Onassis Cultural Center New York Announces Antigone Now

  •  Published on: 07/10/2016

Four-Day Free Festival Will Explore Contemporary Interpretations
of the Story of Antigone

Participants to include, Céline Cousteau, Bryan Doerries, Jaha Dukureh, Mona Eltahawy, Anya Kamenetz, Maria Papadimitriou, Gloria Reuben, Stefanos Tsivopoulos, Carrie Mae Weems, Samira Wiley and Lee Woodruff.

Onassis Festival NY to Launch #iSTANDfor, a Global Digital Campaign

New York, NY (August 25, 2016) – The Onassis Cultural Center New York launches its fall season with the second annual Onassis Festival of Arts and Ideas. Antigone Now will be presented October 13-16 at the Onassis Cultural Center New York, in the Olympic Tower in mid-town Manhattan. The story of Sophocles’ Antigone, an ancient Greek tragedy about personal conviction is the central theme for this year’s Festival. With bold and innovative programming, Antigone Now explores the myth through visual and performing arts, family programs, and digital media. The Festival will also introduce a galvanizing digital initiative, #iSTANDfor. Drawing from Antigone’s famed courage in standing for what she believed, #iSTANDfor will encourage young people around the world to share stories of inspiration and change via their social media channels and a dedicated web site. #iSTANDfor shines a spotlight on, and celebrates the young women and men around the globe whose individual and collective acts of heroism and bravery are changing our world for the better. Free and open to the public, Antigone Now at the Onassis Cultural Center New York (645 5th Avenue, New York, NY), will include over 30 events for participants of all ages and interests—on site and online.

“Focusing on the story of Antigone to promote a deeper understanding of how ancient Greek culture has shaped and enriched our modern value systems,Antigone Now will foster a dialogue among people from the United States and around the globe about many of the problems we face
in the world today,” says Anthony Papadimitriou, President, Onassis Foundation. “Antigone’s love for her brother, her sense of duty and her courage to challenge powerful forces, especially as a woman, makes her an admirable figure. Her heroic story applies to many of today’s topical
issues such as power struggles, women’s rights, societal laws and immigration – only a few examples.”

“Sophocles’ Antigone speaks to the values and perils of our democratic culture. In organizing this Festival, it has been extremely inspiring to see how artists and thinkers have responded so passionately to this Greek tragedy and the questions it raises for our fractious times, by creating works that call for positive action and unity.” –Amalia Cosmetatou, Executive and Cultural Director of the Onassis Foundation USA.

Through exclusive commissions and by building surprising connections, the Antigone Now program explores Sophocles’ play across an extensive and diverse range of artistic disciplines, presented by both Greek and American artists. The Festival’s #iSTANDfor digital platform will augment the program globally.

Antigone: The Story
Sophocles’ Antigone is an ancient Greek tragedy about a teenage girl, who defies secular authority by declaring her allegiance to a higher law. Antigone, Oedipus’ daughter, wishes to bury her brother, Polyneices, who died in a brutal civil war against his own brother, Eteocles. Creon, their uncle, and new, untested king, who has just replaced the dead brothers on the throne, rules that Polyneices’ body must remain above the earth to be ravaged by vultures and wild dogs, because he led an army against his own country, Thebes, and must be punished as a traitor. Anyone who breaks this law, Creon orders, will be put to death. Antigone openly and intentionally defies him, honoring her brother’s body with proper burial rites, following a higher law, one that transcends that of the state—divine law. Creon is then forced, by his own political rhetoric, and by the fragile authority that he has barely begun to establish since the civil war, to make an example of his niece, by sentencing her to death. In the process of following through with his own decree, Creon loses everything: his son—who was engaged to marry Antigone—his wife, his throne, and the order he struggled so hard to defend. At its core, Antigone is a play about what happens when personal conviction and state law clash, raising the question: When everyone is right (or feels justified), how do we avert the violence that will inevitably take place?

Opening Night: Past Tense (October 13): Acclaimed artist Carrie Mae Weems, deemed “one of the more interesting artists working in the gap between art and politics” by The New York Times, is creating a new performance-based work, Past Tense, for the opening night of the Onassis Festival NY 2016. Through song, text, projection and video, this performance lecture, featuring stunning singers Alicia Hall Moran, Imani Uzuri and Eisa Davis, takes us on a deep dive into the enduring significance of the iconic Antigone, and its profound relevance to our contemporary moment. It marks the confluence of history. Weems says, “While working on Grace Notes for months it occurred to me that I was telling the story of Antigone, wherein an innocent man dies by unjustified means and his sister fights for the right to bury him honorably. But the wider community refuses her; her right to justice, and to peace, is denied.”

Digital Campaign: #iSTANDfor (August 24–December 2016): #iSTANDfor is a digital campaign which will empower young people around the world to engage with each other to support common causes—societal, economic, or environmental—and share stories of inspiration and activism via their social media channels. During the Festival a video wall will project a live-feed of #iSTANDfor messages as they appear on social media platforms, as well as quotes from #iSTANDfor ‘ambassadors,’ and the #iSTANDfor video teaser.

#iSTANDfor Stage (October 15): On Saturday in the Olympic Tower Atrium there will be an #iSTANDfor Stage holding lively back-to-back talks with notable participants passionate about the Antigone Now themes (sessions will be 45 minutes, with 15 minute breaks in between).

Topics include:

  • I Stand for Gender Equality: Fighting for Fundamentals: Jaha Dukureh and Masih Alinejad, in conversation with Richard Lui.
  • I Stand for the Environment: Our Fragile Eco-System
    Céline Cousteau, Erin Schrode, and Christopher Swain, in conversation with David Schwab Abel.
  • I Stand for Education: Unlocking Potential
    Jacob Lief and Ian Rowe in conversation with Anya Kamenetz.
  • I Stand for Women’s Rights: Women in War & Peace
    Gini Reticker, Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya, and Kim Barker, in conversation with Lee Woodruff.
  • I Stand for an End to Violence
    Sarah Clements, and Jessica Mindich in conversation with Wesley Lowery.

Antigone in Ferguson (October 15): Screening of clips from the world premiere of the short documentary Antigone in Ferguson, followed by a live dramatic reading of scenes from Antigone with Reg E. Cathey (House of Cards, The Wire), Gloria Reuben (ER), Glenn Davis (24, The Unit), and Samira Wiley (Orange Is the New Black). The reading will be followed by a town hall discussion, framed by community panelist remarks—including members of law enforcement, activists, and concerned citizens—facilitated by Bryan Doerries, with the goal of generating powerful dialogue, fostering compassion, understanding, and positive action. Antigone in Ferguson was developed by Outside the Wire and the PopTech Institute, and is co-presented by the Onassis Foundation USA (The filming of the Antigone in Ferguson project documentary will occur on September 17 in Ferguson, MO per its listing in the “off-site” section below).

Laboratory Antigone (October–December): Maria Papadimitriou, who represented Greece at the 2015 Venice Biennale, is creating a site-specific art installation focusing on the performance of the tragedy. The audience is placed in a space of “intention”—at a point in time before the event takes place. Large pieces of leather, shaped like human bodies or shields—each corresponding to a character in the play—hang from above the left wall of the room. A large photo covers the right wall, picturing the old tannery as a preparatory chamber, a purgatory of sorts, through which the characters will become ready to partake in the tragedy. Describing the tannery, Papadimitriou states, “The tannery is also a given place with a powerful ‘staging,’ the place in which the character of the play is formed. However, most importantly, therein too lay a sense of death: I would say you could smell death in it, as it was full of hides and processed animal skin. The tannery also has a uniform, renaissance outline, intensified by its wooden ceiling.” Papadimitriou’s installation will be on view until December 2016.

We, Antigone (October 13 – December): A short film by Greek artist Stefanos Tsivopoulos, follows the life of Rakeem Edwards, a homeless 25-year-old gay, black man, born in Georgia and raised in Alaska. The work takes a closer look at the life of Rakeem, the challenges that he faces in his social and working environment, his family relations, and finally the pursuit of his dreams. The film inquires how issues such as race, sexual orientation, income inequality, and social mobility play a major role in defining and expressing oneself. We, Antigone will be screened on a loop in the Gallery space during the Festival and through December.

Family Sunday at Onassis: Everyday Superheroes is centered on Greek heroes and heroines, exploring how we can learn from them to become everyday heroes. The day will feature a shadow play by renowned Iranian filmmaker Hamid Rahmanian, interactive storytelling, fun crafts, educational programs with musician Magda Giannikou, and teaching artists who will engage children and families with educational games. The Festival will close with an upbeat afternoon performance by Soul Steps in the Atrium that both children and adults can enjoy.

Teen Day (October 14): Friday is devoted to teenagers. The Onassis Cultural Center New York has partnered with local schools and Epic Theatre Ensemble to create Antigone Now residencies, in which students study the text of Antigone over the course of ten workshops and prepare a creative response to it. Participating students are preselected for this program.

Global Rhythms: Be Drummers! by Banda Magda (October 14): A high-powered concert that draws from a variety of musical traditions from Greece, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, France, Mali, and Zimbabwe, and a sneak peek of Banda Magda’s new album, Tigre, featuring orchestral music and songs in four different languages, by Greek-born singer, bandleader, and composer, Magda Giannikou. The songs of Tigre explore the many faces of fear such as the fear of darkness, light, vulnerability, failure, and love.

Film & Discussion: We Are Not Princesses (October 15): A documentary shot over three months in 2014, the film centers on Antigone of Syria, an eight-week drama workshop in Lebanon with 35 Syrian women from the Sabra, Shatila, and Bourj el-Barajneh refugee camps. The workshops culminated in three performances at Al Madina Theatre in Hamra, Beirut in December 2014. The film chronicles how Sophocles’ Antigone helps marginalized voices—in this case, Syrian women refugees—speak their truth, rise, heal, and transcend their circumstances. Following the world premiere of the 20-minute preview there will be a discussion with the film’s co-director Bridgette Auger and co-producer Hal Scardino, an individual directly involved in humanitarian work with refugees.

Performance & Workshop: Mina’s Dream by Hamid Rahmanian (October 16): Mina’s Dream is a specially commissioned performance by Hamid Rahmanian, an award-winning Iranian artist based in New York. His ten-minute shadow play tells the story of a young girl whose dreams are bigger than her community’s social pressures and decrees. A young actor performs behind a screen that displays animated characters and objects, representing those who try to keep her from pursuing her dreams. A soundscape of live music, voices and effects create a tension and struggle that the young protagonist must fight against. Designed for ages 5+, each performance will be followed by a workshop and question and answer period.

OFF-SITE EVENTS Co-presented in conjunction with the Onassis Festival NY 2016
Antigone Now

Antigone in Ferguson (September 17, Ferguson, MO): Co-presented with the Onassis Foundation USA, Antigone in Ferguson is a groundbreaking social justice project that will present dramatic live readings of Sophocles’ Antigone for diverse audiences. Developed by Outside the Wire, led by director/translator Bryan Doerries, with the partnership of The Center for Social Empowerment and Justice at Wellspring Church and the PopTech

Institute, who will film a short documentary about the project to premiere worldwide at the Festival on October 15 (details above under “selected highlights”).

A Modern-Day Antigone at LIVE from the NYPL (October 5; NYPL): Mona Eltahawy, a modern-day Antigone in her own right, will be interviewed in-depth on the themes of Antigone Now. Part of Onassis Programs at LIVE from the NYPL.

The Antigone Now Festival is curated and produced by:

Festival Director: Amalia Cosmetatou

Curators, Performing Arts: Nadine Goellner, Rachel Chanoff, Olli Chanoff, Laurie Cearley, Oliver Hill, Lynn Koek and Noah Bashevkin from THE OFFICEperforming arts + film

Curators, Humanities: Caro Llewellyn and Jill Brack from 20 Square Feet Productions; Sophia Efthimiatou

Curator, Family Day: Tamar MacKay

Curator, Visual Arts: Yorgos Tzirtzilakis

Festival Producers: Nadine Goellner, Rachel Chanoff, Olli Chanoff, Laurie Cearley, Oliver Hill, Lynn Koek and Noah Bashevkin from THE OFFICEperforming arts + film; Zoë Dolan

Academic Consultant: Helene Foley, professor of classics, Barnard College

A full schedule of Festival events and a complete list of participants is available at onassisfestivalny.org.

All Festival events at the Onassis Cultural Center New York are free and open to the public; reservations, required for some events, are available at onassisfestivalny.org on September 18. Ticket charges apply to off-site events.

The Onassis Cultural Center New York explores Greek culture from antiquity to today, through a diverse program of exhibitions, events, and online engagement for audiences of all ages and interests. All programs and exhibitions—from scholarly to those designed for families, novices, and experts—are presented free of charge to make the experience accessible to all.

The Onassis Foundation USA, an affiliate to the parent Foundation in Greece, is committed to the promotion of Greek culture. By cooperating with educational and cultural institutions in Greece and throughout the Americas, the Onassis Foundation USA promotes cultural relations. The mission of the Onassis Foundation USA is realized through two major initiatives, one cultural and educational for the general public through its Onassis Cultural Center New York, and one academic, the University Seminar Program, that places eminent scholars from all over the world in universities in North and Latin America for seminars and courses on topics related to Hellenic civilization. To learn more about the Foundation and the Onassis Cultural Center New York, please visit: www.onassisusa.org.