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Tara Paterson wants viewers of Antigone to embrace their messiness

By Erika Ibrahim on July 20, 2021

Tara Paterson can pinpoint exactly what helped set her on the path toward her directorial debut with Antigone, Presented by the Girls of St. Catherine’s. The play will be shown as part of this year’s Toronto Fringe festival lineup.

Antigone, Presented by the Girls of St. Catherine’s is a play written by award-winning American playwright Madhuri Shekar. The play revolves around the drama club of an all-girls Catholic school as they try to produce their first play, Sophocles’ Antigone.

Paterson, an Ottawa local, says her inspiration to take the leap from actress to director can be traced back to her performance in the woman ensemble play The Wolves in winter 2020. Specifically, says Paterson, her mentorship with the play’s director Krista Marchand helped grow her confidence to take on the creative challenge. “She’s just fearless,” says Paterson. “Like, she’s incredible.”

“I’ve never had a bad experience with a huge group of women all trying to accomplish this one thing. It just becomes something really magical.”

Asked about how she came to the project, Paterson says she’s drawn to performances that portray women’s relationships with each other. “I gravitated towards these stories with these large female casts that are bold, layered, unapologetic, and something that I want to genuinely watch on screen or on stage,” she says. “I’ve never had a bad experience with a huge group of women all trying to accomplish this one thing. It just becomes something really magical.”

A still frame from Antigone, featuring Tara Paterson as Tamsin and Aracelli Ferrara as Susan. Photo courtesy of Tara Paterson.

When her friend showed her the play, Paterson says she immediately fell in love with it.

Paterson is not only Antigone’s director; she also produced and acted in the collaborative film. Where it might have otherwise been a live theatrical rendition of the play, Paterson and her team adapted Antigone instead around the constraints posed by the pandemic.

The collaborative film is a hybrid between a stage play and a cinematic drama, says Paterson. “I honestly had no idea what I was doing, so I had no idea how to approach this virtual production.”

The cast of Antigone during a Zoom rehearsal session. Photo courtesy of Tara Paterson.

“I got tears so many times with what the actors would bring,” says Paterson. “No matter who was there, no matter who was watching, the integrity that everyone would bring to every rehearsal was moving beyond what I could imagine.”

Paterson says she credits the cast and crew with taking Antigone from a possibility to reality. “I’ve always wanted to make sure that if I’m working on something, I am not the smartest person in the room,” she says, laughing. “That is too dangerous for me. I really depended on these incredible artists.”

The performance is supported by a diverse cast, featuring LGBTQ+ folks and actors of colour.

A still frame from Antigone. From left to right, Zoe Lewis, Aracelli Ferrara, Tara Paterson, James Smith, Madeleine Kane and Anika Zulfikar. Photo courtesy of Tara Paterson.

Sophocles’ play Antigone is a classic Greek tragedy centred on Antigone, daughter of tragic hero Oedipus. Like her father’s story, Antigone’s is one that explores the tension between individual will and fate. She is also a strong woman who in the play accepts the full consequences of her convictions.

Paterson said she hopes that audience members, especially women and femme-identified folks, can empathize better with themselves by empathizing with the complicated characters onscreen.

“Every person has a story where they can give their best friend beautiful advice and never take it for themselves. It’s so much easier to see it in other people.” 

“I’d be so happy to know if someone could feel less alone with the private, dark sort of moments that we feel shame about. Anyone can feel it, but I think women have a next-level shame that we try and compensate for,” says Paterson.

“I would love if girls could watch this and see that, ‘Oh hey, I’m rooting for this person. But they also don’t do everything perfectly. And they kind of mess up a lot. And a lot of these people are saying things that they regret, but I still am rooting for them. So maybe it’s okay if I’m also having those experiences.'”

“Every person has a story where they can give their best friend beautiful advice and never take it for themselves. It’s so much easier to see it in other people,” Paterson added.

Watch the teaser trailer for Antigone in the player below.


Stream Antigone between July 21 – 31 via Toronto Fringe.