Great Work Begins to present 'Antigone'

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Imagination is as much a part of theatre as anything else, and that goes double for a local theatre troupe that is itself more different than anything else in the Peoria region.

The Great Work Begins Theatre Troupe, started several years ago by a group of college students and recent graduates, will perform its imaginative take on the greek tragedy "Antigone" this weekend at Camp Wokanda.

The show will be performed at 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday at the Boy Scout camp just northwest of Mossville. Follow the signs off of Route 29.

Admission is $5.

Written by Sophocles in or about 441 BC, "Antigone" takes place during the Greek Civil War. The title character is the sister of two men who died fighting each other for the throne and she is intent on defying the orders of the new ruler regarding which of the brothers will be honored and which will be shamed.

The local version takes places in the American Civil War and the battle is fought in Carthage, Illinois, which was the site of an actual Civil War battle more than 150 years ago.

That, however, is only the beginning of where the theatre troupe's imagination comes in, said Andrew Rhodenbaugh, who is one of the founding members of The Great Work Begins, and Victoria Kapanjie, who has performed with the group and is the director of "Antigone."

"I guess you could say we abridged an abridged version of the play, then set it to a more moder time so audiences could better relate," said Rhodenbaugh, who portray Haemon in the play. "It's a short play, only about an hour, but we were able to make sure the story is told."

"We cut out the fat, basically," said Kapanjie. "It was a collaborative effort, the writing and the directing. We believe it will appeal to Civil War buffs and we are using period costumes and we even have an authentic Civil War-era musket."

In each Greek tragedy, part of the cast makeup is a small group of people who tell part of the story, known as the Greek Chorus. In this case the chorus is made up of the ghosts of soldiers and a nurse who died in the battle.

The cast of eight includes Rhodenbaugh as Haemon, the love interest of Antigone, who is portrayed by Jess Hemmis. Creon is portrayed by Charles Brown, Polyeices is Cody Cornwell, and Eteocles is Skylar Anderson.

Liz Scoville portrays Ismene, Gabe Ferriera is the guard, Hannah Shelby portrays the nurse and Nathan Irwin is Tiresias.

This is the fourth summer The Great Work Begins has performed at Camp Wokanda but the first time its opening performance of the year wasn't an abridged Shakespeare play. Last year, for example, the troupe performed "Hamlet."

"We'd always done Shakespeare because we could do it for free and make the changes we needed to to make it fit. And nobody else locally was doing Shakespeare and it is different and fun to do," Rhodenbaugh said. "This year, we just kinda wanted to break away from the Shakespeare mold."

Kapanjie said it is important that the group find plays that can be set outside, and Shakespeare and Greek tragedies do well in that environment. "One of the advantages to being outside, of course, is using the environnment around us. It makes it unique and authentic," she said.

The weather is a concern since the "stage" at Camp Wokanda has no roof. "We've bee very lucky so far. Let's hope it holds," Rhodenbaugh said.

The Great Work Begins started because many in the cast of "Angels in America" at Corn Stock Theatre's Winter Playhouse five years ago became fast friends and decided they wanted to do something out of the mainstream. "It was a way for us to do plays we wanted to do, to collaborate on and to give people other places to go and see work," Rhodenbaugh said.

Hemmis said she has learned many people don't like to go to traditional theaters but still want to see something performed live. "This is our way of giving them something," she said.

Hemmis said she did theatre in college but didn't really enjoy the experience. She hadn't planned on doing any shows outside of Bradley University until she was asked to help with the production of "Angels In America." She then joined The Great Work Begin "because I found something I can do that is artistic and fun. I like that we do things on our terms."

She and Rhodenbaugh said more people are learning about The Great Work Begins, that audiences are getting larger and more peoplee want to join the group.

One new person to the group but a veteran of community theatre in Peoria is Charles Brown, who has performed and directed at Corn Stock and Peoria Players. He said he was attracted too The Great Work Begins because of the choice of the plays it does. "That is one reason. This group is different. They do different plays, which I like, and the energy is great. It is a very collaborative group. No egos get in the way here," he said.

The group sets up stands for sitting to watch the show or patrons are encouraged to bring lawn chairs.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).