UPDATE (8/19): Originally scheduled to be presented outdoors at Prospect Park, Antigonick has now moved to Manhattan's indoor Center at West Park (165 W 86th St). "In the last couple days it's become clear that our usual performance space is no longer safe to work in, and so for the safety of the cast and crew we've decided to move to a different space," wrote managing director Diana Levy today. Performance times are now Friday August 19 at 8pm and Saturday August 20 at 3pm. Doors open a half hour before the show; audience must present proof of vaccination and remain masked throughout the performance.
Theater buffs will soon get a chance to see a classic Greek tragedy staged in the buff.
The body-positive company Torn Out Theater has raised eyebrows in Prospect Park in past summers with nude outdoor productions of Shakespeare—an all-female version of The Tempest in 2016, an all-male take on Hamlet in 2017—and a mixed-gender production of Aphra Behn's Restoration comedy The Rover in 2018. Next month, the troupe returns to free, stripped-down public performance with a play that is at once more ancient and more modern: Antigonick, a 2012 adaptation of Sophocles' ancient masterwork Antigone by the Canadian poet Anne Carson.
Although the production is bound to attract a few gawkers, its intentions are serious. A tragedy of political protest, Antigone is centrally concerned with the dignity of the human body; the title character is a Theban woman who is confined to a cave by the city's tyrannical king after he refuses to bury her dead brother, a traitor to the state. "In our production of Antigonick, nudity functions as a visceral embodiment of the belief that the body is more precious than the law," says director Britt Berke. "Antigone’s nudity is a radical act of intimacy, a subversion of the strict regulations of Thebes, and the most resolute way for her to connect directly with her brother’s body and the earth around it. Other characters in the play follow Antigone’s lead and incorporate nudity into their stories when they engage with related questions surrounding love, loss, and loyalty."
The COVID crisis and the social protests that punctuated it may make the show seem especially relevant. "It feels absolutely vital to make work that celebrates the beauty of human connection, while simultaneously honoring the pain and loss that so many people have endured," Berke says. "Antigonick will use nudity to ask intimate and dangerous questions about mortality, autonomy and the magnificent importance of human touch.”
All of the actors in the cast will be at least partially nude, and most will be fully unclothed at some point in the play. Torn Out does not recommend Antigonick for children under the age of 6—but only because of its stage blood, not the nakedness. “I have had so many people come up to me at these shows, saying, ‘I wish I’d seen this when I was a kid,’” says the company's managing director, Diana Levy. “People have been grateful to see nudity presented in a safe, normalizing way. We’re always happy to see families at the show, and to have conversations with the kids and parents who come."
Antigonick will be presented at the Music Pagoda in Prospect Park for four days only: on August 19 and 20 at 6pm and on August 21 and 22 at 3pm. There are no reservations, and seating is first come, first served. Audience members are encouraged to bring their own chairs and blankets to sit on. (Folding chairs may also be available to rent.)
RECOMMENDED: Our guide to free outdoor theater this summer in New York