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'4 Dead in Ohio' explores modern event through ancient story

The Connecticut College Department of Theater will present "4 Dead in Ohio: Antigone At Kent State," an adaptation of Sophocles' "Antigone" collectively created by a student ensemble using the play "Burial at Thebes" by Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney. Performances are Nov. 15-18 in Tansill Theater. The production concerns a group of eight Kent State students, survivors of the May 4, 1970, National Guard shootings, who gather at midnight a few days later to process the event they have witnessed. They try to use Sophocles' ancient text and archetypes to help them reach their own catharsis. The idea for "4 Dead in Ohio" is the brainchild of David Jaffe '77, an associate professor of theater and the director of the play. "We were determined to work on a classical text, and I was drawn to Antigone and her act of protest against the laws of the state. I began thinking about the arc of time since the Occupy movement into the presidential election, and the nature of college students' relationships to protests - these things were floating in my mind," Jaffe said. "And I saw or flashed on the famous John Filo photo of Mary Vecchio wailing over the body of one of the murdered students - an Antigone-like moment - and then I flashed on the Crosby Stills, Nash & Young song 'Ohio' … I just asked myself, might there be a way to marry these two iconic events?" He has succeeded with help from students who are not only performers but creators as well. Once cast, the students researched the tragedy at Kent State and explored the core text of Heaney's play to create their own chorus sequences, reconfigure the text and define the world in which the story is told. "It's called collective creation," explained Jaffe. "The students were given prompts to solve a specific theatrical challenge related to the creation of this event. They worked independently and came back to show me what they had. Together we created the production." Once the script was in place, the students worked on their performances, and Jaffe praises their commitment to their characters. "They have each created their own Kent State identity - they know who they are, when they were born, how they ended up at Kent State and where they were during the May 4 massacre," he said. "It's amazing how they've immersed themselves and delved into those identities. And in each performance they'll continue to see if the process provides the catharsis their Kent State character is looking for." Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15-17 with matinees performances at 2 p.m. on Nov. 17 and 18. Tickets are $8 for general admission and $6 for students. Call 860-439-ARTS for tickets and information.

November 12, 2012

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