Carrie Mae Weems, “Past Tense” (photo by William Strugs)

Dealing with issues of individual morality, human dignity, and state authority, Sophocles’s play Antigone continues to have a poignant relevance 2,500 years after it was written. The Greek tragedy chronicles the story of Antigone, who gives her dead brother an honorable burial against the wishes of King Creon, and is condemned to death for her disobedience. Shift those actions from ancient Thebes to present-day America, and they bear a painful similarity to incidents in Chicago, Baton Rouge, or Ferguson, where African Americans have been the victims of unjust police violence, only to then be denied proper respect in death.

Using music, spoken word, and video, artist Carrie Mae Weems updates this classic story for a contemporary context in her theatrical production Past Tense. On a stripped-down stage set, Weems stands at a clear lectern, joined by a small Greek chorus of singers, as scenes of confrontations between citizens and the authorities are projected behind them. This Friday’s performance is the work’s West Coast premiere, after a 2016 New York debut which Seph Rodney described in Hyperallergic as “commemorative and elegiac, partly intoned in mourning and partly in pride of what these men were and what they still represent.”

When: Friday, March 8, 8pm (tickets: $44–$70)
Where: The Theatre at Ace Hotel (929 S. Broadway, Downtown, Los Angeles)

More info at Center for the Art of Performance, UCLA.

Matt Stromberg is a freelance visual arts writer based in Los Angeles. In addition to Hyperallergic, he has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, CARLA, Apollo, ARTNews, and other publications.