Rising Youth Theatre and Cypher’s ‘Antonia’ puts a hip-hop spin on the classic ‘Antigone’

Members of Rising Youth Theatre prepare for their show, antonia: a chicana hip hop antigone, testing microphones and putting up lights Dec. 6, 2015. (Nikiana Medansky/DD)
 Members of Rising Youth Theatre prepare for their show, antonia: a chicana hip hop antigone, testing microphones and putting up lights Dec. 6, 2015. (Nikiana Medansky/DD)
Members of Rising Youth Theatre prepare for their show, “antonia: a chicana hip hop antigone,” by testing microphones and putting up lights on Dec. 6, 2015. (Nikiana Medansky/DD)

Rising Youth Theatre, a theater company that creates socially relevant original plays with youth, put on the premiere of “antonia: a chicana, hip hop antigone” with Cyphers: The Center for Urban Arts.

Three performances were held on Dec. 4-6 on the alley off of Moreland Street between Second and Third streets outside of the Phoenix Center for the Arts.

Playwright Jose Casas, director Xanthia Angel Walker and choreographer Melissa Britt worked with Danny “Skooby” Morales of Cyphers to create the play, which is a rendition of the classic Greek tragedy “Antigone.”

The wide array of performers include spoken-word artist Tomas Stanton, DJ Nathaniel Hawkins, dancers Anthony Kelly and Johnny Castro and actors Osiris Cuen and Patience Briggs as well as many youth performers.

This performance incorporated the five components of hip hop: Breaking, MCing, DJing, graffiti and knowledge and understanding, to retell the story.

“I wanted to do a bunch of different influences like Chicano theatre, Greek theater and hip hop theatre and to combine those into something kind of funky,” Casa said. “I love hip hop. I grew up with it so I wanted to pay respect and homage to old school hip hop.”

The collaboration between Rising Youth Center and Cyphers was done because they both have their main offices in the Phoenix Center for the Arts, Walker said.

“We decided to stage the performances outside because that is the root of hip hop,” Walker said. “Hip hop is supposed to happen in public and in shared spaces. It is important that the performance is accessible to everyone in a community space.”

Walker added that the performers were eager to learn the script.

“Both the youth performers as well as the adult performers attacked the script with a ton of intelligence,” Walker said. “Some of the adults were not familiar with Antigone and had the same learning curve as the youth performers.”

Britt helped put together the movement of the show.

“As the choreographer, I wasn’t necessarily setting routines or combinations on the actors but more so thinking about the flow of transition because this is a sight specific performance,” Britt said. “There were a lot of variables about how we moved the actors through the performance.”

Britt said that the series of performances brought a lot of people together that would not necessarily have interest in attending a theatre show.

“It was refreshing to see the crossover and to see lots of people that you wouldn’t normally see together,” Britt said. “It has been really great getting to collaborate with Cyphers and the Rising Youth Center to get this together.”

Contact the reporter at Emily.Lockwood@asu.edu