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Hayfield Tragedy Plays To Chorus Of Approval Staging Of Ancient Greek Play ‘Antigone’ In Newport Field Appears To Be Start Of Something Wonderful

As far as things can go well in a tragedy, they did Saturday when the Hayfield Art Players presented “Antigone” in Willy Hutchinson’s hayfield west of town.

Producer Hutchinson lost his $10 bet with director Doug Lambarth that fewer than 30 people would turn out for the amateur performance of the classic Greek tragedy.

“It was a bet worth losing,” he said, vowing to underwrite another production next year. “If they enjoyed it this much, I have to do it again.”

He asked the sandal-clad Lambarth, a Newport attorney, to dust off his copy of “The Trojan Women” for next year. Lambarth, who played in one Greek tragedy and was assistant director of another while studying in Belgium, was one of the few Hayfield Players with any acting experience.

“I can see this really growing into something great,” said Newport-area resident Cherri Croff, who played Antigone. “We didn’t know what to expect. We thought, if 20 people showed up, it’d be great.”

Many in the mostly local crowd of 150 were as surprised with the quality of the performance as the players were with the size of their audience. They couldn’t have known what to expect if Lambarth supposed correctly that no Greek tragedy had ever been presented before in Pend Oreille County.

“I’m just amazed that all this takes place out in a hayfield,” Newport-area resident Mel Goldberg said.

A few people stood and a few sat in lawn chairs, but most planted themselves on a big dusty tarp in front of the simple wooden stage. Bees and dragonflies drifted through the crowd along with an occasional skiff of dust when the breeze picked up.

Paleka Pinard, a Seattle high school senior who is a veteran of 15 plays and the son of drama majors, thought Saturday’s version of “Antigone” was the most powerful of three he’s seen. He thought it helped to present the drama in the open air, the way it would have been when Sophocles wrote it in 442 B.C.

“I think they did a very good job, but it’s also the simplicity of the thing,” said John Huizinga of Nelson, British Columbia, who was in Newport to visit friends. “It’s just a real community event.”

County Commissioner Joel Jacobsen, who counted a wife and daughter in the cast, thought anyone who didn’t come “missed a lot.”

Goldberg hoped the audience appreciated the play’s deft exploration of timeless human conflicts: divine versus temporal authority, the state versus the individual, age versus youth, men versus women, pride versus reason.

Creon, king of the Greek city of Thebes, reasons he must put Antigone to death when she defies his order denying burial rites to her brother who fought against Thebes. Antigone, perhaps too stridently, insists she had no choice but to obey the will of the gods.

A chorus of Theban elders alternately finds wisdom in both their positions as well as that of Creon’s son, Haemon, who is Antigone’s fiance. Too late, Creon learns pride has clouded his vision.

People who remember Hutchinson’s poetry hollering contests in the same field may have anticipated a tongue-in-cheek “Antigone.”

Instead, they were treated to a production that was well-rehearsed and competent throughout and crowned with towering performances by Croff as Antigone and Todd Wallace as King Creon.

For those who can’t wait for next year’s production, Hutchinson is contemplating a lighter look at Greek tragedies next month. He said he hopes to sponsor “100 Yards of Euripides” in his field.

The idea is to have a half-dozen small groups perform scenes from Euripides’ plays simultaneously.

“The only thing I’m a little worried about is it may be too cold for the musicians,” he said. “We’ll do it to a jazz accompaniment.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

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