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The Two Minute Play Festival
Featuring ORIGINAL material by UWMC students!
Burial at Thebes
by Seamus Heaney, with original music by J.D. Steele
UWMC Theatre’s Burial at Thebes will have a soulful, musical feel
By Luke Carter,
University Relations Student Intern
Later this month, the University of Wisconsin Marathon-County Theatre will perform an interpretation of one of the oldest works in Western culture, a play dealing with civil disobedience, the clash between duty to family and duty to the state, and the struggle between the will of man and of the divine.
The original Antigone was written before 440 B.C., as the first of three Theban plays revolving around the family of King Oedipus, the mythological tragic hero who ironically fulfilled the prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother. The play tells the story of Oedipus’s daughter, the titular Antigone, in the aftermath of the civil war following his death.The play, Burial at Thebes, was written by the Nobel Prize winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney as both an interpretation of the ancient Greek tragedy Antigone (pronounced An-tig-oh-nee) by Sophocles and a critique of the Bush administration’s foreign policy. It will be performed four times during Nov. 15-18 at the UW Center for Civic Engagement Theater.
“There’s not going to be a dull moment,” said UWMC student Katherine Roloff, who will be playing Antigone. “The story is very interesting.”
However, UWMC Theatre’s production will do more than simply tell the classic Greek tragedy.
According to director Sarah Rudolph, the play will combine the Greek elements with a contemporary military theme to highlight the parallels to the Bush administration’s handling of the war in Iraq. To further convey this theme, modern military symbolism will be prominent in the otherwise traditional Greek set design.
“We are lucky to have a very good set crew this semester,” said Rudolph. The set work began in October, and the stage has been scheduled exclusively for Burial at Thebes in the weeks leading up to its performance.
Rudolph chose to do a production of Burial at Thebes after seeing it performed in the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Besides being drawn to the modern theme, she was also interested in the idea of doing the play with musical elements, which are rarely found in productions of classical Greek tragedies. The play features contemporary, soulful music written by renowned composer J.D. Steele.
Providing the piano portion of Steele’s music during the performance of the play will be his brother, Billy Steele. The Steeles frequently work together and have released several albums. Their work has received multiple awards, and includes seven albums and collaborations with artists such as Prince and Morgan Freeman.Steele originally composed the music for Burial at Thebes when it was performed at the Guthrie. However, because Steele keeps with Gospel music tradition and plays music by ear, he did not have written music for the songs. When asked for the music, Steele chose to come to UWMC in September and work in residency on the play’s music with the choir. He worked with each part of the songs individually, and the choir learned them by ear.
“They are very talented,” said Roloff. “[The play] is shaping up to be really good.”
Tickets for Burial at Thebes are free for UWMC students, $12 for other students and seniors, and $15 for the general public. It is one of four UWMC Theatre productions being performed during the 2012-13 academic year. It will be followed by a two-minute play festival at the end of November and will conclude with Columbinus, a play about school shootings that is scheduled for next spring.