‘Antigone’ star gets a rush from theater’s summer pace


What: “Antigone,” by Rust Belt Theater

Where: The Calvin Center for the Arts, 755 Mahoning Ave., Youngstown.

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and Aug. 28 and 28.

Tickets: For reservations, call 330-507-2358.

Place:Calvin Center

755 Mahoning Ave., Youngstown



“Antigone,” the third and final chapter in Robert Dennick Joki’s acclaimed trilogy of classical Greek tragedies, opens this weekend at the Calvin Center for the Arts. Candace DiLullo, one of the area’s most honored and respected actresses, plays the title role.

In a recent interview, DiLullo discussed her legendary character, ancient drama and the exhilarating summer stock atmosphere at Joki’s Rust Belt Theater Company.

Q. Could you give us a thumbnail sketch of the plot for our readers who might not be familiar with Greek tragedy?

A. Antigone, Ismene and Eteocles and Polyneices are the children of King Oedipus. Before the play opens, Eteocles and Polyneices go to war over who will become the new king of Thebes. During the battle, both of Oedipus’s sons die. Their uncle Creon — no relation to the Creon in “Medea” — becomes king and, since he blames Polyneices for starting the war, he issues a decree denying him an honorable burial.

Antigone chooses to defy her uncle’s decree, even though she knows it could result in her being put to death. After she’s caught trying to bury Polyneices, Antigone is brought before Creon, who naturally sentences her to death. Like most classic Greek dramas, “Antigone” ends tragically for pretty much everyone involved.

Q. What makes Antigone (the character) tick?

A. Religion, family and country are everything to Antigone. Her downfall comes from excessive pride. I read a research paper where she was described as “a woman trapped in an oppressive society asserting independence against male dominance.” I actually wrote that phrase on my script as a sort of good-luck charm, or just a reminder of her strength.

Q. As a modern woman and actress, how do you submerge yourself into the psychology of a character written centuries ago?

A. Antigone is a woman way ahead of her time, so she really wasn’t all that hard to identify with. I could also relate to her kind of bratty sensibility — probably a little too easily, truth be told (laughs).

Q. Despite a lengthy and impressive resume in area community theater, you’ve somehow managed to never work with Rob Joki before. What was it about this particular show/role that made you want to finally climb aboard “The Joki Express”?

A. Rob (Joki) and I became acquainted while serving on the Oakland Center for the Arts’ play selection committee. When he asked me to audition for “Antigone,” I jumped at the opportunity. I’d never tackled anything like this before, and couldn’t resist the challenge. Also, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity of working for a director who was so well-regarded in the theater community.

Q. You’re usually accustomed to lengthier rehearsals before opening a new play. How difficult was it to adapt to Rust Belt’s “summer camp”-like working environment?

A. Once I saw how easy the script was to memorize, I calmed down a bit (laughs). The pressure of putting on a show in a very short time is actually pretty thrilling. That kind of adrenaline rush is why people do live theater in the first place. Plus, it’s a relief knowing the cast is comprised of theater veterans more than capable of doing their jobs.

Q. Who else is appearing in the show?

A. Kelly Sullivan is Ismene, Rob Joki is Creon, David Munnell is Creon’s attendant, Rick Morrow is the guard, Nathan Beagle is Haemon and Nicole Zayas is Eurydice. I think audiences will be delighted to see two previous “Trilogy” performers in cameo appearances — but you’ll have to come see the show to find out who they are (winks).

Q. Are you planning to work on any future Rust Belt projects?

A. Rob and I have discussed doing a collaborative project: Frank Wedekind’s play “Spring’s Awakening” and Steven Slater and Duncan Sheik’s musical, “Spring Awakening.” I would direct the Wedekind version, and Rob would tackle the musical. I’ve heard that rights for the musical are finally being released next spring, so it might be something to look forward to in the 2011-12 season.

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