We Made Some Movies

Children who pollute the world with their innocence–
Eternally damned offspring of Oedipus, who, as the sun whispered tans on their faces,
Made them clueless with irridescent days, making their youth stop bringing truth to their doom.
Twas America’s rich and money-filthy mansions, swept in gold tooth smiles,
Be costing more than what lies above Olympus…

The word “films” sounds snobby and elitist, but I think “movies” is too casual to fully capture the gut wrenching amount of work that went into these three productions. Our students–along with intrepid director Tom Mallan, of the Educational Theater Company–labored from November through April, three days a week, nearly every week, to bring these scripts to life.

It’s no small feat to construct a continuous story from the exuberant efforts of forty Hart students. Our kids often lead transient lives–they might attend our program faithfully for a month, then stop coming; they might switch schools or move. They most definitely will get haircuts. The movies are a mosaic, and, if you look closely, you’ll see the signs of the life in flux that generates so much creativity.

The scripts come from Writing Clubs of years past, going all the way back to 2001, when the class sat down to adapt Antigone to a modern day Congress Heights setting. Some of the original script writers of that play are now high school graduates, who returned to help us out with our production this year. They got to hear their own lines, from the mouths of students a generation younger, being captured on camera for the first time. There’s a lot of history tightly woven into Writing Club, even as we welcome in the new.

In Antigone 2K1, the civil war that erupted after Oedipus’ death has left his two sons dead. Their uncle, Creon, has seized power and declared one brother a hero, while condemning the other brother as a traitor and forbidding his body from being buried. Creon’s niece Antigone defies him, repeatedly sneaking out to the battle field to sprinkle dust over her brother’s body. She is arrested and, along with her sister Ismene, confronts her uncle.

James Tindle, who plays Creon here, was in middle school when the original script was written and is now one of our Young Writers in Residence. Yukayla, who plays Antigone, is in sixth grade and had never acted before.

Alcestis Revisited: Red Hot Death was performed as a play in 2007. King Admetos has the opportunity to prevent his own death, but only if someone willingly dies in his place. He can’t find anyone in the kingdom willing to die for him, until finally his loving wife, Queen Alcestis, agrees to go with Hades. In this crucial scene, the residents of Southeast mourn as their queen slips away, and Admetos finds that along with the joy of keeping his own life comes the pain of losing his love.

Our final, and longest, film is not an excerpt but the entirety of Persians 2K6: Tragedy in the Hood. Here the bloodshed of Aeschylus’ war drama (written in 441 BCE) is adapted as gang warfare in Southeast. Queen Atossa and a chorus of citizens gather at the late King Darius’ memorial to try and make sense of the death and loss that surrounds them. Xerxes, Atossa’s son and the new king, returns in shame, having led his men into a massacre from which he emerged the only survivor.

These are ancient explorations of death, violence, and the power of family bonds, but they gain new meaning when transposed into the struggles of life in a modern inner city. Most of our students know first hand what it means to lose a family member, to be surrounded every day with the threat of violence. The old stories provide a place where they can find echoes of their own lives, reflections of people they know. Filmmaking allows them to turn their experiences into something that can be not only controlled, but celebrated. Thanks for watching.


About dccww

Abbey Chung is the Program Manager for DCCWW. She started working for the Workshop in 2008 and can't imagine a better place to be. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2011 with a B.A. in creative writing. While at Oberlin she worked as a writing tutor at the Oberlin Writing Center and taught poetry at Langston Middle School. She is also a graduate of the Clarion West Writers' Workshop. Her fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Tor.com, and The Susquehanna Review, and she is the winner of the 2012 Larry Neal First Prize for Fiction.

Posted on July 27, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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