talk about politics, family, tradition, order and reason. It shows you. It invites you to participate in the physical unfolding of its philosophy.

“First, you’ll stab at him like so; then, you’ll do a roll, turn back around, get up and then smash into his shoulder, breaking his arm.”

Adam Argyle, the fight director, has a beautiful way of turning violence into art and turning a ghastly duel into a poetic metaphor. That is the kind of intelligent, applied poetry you see every day in rehearsal. With one small movement or word, you can release something beautiful that was not there before. Scott M. Stringham, the director, is a master at it. And on Oct. 7 at 5 p.m. in the quad at the student center, audiences will be able to see his incredible orchestration with their own eyes.

“Okay, I can do this,” I muffled to myself. This was the first time I had ever held a sword, worn a helmet or used a shield. I had definitely never used them all at the same time! But there I was, swinging my sword, yelling at the top of my lungs, getting hit by other warriors and leaping and stabbing at my devilish ‘brother’ Eteoclês, played by Levi Brown. Did I really just start enjoying fighting?

That’s what a play will do to you. It helps you see parts of yourself that have been neglected, and it highlights them so you can take a closer, more meaningful look. It gets you out of your shell and allows you to try on a new way of looking at life. It just so happens I feel very comfortable in armor.

But in rehearsal it’s not all fun and games. It is impressive how hard these incredibly talented people work. Within a matter of weeks, they completely memorized pages and pages of material, transferred that information into distinct, beautiful characters full of emotion and life who deeply react to one another and had all of it working together in a cohesive, moving 3-D whole. It’s the abstraction of a beautiful community and the pure essence of a living university.

Video games and movies on DVD can’t touch this luxurious immersion. It’s like seeing a beautiful painting being created, but then you actually get to step into the painting. You can’t miss this play. The posters, the costumes, the music, the choreography and the background are all incredibly organic and fresh. And it’s all free.

Coming from regular life, it was surreal to go into rehearsal. But what’s even stranger is how weird it is to go back to ‘regular’ life, once you’ve left the play. You leave behind so much when you leave the theater. Life is so much more vibrant, alive, fun and exotic there. One moment I was working on civil litigation in a classroom, the next moment I was sliding on an ancient Greek helmet, grabbing my spear and screaming at the top of my lungs.

I found myself never wanting it to end, completely immersed in something great, finding a voice that’s been buried for so long I didn’t even know I wasn’t using it and surprised each night by how much I felt alive.

Trying out for the play, I was hoping to be a part of something that might be cool or interesting. I wasn’t expecting to be completely and totally blown away by pure talent, polished skill, careful organization, enjoyable art, fighting and exhaustive love, honest friendship, meaningful intelligence, warmth, happiness, community, and beauty every evening for the last two months.

Whoever you are reading this, wherever you are in your life, don’t put away that part of you that always wanted to try something new for the first time. It’s never too late. Don’t wait for a more convenient time, more money, or more understanding. You just might find yourself surrounded by beautiful people in an incredibly beautiful context, doing something you never knew you missed so much. Come to the play. Experience this for yourself. It was all rehearsed for you.

To the entire cast and crew of Antigone: Thank you. I was a complete outsider to your world, and you welcomed me as an equal. Break a leg.

Come see Antigone
When: Oct. 7-12, excluding Sunday
Time: 5 p.m.
Where: Student Center Quad
Free and open to the public

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