by Reggie Goudeau
photo courtesy of John Seyfried
[originally published February 2022]
Performing in Zora Howard’s 2021 Antigone (AtGN) was by far one of the most valuable experiences I’ve had at Oberlin. I played the Guard, a mildly incompetent but loyal servant to Kreon. While playing this role, my best line is still near the beginning of my opening dialogue with Kreon. I knew someone had buried a body against Kreon’s wishes, but I wasn’t tryna get clapped by him or his other, more intimidating bodyguard. To prevent this, I tried to explain that I wasn’t “...affiliated, associated, or incorporated in the wrongdoing.” Even beyond valuing individual practices and the final project, I loved all of my castmates and the chance to hop back into the performing world. Naturally, I couldn’t miss Olympus, a musical directed by Miss Caroline (Professor Caroline Jackon Smith) and student Cyril Amanfo ‘22, that involved my other previous castmates Tony Singfield and Gaby Castillo.
To be frank, these niggas went crazy and put on one of the best shows I’ve seen at Oberlin. I was stunned at the talent that came together for this production from beginning to end. And though a two-and-a-half-hour show can be pretty intimidating to watch, let alone perform for several days, the cast had no problem filling up that time with beautiful music, lots of laughter, and incredible choreography. The play focused on the two lead characters, Aphrodite (played by Fafa Nator) and Hephaestus (played by Gabe Gomez). Though they are supposed to take the throne as king and queen, the two are not internally mature enough to come to the task. Hephaestus even refuses the crown at first since he’s unsure of himself. As such, this nigga Ares (also known as Thandiwe onia Augustin-Glave) swoops in trying to claim it for himself, and the rest of the play is the battle for control of Olympus.
Amid the central conflict, there are plenty of entertaining side plots, such as the blooming relationship between Tesis (Graciela Fernandez) and Artemis (Bianca Berger), that can’t happen until they unpack their own demons. Even before they confessed to each other and embraced, I loved their adorable bond and apparent chemistry (in terms of acting and intimacy). This whole show felt very queer in a beautiful way, and I could feel this energy emanating from much of the cast. The play also features Athena (or Evyn Lundy) trying to pass on her mantle to the next generation and Dionysus (Michael-Anthony Mitchell) coming to terms with his alcoholism. Alongside these plots lie fight scenes, plenty of dance numbers, and plenty of great dialogue. The group went all out with everything from the music to the lighting in every scene. I have to shout out the sound team, ensemble, and everyone from behind the scenes who worked so hard here too. Their respective energy, tunes, and other contributions made the show better than the main cast already did.
There were way too many highlights here, so imma be mentionin’ a couple of my favorites. The damn rap battle was the most hilarious and intense thing I’ve seen in the Wurtzel. The bars were too powerful, and I could feel the rest of the audience sweating from the heat’s intensity. Almost every scene with Ares was terrific, and I could tell Diwe had a fun time in the role. Ares was a complete menace from his introduction until his defeat, and watching him revel in his dickheaded behavior was fantastic. He reminded me of the character “Kreon” from Antigone, a traditional pastor who does not respect women, gay people, or really anyone but himself. Whenever my boi Ares came on stage, I imagined “Thought It Was A Drought” by Future playing in the background. His lackey Enyo (Karah Innis) was also a great character, and their interactions related to the central theme of Olympus: getting people to grow a spine and believe in themselves very well. As such, it was perfect timing when Enyo turned on Ares following his defeat in the play’s conclusion.
Speaking of perfect timing, whoever was responsible for the running joke of Apollo controlling the music while never getting a solo deserves an award. I appreciated when he finally got his solo too, and would not have been mad at seeing more of them. Even without Apollo, this show’s soundtrack was just as entertaining as the rest of it. The whole cast, including the ensemble, clearly spent a lot of time rehearsing these songs with and without choreography. One of my favorites was Ares’ opening song when he took control of Olympus. It sounded sinister yet triumphant and motivational, like Ares’ widespread stage presence. It makes sense since I’m generally a fan of Disney’s villain songs for characters like Scar and Frollo.
I got little to no bad things to say about the show, and I fully believe the cast deserved to sell out every night twice. Props to errybody who helped put this together in any capacity. I doubt this sorta show finna happen any other time while I’m at Oberlin. Still, I’m glad I had the privilege of experiencing it, and I hope others who saw it felt the same way.