By Raphaela Behounek.
For anyone who missed the highlight of February: last month our own Theatre Arts Society staged the ancient Greek tragedy Antigone at the Lakeside Theatre, and if you didn’t come and watch it – gee, did you miss something! In case you were wondering why I am still so excited about it – I had the honour of being part of this amazing cast and crew. Do not fret, however, I will not spend the whole post praising everyone involved and I certainly don’t expect you to bow your head in shame if you haven’t seen it (but just for your information, even people who don’t like Antigone and/or Greek tragedy enjoyed it!). What I do want to talk about though is why we should all go out and see some more theatre and maybe even try to participate in it, even when we are not pursuing a degree in Drama.
First things first, why is it important that people go and see theatre shows and why should we even bother to stage and study theatre? If you have a passion for theatre, like most drama students have and I do too, you do it because of that love. But not everyone feels that way. If we think back to school days and our teacher telling us that we’re going to see a play, at least in my class, I seemed to be the only excited person. So how can we pass on this excitement and even more importantly, why do we even want to do that? Going through the how is definitely not my speciality, so I will not talk about that, but during my time as a tutor, I certainly had to answer a lot of these whys when I got all excited about Shakespeare and Sophocles.
The short version is that despite the age of the plays, they still matter! The Oedipus plays, of which Antigone is one, were all written in the 5th century BC, yet if you go through the script, some of the lines hit oddly close to home. I will only pick out one example, but rest assured that there are far more than that. In a time of more and more egocentric politicians that seem to not have the best for their country in their minds anymore, Sophocles gives us some special words of wisdom: “A man who thinks he has the monopoly of wisdom, that only what he says and what he thinks is of any relevance, reveals his own shallowness of mind with every word he says.” And if that isn’t clear enough, let King Creon’s son Haemon tell you that “when the State becomes one man it ceases to be a State.” Do you feel the sudden urge to write a letter to your MP or a certain president? Welcome to the power of theatre.
There is a second point I want to make with this post, namely why we should try to get active, put ourselves out there, and do some theatre. For me, the answer is quite simple. I am an incredibly shy person and I don’t like too many people in one place, but give me a chance to stand on a stage and I will gladly speak to 100+ people in a language that is not even my mother tongue. I might feel extremely awkward during the first five rehearsals or so, but within a group of nice people, I will warm up quickly and some of my most amazing friendships have come out of doing a show together.
But now, you will tell me, what about those people who can’t even speak up in class because of severe stage fright? This post was too carefully planned to fall apart at this point, so my answer here is the Theatre Arts Society. Every Monday they have a wonderful workshop, sometimes even just a games workshop, that introduces people to certain aspects of theatre. Some easy exercises to get to know your body and your voice better might do wonders for your presentations; it certainly helped my dull, my-hands-are-shaking-so-hard-I-can’t-read-my-notes-anymore-presentations to become more lively and now I even manage to make unscripted jokes during them! Being part of a theatre show has been a huge confidence boost for me, even when I am not centre stage, simply because it pushed me out of my comfort zone. And through working on the way you move and speak on stage, you get to know yourself a lot better and you learn how to slip on a different personality the moment you walk in front of your audience and start speaking.
The best thing about being part of a theatre group, however, is also the easiest: it is a lot of fun and will be a great experience, even if you’re just waiting backstage to help people into another costume.
Antigone quotes taken from Sophocles: The Theban Plays (trans. Don Taylor), Methuen London, 1986, pages 162-163.