From an urban voice to bug banter: ‘Xtigone’ at WSU, “Beat Bugs” in Wyandotte

Photo by Chuk Nowak Wayne State University presents Nambi E. Kelley's “Xtigone,” a contemporary retelling of Sophocles' “Antigone,” with Faith Berry as Tigs, a woman seeking the truth about her brothers' deaths through gang violence, using hip hop, poetry, dance and dialogue with an urban voice. The show runs Oct. 12 to 27 in the Hilberry's Studio Theater, 4743 Cass, Detroit. For tickets or more information, call 313-577-2972 or go to theatreanddanceatwayne.com.

Photo by Chuk Nowak
Wayne State University presents Nambi E. Kelley’s “Xtigone,” a contemporary retelling of Sophocles’ “Antigone,” with Faith Berry as Tigs, a woman seeking the truth about her brothers’ deaths through gang violence, using hip hop, poetry, dance and dialogue with an urban voice. The show runs Oct. 12 to 27 in the Hilberry’s Studio Theater, 4743 Cass, Detroit. For tickets or more information, call 313-577-2972 or go to theatreanddanceatwayne.com.

From a modern retelling of “Antigone” in gang-ridden Chicago, to an animated series adapted for the stage with feel-good Beatles songs, life lessons, both gritty and upbeat, take center stage.

Adventurous backyard bugs with a full complement of Beatles songs create the PS Center Stage Players’ “Beat Bugs — A Musical Adventure,” a youth musical with the songs earlier generations loved, including John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s “Help!,” “All You Need Is Love” and “Penny Lane.”

The show runs 7 p.m. Oct. 11, 12, 25 and 26 at Jo Brighton Auditorium, 4460 18th St., Wyandotte.

Adults will enjoy the nostalgia of classic songs, while a new generation is engaged and entertained through song and story.

Directed by Penny Lynn Siler, the cast, ages 4 to 15, include Lincoln Park residents Mathias Gladman as Jay and Moira Gladman as Ladybug, Shyoma Kelly of Monroe as Kumi, MaryKate Lassiter of Newport as Buzz, Riverview residents Aubrey Diebold as Flat Top and Taylor Goodwin as a band member, and Megan Sarnowski of Rockwood as Joe Cockeroach.

Also Southgate residents Marnie Burgess as Queen-Bee, Emily Cianciolo as Ladybug, Charlotte Hall as Doris, Easton Hall as Postman Bee and Sheldon Hall as Mean Mr. Mustard.

Also Trenton residents Ava Cheff as Prudence and Zoe Cheff as Walter; Susan Barnard of Woodhaven as Ladybug; and Wyandotte residents Brandon Lozowski as Honey Bee, Julianne Moreno as Miner Bird, Aaron Oberg as Sgt. Pepper, Julia Petrowski as Lady bug, Landon Petrowski as Mr. Sun and Rosemary Zehel as Crick.

Tickets are $12, and may be purchased at the door, with a $3 discount for seniors, $5 discount for students with identification, and a $7 discount for children. Call 734-771-0590 to place an advance order.

WSU’S ‘XTIGONE’ A MODERN-DAY RETELLING OF ‘ANTIGONE’

Nambi E. Kelley’s “Xtigone” opens Oct. 12 at Wayne State University’s Studio Theater in the lower level of the Hilberry, as the undergraduate theater program presents a modern-day retelling of Sophocles’ “Antigone.”

The show runs 8 p.m. Oct. 12, 13, 19, 20, 26 and 27; 2 p.m. Oct. 13 and 20; 10 a.m. Oct. 16 and 24; 7 p.m. Oct. 18 and 25; and 3 p.m. Oct. 21 at 4743 Cass, Detroit. The show contains adult situations and simulated violence. The Studio Theater is only accessible by stairs.

Directed by Cheryl Turski, the cast includes: Faith Berry as Tigs; Calvin Biggs as LeRoi, aide to Marcellus; Cam Blackwell as Marcellus, the mayor; Josue Camarena as Ernesto, the Latin King gang leader; Anthony Clark II as Beau, Tig’s boyfriend and son of Marcellus; Sol Everett as Izzy, sister to Tigs; Sidni Goodman as the old blind woman; Leticia Grijalva as a spirit; Perry Quarker as E-Mem, Disciples gang leader; Kayla Rodriguez as Tea Flake, Marcellus’ aide; and Rachel A. Smith as Fay, wife of Marcellus; and Alice Duffy, Xueyun Cecilia Findlay, Durshara Kirby and Angel Montgomery-Kennedy in the chorus.
Turski said “Xtigone” is a unique show.

“It is an incredibly lyrical, poetic piece that is both contemporary and historic,” she said. “It is a tool for both audiences and students to begin a dialogue about universal truths like honor, gender relations, laws and morality, and how they relate to the current state of gun violence in the United States, black feminism and Chicago politics.”
Turski said the play focuses on ancestry, both where we come from and where our lineage is headed.

“The play deals with ancestors, and I hope working on the play encourages students to dive into their cultural connection,” she said.

Turski hope audiences are both moved and entertained.

“We work hard to make the show as accessible as possible, while still holding onto the emotional depth Nambi Kelley writes so well,” she said. “It is a deeply beautiful and complex piece. We all collaborated to assemble a cohesive collage of historical allusions and our own unique take on the text.”

Berry hopes audiences leave wondering whether the phrase “unearthing the truth” still has relevance in our world.

“I think with everything going on in our country right now, ‘Xtigone’ does a fantastic job of reminding us not to ignore or turn our back on the people who aren’t able to be heard or have a voice in society,” she said. “It has a strong feminist vibe, and specifically a black feminist vibe, which is really cool to have.”

Berry said Tigs is strong and grounded, but also irrational at times.

“She comes off as a very fearless person who doesn’t second guess the decision to do what’s right,” she said. “I’m very laid back, but Tigs is very versatile depending on the situation – she can be relaxed or frantic. It’s fun to explore the different ways she experiences things.”

Blackwell, as Marcellus, the mayor, said his character wants to rid the city of its gang violence and improve life for its residents, but his own ego and arrogance blinds him.
“Arrogance kills and comes right back to bite you,” he said. “The thing that is challenging about playing Marcellus is the hateful nature of his personality. He is pretentious, and says a lot of things that come from his conservative mind.”
Blackwell hopes audiences gain an understanding of how gang violence impacts Chicago.

“I hope they talk about the courage of Tigs and the arrogance of Marcellus, and how the two conflict,” he said. “Gang violence is still happening in Chicago, and I am proud that Wayne State is bringing such a complex story to the forefront.”
Smith, as Fay, Marcellus’ wife, said her character, a woman with a strong personality, struggles to simply be by the side of a man in whom real power is invested.

“My character is intense,” she said. “I think audiences will empathize with Fay.”

Smith said the show acknowledges an important time in U.S. history.
“We need more playwrights to be as brave as Nambi, and share truthful stories,” she said. “Unearth the truth, face the challenges, and speak up about gun violence and the importance of protecting families.”

Tickets are $28, with a $5 discount for seniors and Wayne State alumni, faculty and staff, and an $11 discount for students. To order, call 313-577-2972 or go to theatreanddanceatwayne.edu.