Antigone Costumes-- The Chorus Picture

The Chorus: The Chorus is an important figure in Anouilh's Antigone, becoming both the narrator and the voice of reason. A similar role is played by the chobo ensemble in Kabuki theatre, and therefore the Chorus is dressed, as a chobo narrator would be, in the traditional male clothing of the Edo period (when kabuki was most popular); a kimono, under-kimono, hakama, and a haori or jacket. To separate the Chorus from the characters, however, his simple costume is entirely black.

Last year I took a class on costume design as an elective, and really enjoyed it and put a lot of work into it. Our final project was to create a complete costume portfolio for a show; concept essay, costume plot, sketches and watercolor renderings for each character. I decided to do Jean Anouilh's Antigone because it's one of my favorite plays, without thinking about the fact that it has ten characters. I also decided to re-set the Greek-tragedy-reset-to-indeterminate-modernist-setting setting to Meiji era Japan.

Introduction from Concept Essay:

The famous story of Antigone is a tragic one; the two sons of Oedipus kill each other over the right to rule Thebes, leaving the country in the hands of their uncle Creon. One brother is buried with honor; the other is left to rot in the fields, his spirit denied access to the underworld and doomed to wander the earth. By the order of Creon, anyone who attempts to bury Polynices is sentenced to death. Antigone, however, feels that her family obligation requires her to lay Polynices' soul to rest, and against the wishes of her sister Ismene sneaks out to perform the task. She is caught and brought to Creon by his guards, but where for the sake of his niece and future daughter-in-law (for Antigone is engaged to his son Haemon) Creon would have covered up her crime, Antigone refuses and Creon is forced to give the order for her death, setting in motion a string of tragedies. Haemon pleads with his father for Antigone's life and is refused, but when Creon realizes his error and goes to free Antigone from the prison where she was left to die of exposure he finds Antigone, hanged by her own hand, and Haemon mad with grief. The prince attempts to kill Creon before falling on his own sword. The news is brought back by a messenger to the palace, where Creon's queen Eurydice kills herself out of grief for her last remaining son. Ismene vanishes. Creon is left alone with his power.

Jean Anouilh dusted off Sophocles' famous play during the German occupation of Paris, when plays had to be approved by Nazi censors. Creon, the statesman and propagandist, becomes a Hitler figure, while the brave and loyal Antigone was a secret cry to the French people. The same story, however, could just as easily have taken place in the complex world of Meiji Era, Japan. The last Shogun (or military dictator) Tokugawa Ieyasu had replaced the feudal system with a bakufu or military government and prohibited virtually all contact with the world outside of Japan. After the arrival of Commodore Perry in 1853, however, Japan was forced to open its doors and the influx of foreigners caused Ieyasu to lose the support of the Japanese daimyo, or barons, who wanted to force all foreigners out of the country. A revolution broke out in which many different factions fought for different causes and loyalties. These loyalties were forced to shift as the revolution progressed, and by the final bloody days of the Tokugawa Shogunate, often called the Bakumatsu, the nature of Japan had been irrevocably changed. Power was returned to the hands of the Emperor Meiji, who favored westernization and welcomed foreigners into Japan, setting out to create a modern industrialized country. Japanese traditions were replaced and discarded by the new Western culture, and the ancient samurai class, already fallen in power, was abolished.
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