"Another Antigone"

A Full Length Play by A.R. Gurney

Another Antigone
The times are different, but the issues are the same in "Another Antigone.". Kerstin Waurick

It’s the final semester before college graduation. Judy is a senior about to graduate who has already been accepted into a prestigious career track pending her degree. Henry is her rigorous and stubborn classics professor. The two are facing off over a project Judy is attempting to hand in as her term paper.

The project is a reimagining of Sophocles’ Antigone set during the nuclear arms race. Henry specifically stated in his syllabus that the topic for his course’s term paper be a pre-approved topic from a list he has provided and that any interest in writing the term paper on a different topic must first be cleared through him.

Judy did not clear her topic with him, yet submitted her paper anyway. Henry takes a dim view of students attempting to re-work his beloved classics. He informs Judy that she will fail if she does not write the paper as assigned on an approved topic. Judy is only spurred on to greater heights in defense of her play and her ideas. She insists that not only will he accept her paper, but also that she will perform it before graduation and he will give her the “A” she feels she deserves.

Judy and Henry’s battle of wills reaches another level when Diane, the Dean of Humane Studies gets involved. She pressures Henry to accept Judy’s paper/play and give it a “B.” Diane has heard from the university provost that there have been several complaints about Henry and rumors of anti-Semitism in his classroom. If Henry receives another complaint and cannot increase his class enrollment for the following year, the university will likely let him go.

Production Details

Setting: A university in Boston

Time: Late 1980s

Cast Size: This play can accommodate 4 actors.

Male Characters: 2

Female Characters: 2

Characters that could be played by either males or females: 0

Roles

Henry Harper has a passion for his Ancient Greek texts and finds more beauty and life in their words than in any other works ever written.

He respects all great literature, but the Greeks perfected tragedy and the exquisite emotions that tragedy produces. His love of the classics blinds him towards modern attitudes and students’ dwindling of respect for the ancient stories.

Judy Miller was brought up Jewish and possesses all the strong traits of her heritage: she is passionate, unwilling to settle, and a work ethic to achieve any goal she sets for herself. She never truly believed that anti-Semitism would play a role in her life until - she met Henry and heard the rumors about him.

Diana Eberhart is the Dean of Humane Studies and a longtime friend and defender of Henry Harper. Her patience with the old classics professor is wearing thin these days, however, and she is tired of being the go-between for Henry and his hard-nosed rulings and the Provost. This latest development with Judy Miller has Diana yearning for the simpler time of being a teacher in charge of students instead of a teacher in charge of teachers. 

David Appleton is Judy’s best friend and perhaps eventual boyfriend at school. He is willing to do just about anything to support her, but her stance with Henry and this term paper is causing tension in their relationship.

He was brought up to make the sensible choices and live the sensible life. Judy’s fight with Henry is causing him to question many of his life choices and examine just where his own passions might lie.

Parallels in the Plays

Sophocles’ Antigone is about the aftermath of a civil war that tore a family and a country apart. Creon, the new king, declares one dead nephew the victor and the other dead nephew the villain. He allows burial of the victor, but the other brother must lie out in the battlefield and be eaten by crows; denied any rites of burial. This declaration is a heinous crime in the eyes of the gods and Antigone, the sister of both dead brothers, decides to defy her uncle perform burial rites anyway. She is sentenced to be buried alive in a cave for her transgression.

Although Another Antigone is about the Antigone of Judy’s end of term paper/play, A.R. Gurney’s play has many correlations with Sophocles’ play.

  • Creon makes a hard and unpopular ruling about burial that leaves him no room to backtrack when public opinion goes against him. Henry threatens Judy with a failing grade that would make her ineligible for graduation.
  • Antigone goes ahead with her plans to bury her bother despite warnings and lack of support from her sister Ismene. Judy decides to push her own agenda with her paper topic and even produce the show in an effort to fortify her belief in her work and herself. Her friend Dave goes along, but questions her motives and intentions.
  • Ismene attempts to take the blame for Antigone’s actions, but is discovered to be innocent. Dave tries to hand in a term paper he wrote saying that it is Judy’s work. Henry is not fooled.
  • The Greek Chorus provides Creon with public opinion and warnings of what will happen in the future if he continues to punish Antigone for his unjust law. Diane attempts to reason with Henry and persuade him to give Judy a “B” for her effort and let the matter drop. She warns him of everything he is about to lose especially if Henry can’t find a way to get back into the student’s and faculty’s good graces.
  • Creon loses his wife, his son, suffers the wrath of the gods and eventually exiles himself from his kingdom. Henry decides to take a sabbatical from his beloved university and classics due to his unpopularity

Production Notes

Technical aspects for Another Antigone are light on costumes, sound, and lighting. The set is the only big consideration for any theater choosing to produce this play. It must accommodate several different locations at once: Henry’s office, Diane’s office, various outside locations around campus, and a graduation stage. To achieve seamless transitions between scenes, the playwright often has actors enter one area of the stage before the previous scene has concluded. In the script from Dramatic Play Service, Inc. a suggested design is provided.

A.R. Gurney has specified that Another Antigone be performed without intermission just as is the Greek classic Antigone.

Content Issues: Anti-Semitic discussions

Resources

Production rights for Another Antigone are held by Dramatists Play Service, Inc.

Click here to view a scene from Another Antigone.