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Design Activity

A cardboard model with steps and a large rock in the middle. There are paper figurines positioned on the model.
Set model by John Culbert; photo by Joe Mazza.

Court Theatre’s Oedipus Trilogy is comprised of Oedipus Rex (staged in 2019), The Gospel at Colonus (an adaptation of Oedipus at Colonus, staged in 2023), and finally, Antigone (staged in 2024). Though the nature of theatre is permanently ephemeral, we fortunately have production photos that allow us to look back on past productions. This activity invites participants to view these photos of a theatrical medium as visual art, placing all three of Court’s Sophoclean productions in dialogue with one another. 

This activity is intended for learners of all ages and can be easily adapted for classroom use. Each step may be completed individually, but if completing this activity with a learning group or class, consider sharing and debriefing after each step you complete. 

Designing Thebes Activity

  • This activity will take approximately 50 65 minutes.

  • Learning Sequence
    1. Set a timer for five minutes. Spend the entire time closely examining one or more production photos from Oedipus Rex. At the end of the five minutes, make a list of words you associate with that image. They may be adjectives, mood or tone words, or a feeling that came up for you. (~5 minutes)
    2. Once you’re finished, repeat this process with production photos from The Gospel at Colonus and Antigone. What new ideas arise based on your observations? What impressions are you left with? (~15 minutes) 
    3. Pick three photos – one from each production – and write a brand new story as told by these images. Your story can be as short as three sentences (like a comic strip), or as long as you’d like it to be. Consider what order you would like the images to appear — they need not appear in the chronological order of the trilogy! (~15 — 30 minutes)
    4. Examine the production photos for each of the shows in the trilogy. Select an image that has, in your opinion, a particularly dynamic approach to space and composition. (~1 minute)
    5. Next, select an image (from any of the three plays in the trilogy) that has a design element in contrast with the first one you chose. How does the design in each image contribute to its overall mood? How do the design elements (including blocking, lighting, costume, scenery, props, etc.) interact in each image to differing effects? Make a list of these elements and the mood(s) that each evokes.(~15 minutes)
      • If you were able to see each production, consider how the story and characters in each may have informed the design of each. If you did not see Court’s shows, spend some time (re)familiarizing yourself with the story and characters of each. (For reference, synopses for Oedipus Rex, The Gospel at Colonus, and Antigone are available in each show’s Learning Guide.) How does the plot of each play exist in dialogue with its design? 

  • This activity addresses the following standards:
    • Illinois Arts Learning Standards
      • Anchor Standard 1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
      • Anchor Standard 7: Perceive and analyze artistic work.
      • Anchor Standard 8: Construct meaningful interpretations of artistic work.
      • Anchor Standard 9: Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work.
    • Common Core State Standards
      • CCSS.ELA.RL1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
      • CCSS.ELA.RL3 Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
      • CCSS.ELA.W3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

Posted on February 1, 2024 in Learning Guides, Productions

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