FEATURED PHOTO BY ROGER MASTROIANNI: MARIAH BURKS AS ANTIGONEI
mxoentertainment.com, By Ms. Osupa Nia, Posted March 18th 2022
MARIAH BURKS PLAYS THE LEAD ROLE IN THE GREEK TRAGEDY ‘ANTIGONE’
MXEONTERTAINMENT.COM (MXO) had the opportunity to interview Mariah Burks (MB)
MXO: Good morning
MB: Good morning
MXO: How are you doing today?
MB: I’m doing quite well this morning, I’m feeling pretty good.ready to take on today’s rehearsal process (Laughter).
MXO: Yeah, another day another rehearsal.
MB: Yes indeed!
MXO; Well Mariah Burks thank you so much for this interview.
MB: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited!
MXO: OK great let’s get right into it. Maria you are from the land. Well greater Cleveland. Mariah tell us about yourself.
MB: I am from the land like you said. I was born and raised in Cleveland Ohio. I did move around a lot when was younger so I got a taste of both sides of the city. I lived on the east side for a little while. I lived between Kinsman and Union. I attended Whitney Young Junior high school. Then I went out to the suburbs and completed my high school career. Then I took it over to college. I attended bowling Green State University where I majored in musical theater. Actually, I majored In marketing communications and I specialized in musical theater. Then then after that I wound up walking into my Masters degree which was completely unplanned.
MXO: Sometimes that’s the best way to go.
MB: Yes and it really was. I am so grateful for that decision.
MXO: So, at what age did you know that you wanted to become and a performing artist.?
MB: I would have to say eight.
MXO: Wow! (Laughter) ..And where are you living in the inner city at that time?
MB: I had just moved from the inner city at that time. When I was about five or six years old I was living on East 55th and Broadway. Then when I turned eight my family ended up living in the Ohio city area. So when I was around seven or eight my father ended up introducing me to a few of his colleagues. Their family and their kids were very active in the community theater. So I wound up joining this community theater in Ohio city called Midwest Theatre. So I started with them when I was eight and my first show was Annie I happened to be one of the orphans that got a chance to get a solo. (Laughter) It hasn’t stopped since!
MXO: It’s in your blood! (Laughter)
MB: Yes, it is!
MXO: I just saw you perform in ‘Clue’, you had numerous roles.
MB: Yes, yes, yes indeed! I had about four roles. I played the cook . Then I played the singing telegram girl (Laughter l). Then I played the cop at the end. Then I also did some auxiliary stage magic work doubling as are some of the characters.
MXO: Well, the role of the singing telegram girl who got shot was brief but it was the most hilarious scene in the show. I was losing it…the whole show was crazy! (Laughter).
MB: (Laughter) Yes I kept telling people this is like an Olympic feat under a circus top. (Laughter)
MXO: I also saw you in the 25th annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Actually, I was in that play also.
MB: You were? oh my God that is amazing!
MXO: No, no, no not really. Remember when they had that audience participation?
MB: Oh yes, the guest spellers absolutely and that’s amazing!
MXO: NO, no, no! Everybody kept asking me how are you doing? You’re going to be OK. I was frozen! (Laughter) The things we do for our clients!
Let’s talk about Antigone, you play the title role, wow very impressive!
MB: Yes, I do!
MXO: What did you think when they approached you to play the lead for Antigone?
MB: Well, it was a bit of a shock just for a moment. How it started was an invitation to come and audition, which is very rare. Most times you have to look online and see who’s having auditions and when. So, I was very fortunate to have been asked to come and audition for the production. The amount of time that it took was actually very brief because it is just so happened that the Director Lauren Keating was in town here in Cleveland and they wanted to take the opportunity to have the audition while she was present. So I get myself together and looked at what the requirements were. They offered up different character sides from the script that we had an option to read. They also told us to bring in a song.
That kind of threw me for a loop because when you think of Greek Mythology, or Greek Stories you have a chorus, but to actually sing a song that kind of threw me for a loop. I thought I wonder where they’re going with this. So I was able to audition. I auditioned for Antigone and also her sister Ismene. The one thing that I thought was really great during the audition process was the director gave me adjustments, feedback and notes which is also very rare. Usually the audition processes is you’re in and out and that thank you for your time. So there was something very present and the energy was great in the audition room! I ended up doing a song called ‘Rise Up’ by Andra Day. It seemed to have sit very well with the mood and the story line of Antigone. So several weeks later I received an email and they wanted to offer me a role in Antigone as Antigone and I kid you not I read it about five different times just to make sure it wasn’t a typo (Laughter), because reading is fundamental and I looked at it again and I said okay let me just double check and it was. I was by myself when it happened and I really enjoyed those moments
when no one else is around and you have the chance to respond as you will to the good news. So it was quite overwhelming and I felt like my eight year old self just bursting with glitter and sequins and all things happy!
MXO: Before we get to ‘Antigone’, would you tell us a brief summary by timeline of the first two Oedipus Greek tragedy Theban plays written by Greek playwright Sophocles?
MB: Sure the first story we are with Oedipus, Antigone’s father.
MXO: And brother correct?
MB: Yes technically because of the actions that were put over from Oedipus’ life ..it is all jacked up!
So Oedipus is basically in turmoil because his city is grieving and is in mourning. So they end up seeking a blind seer some call it a soothsayer but someone who has all knowing powers. So they call in Tiresias who basically prophesies that Oedipus has to figure out why things are happening in his life the way they are happening. So what it all boils down to is that it was Oedipus’s fault and that the course of actions that his parents took led him to his own course of action Which in turn we found out that Oedipus killed his father and wound up bedding his mother who he thought was his wife. So now he has to rectify the situation if you will. So Oedipus ends up blinding himself and exiling himself from the city which he was the king of. He has to let the legacy run its course. So with him he has his children and he has four children at the time: Ismene, Antigone and there’s two brothers Eteocles and Polyneices. This lineage has a lot of baggage that comes with it.
So as we move to Oedipus at Colonus which is next chronologically as we move forward, we see that Oedipus is officially in exile. So he moves himself away from the original city which was Thebes. So now Oedipus is searching for a resting place because he’s at the last leg of his life. He has with him his daughter Antigone and fortunately Ismene is also there. At the time he gets word things are going awry and Thebes because a new person has taken over Oedipus’s position as king, and that’s Creon. So Creon is concerned that if he doesn’t handle this man’s death properly in the city there may be consequences to pay. Consequently, Creon is trying to get Oedipus back into the city to rectify their own situation. However, Oedipus says no I don’t want to come back into the city, I have my own thing to carry out. So, Oedipus find his own resting place but before he passes on his sons get into a feud with each other. So Antigone’s brothers are fighting head to head because they are supposed to be alternating at ruling chair and they don’t want to alternate. A war breaks out between the two and now it’s blood for blood. So Polyneices tries to come to Oedipus to get his father to be on his side and try to conquer his own son. o Oedipus explains you don’t understand and he winds up laying a curse on his own kids asserting that if you both can’t figure it out you’re going to wind up killing each other.
Unfortunately, that’s what ends up happening as we move forward into Antigone, Antigone realizes that she has to go back to Thebes where Creon is king for she has to rectify the situation. But this is before she finds out that the two brothers have actually killed each other. Now Antigone has to face a decree that Creon has placed as we move forward by timeline with Antigone. The decree that Creon his placed states that whomever was on the traitorous side of Thebes, if they passed on or if or they died in battle their bodies cannot be buried. If they fought with us they will be buried and honored. We’ll sing songs and hymns; but if they fought against us they will not be buried and we’ll leave their corpse out to rot! So because both of Antigone’s brothers fought against each other, she states death requires the same rights for all. No matter whom you are you deserve the right to be buried. So Antigone decides to defy the decree for what she feels like it is a right especially for family.
So that brings us full circle for a legacy that has been so tainted from the beginning. Again Tiresias comes in and says you have to rectify the problem.
So that takes us chronologically from the beginning with those stories to where we’re at now with Antigone.
MXO: You are such a great storyteller. (Laughter). I’m sitting up here like wow!
MB: Thank you!
MXO: You’re welcome! OK moving on what do you think Director Lauren Keaton’s interpretation of your character is?
MB: There is such a sense of hope in Antigone in what she feels she is doing is right… in the end we have to do the good things in what’s best for everybody. Antigone is the youngest sister and she has a fire in her but she’s also in mourning. I think there’s something to be said when you’re trying to solve a family problem and your family is still in mourning. To be able to navigate those emotions while acting with a clear conscience. She’s committed to what she’s doing and is not going to let anybody sway her differently! She’s definitely headstrong but she realizes what she feels she has to do, which is bury her dead brother even though the law forbids it, she’ll take on the consequences with open arms.
So Lauren Keating has done a beautiful job in allowing us to find those deeper emotions in a conversation. That’s through table work and conversation in the text of the script.
Emily Mann who is our translator for this specific script has also done a gorgeous job of bringing the Greek terminology and the Greek essence; not just modernizing in and making it contemporary, She’s allowing the issues that they dealt with in this story as the issues that we are familiar with. Like we unfortunately go into mourning. We go through political struggle in that we try to figure out are these the leaders that we want in charge that are making these decisions for the state.
So yes, there is a lot of wonderful direction and guidance that Lauren Keating is giving. In our rehearsals. We are allowed to dig a little deeper and find each other and engage with one another as actors and artist.
MXO: ‘Antigone’ is the third and final production by timeline of the trilogy? Was It Ms. Keating’s decision to make King Creon a woman?
MB: (Laughter) I know, looked at it too! It was so funny. I thought this is the most bold and forward thinking. I believe that it was a conversation between Lauren Keating and our translator in that decision to have Creon be a woman. The decision in the play in this story is now brought before the people of Thebes that Creon is a woman and that the powers that be rest on her as a woman She says in the play “I am your king.” She states that as clear as day so there is no confusion! (Laughter)
MXO (Laughter) I’m looking forward to seeing the production. It sounds very captivating.
MB: I’m excited to watch it all unfold.
MB: Thank you Ms. Osupa it’s been a pleasure!
MXO: Break a leg.
MB: Thank you so much…have a great day.
ANTIGONE runs now through May 28th. More information is available here.