Perhaps the best way to witness the ancient Greek tragedy, "Antigone" is in the driving rain and cold wind as I did on Friday in the courtyard of the Palace of Grand Dukes in Vilnius. Directed and performed solo by Birutė Mar this performance of "Antigone" is dedicated to those who protest peacefully for freedom and democracy in Belarus. In the write-up, the creators of the play state: "This play encourages people to reflect on how the desire for political power and the fear of relinquishing power may evolve into totalitarianism." Listening to Birutė Mar's passionate monologues of Antigone, King Creon, her fiance's Mother, the Servant, and others, I remembered the truths this ancient play teaches humanity: Virtue, Decency, Truth, and Love, are all that we as humans must aspire to. How interesting, I thought, that courageous Antigone is a woman. As a woman, with all of her society against her, she stands alone for what is right and just. As I watched Birutė Mar's brilliant performance, on a stage in which the predominant colors are black and white, suddenly the face of Belarusian activist Maria Kolesnikova flashed before my eyes. I saw that image of her, that I'd seen on the news, locked in a cage, sentenced to 11 years hard labor, but smiling, smiling. Maria Kolesnikova tore up her passport rather than allowing herself to be exiled out of her own country. She believed in a life in Belarus that is just and fair. She defied the dictator of Belarus. As a woman, she stands alone, caged, like Antigone, true to the principles she believes in. How is it that this ancient play is so relevant today? Antigone could be Maria Kolesnikova. Maria Kolesnikova could be Antigone. Thank you, Birutė Mar, for this brilliant performance that reminds all of us that pushed to our extremes, we must all stand for that which is right, and just, and true, and that we must do it with love in our hearts.
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