AntigoneNOW: rehearsing, making and performing Antigone online

Sinéad Rushe, May 2020

24 hour streaming on 22 May, 2020
midnight (22) to midnight (23) Pacific Standard Time

I was invited as the Spring 2020 Granada Artist in Residence to the University of California Davis to direct a stage production of the Greek tragedy, Antigone, at the Wyatt theatre, in the Seamus Heaney translation. With lockdown, when it was becoming clear that I wasn’t going to be able to go, my American collaborator Margaret Kemp and I started to imagine what we could do instead. Given that we were in a world pandemic, a global crisis, it felt essential to try still to do something. How could we follow through on our collaboration, creativity and community engagement in this unprecedented moment in history? How could we create a piece that would speak to this crisis? We decided to make a performance film instead, rehearsing online, creating it online and performing it online.

We’ve stripped the play right back to just telling the story of Antigone, so the all-female cast all play Antigone in a kind of polyphony, a chorus. We run daily rehearsals synchronously online, doing some ensemble work, and then sending the actors off to film sections of the script wherever they are on their phones, laptops and Ipads. They upload their films to a shared drive (fabulously organised by our stage management team) and Margaret and I – and our lighting designer, Miranda Waldron – give feedback on email or online. This has had very practical time zone challenges as we have actors in Singapore, Japan, east and west coast of America and myself in London; so some actors are rehearsing with us at midnight or at 2am in the morning with incredible dedication.

One of the challenges has been to keep the sense of ensemble and to make something coherent out of so many different homes, bedrooms and technical capability. But we are trying to embrace the glitchy, low-tech internet quality of what we’re doing. We did not set out to make a film, and this is a creative response to a play we couldn’t make during a world pandemic.


A dead body in quarantine, unburied and left to rot. A world in strife, a nation in fear, a woman bereft: Antigone is forbidden to touch and lay to rest the body of her deceased brother. Award-winning Irish director and University of California Davis, Granada Artist in Residence Sinéad Rushe, will co-direct with UC Davis, Associate Professor Margaret Laurena Kemp, a ground-breaking contemporary response to the classical play, Antigone. Made collectively between the USA, Singapore, Japan and the UK using mobile phones, Ipads and video, this all-female cast and creative team will create a stunning new film that confronts the isolation of our moment. A culturally diverse ensemble of female identifying actors – each in seclusion – will evoke the breadth of Antigone’s defiance against devastating loss.

This production is part of Kemp and Rushe’s ongoing creative exploration of character through polyphonic vocalisation and collective composition. They posit that character, like a place or a country or a nation state, is not a point of departure but a construct or result, the assumption of an ever-contested role.


Margaret Laurena Kemp [email protected] (USA)

Sinéad Rushe: [email protected] (UK)


Sinéad Rushe is a theatre director, performer and teacher of acting, specialising in the Michael Chekhov Technique and Vsevolod Meyerhold’s Biomechanics. Originally from Newry, Northern Ireland, Sinéad studied at Trinity College, Dublin and the École Normale Supérieure, Paris before training as an actor at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London. As well as a Senior Lecturer in Acting and Movement at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London, she is on the teaching faculty of Michael Chekhov Association USA (MICHA) and has taught workshops internationally (National Theatre of Wales, National Studio, London, English National Opera, Arts International Bangkok, Dirks Theatre, Macau, China, Icelandic Academy of Art). She is also a former All-Ireland and Ulster Irish dance champion.

Directing credits include Concert with Colin Dunne in collaboration with sound designer and Tony Award-winner, Mel Mercier (The Pit, Barbican, Baryshnikov Arts Centre, New York, Centre National de la Danse, Paris, Dublin Dance Festival, Ireland; Winner of Gradam Comharcheoil TG4 2018 Award), Bernard-Marie Koltès’s Night Just Before the Forests (Macau Arts Festival, China 2019), Out of Time (The Pit, Barbican, Baryshnikov Arts Centre, New York & international tour; nominated for Olivier and Dance Critics’ Circle Awards), Gogol’s Diary of a Madman with Living Pictures (Sherman Cymru, Cardiff, & international tour) and Something or Nothing with Guy Dartnell (The Place Theatre & tour), commissioned by Sadler’s Wells. At Royal Central, she has directed Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello and Much Ado About Nothing.

She has directed four shows with her own company, out of Inc: Loaded (The Old Rep, Birmingham, Jacksons Lane, London; developed at The Place Choreodrome), Night- Light (Oval House, London, Bristol Old Vic & tour), Life in the Folds (BAC, London & tour), and An Evening with Sinéad Rushe (BAC, London), all supported by Arts Council England. She is the author of Michael Chekhov’s Acting Technique: A Practitioner’s Guide, (Bloomsbury, Methuen 2019), and is the co-translator into French of four plays by Howard Barker (published by Editions Théâtrales, Paris).

Margaret Laurena Kemp is an actor, a multi-disciplinary performing artist, writer and teaching artist and Associate Professor of Theatre & Dance at UC Davis. She trained at The George Washington University at The Shakespeare Theatre and B.S. Interdepartmental Studies, School of Speech, Northwestern University. She is also a Fitzmaurice Voicework Certified Associate Instructor. She has performed at Arena Stage, Mark Taper Forum, Yale Rep, South Coast Repertory, La Mama Theatre (Melbourne, Australia), Theatre of Changes (Athens, Greece), Red Pear Theatre (Antibes, France), and The Magnet Theatre (Cape Town, South Africa). She won worldwide praise for her starring role in the film Children of God. Other screen credits include the supernatural film thriller, The Dark Rite, Blood Bound, The Orlando Jones Show and Commander in Chief. Her visual work has been shown in solo and group shows at Art Share Los Angeles and The National Gallery of Art in Nassau, Bahamas. Her latest work CITE opened 3 on October 25th, 2019 at the Elaine Jacobs Gallery in Detroit, Michigan. Recent awards include a 2019 Lucas Art Residency at Montalvo Arts Center, 2019 Kennedy Center KCAT award for directing, 2019 Michael Chekhov Artist Scholar Award and the 2019 VASTA Featured Artist Award. Other awards and residencies include The Headlands (USA) 2017, Bundanon Trust (Australia) 2017. She holds memberships in One Union (SAG-AFTRA) and Actors Equity Association (AEA). Her research explores authorship and spatial politics through performance. Within actor training environments while specifically teaching voice, speech, movement and acting, she incorporates and re-contextualizes interdisciplinary topics such as Identity, Movement Theory, Accents-Dialects, Contemporary and Classical Heightened text, Solo Performance and Devised Theatre.