Love and Power Take The Stage In Mark Barford’s Directing Thesis

BY Paola Alexandra Soto, March 20, 2019

The upcoming directing thesis, Hadrian & Antinous tells the story about the journey of Antinous, a young man from Greece, who meets and falls in love with Roman Emperor Hadrian. Through the development of their relationship, we see Antinous transform from an unknown young man into a god, who is worshipped for 200 years. This new play unearths an ancient true story, telling it in a modern way that speaks to what it is to love, grieve and remember those that have been forgotten. 


We talked with Barford about the upcoming production. 



Why did you decide on this play for your directing thesis?


I came to Columbia with a mission to develop new work specifically focused on queer narratives. When I discovered the true story of Hadrian and Antinous I was at first fascinated by it, then quickly disappointed by the fact that I hadn’t heard of it and finally, most importantly, I became compelled to share it. The question then became, how can I tell this story through the form of theatre? I took the story to my collaborator Anna Jastrzembski and together we wrote the play.  


As a child, my exposure to queer stories, in particular ones that showed a protagonist in love, was virtually non-existent. The seed of my desire to see myself and my community represented in this way was planted. Experience, confidence and the space this MFA program has given me has helped to water that seed. I hope that this new play adds to a continual building of complex, meaningful queer theatre. Seeing ourselves represented on stage in this way matters. 



What elements do you explore with this play?


I’m trying to explore a few things with this play:

    1. It as a metaphor for the queer love stories that have not been, or are yet to be, heard on our stages.

    2. Complex and nuanced lead queer characters that do not need to announce their sexuality on stage.

    3. The contrast of the epic and the intimate; the scale of the story is epic but I also want to explore the intimacy of these two characters and their relationship.

    4. An engaging piece of theatre that provokes larger questions about the human experience.



What do you want the audience to take from it?


This play is developed for the queer community, specifically gay men. Firstly, my mission is to expose the audience to this story. I believe that it is one that should be part of our historical narrative. Why isn’t it? Secondly, I hope for them to be engaged by the production. The opportunity for the audience to connect with the piece on an emotional level is important. If they are affected by it, then they are more likely to carry it with them beyond the walls of the theatre and perhaps engage more deeply with it on a personal or at a community level. 

Hadrian & Antinous  will run from March 27 - 30 in the Flexible Performance Space at Lenfest Center for the Arts. The Directing Thesis production also features performances by: Jack BeckerSarah Chapin*, Drew GardnerSeth HatchEzra LiKohler McKenzie*, Uma ParanjpeAndeas Robledo*, Joey SantiaTricia SorressoKelly Strandemo*, and Kiana Wu.

WED MARCH 27 - SAT MARCH 30, 2019

Written by Mark Barford and Anna Jastrzembski
Directed by Mark Barford

Beneath an endless sky, young Antinous searches the heavens for a sign of what his future will hold. His next test - an uncertain journey to a distant shore - will prove to be his greatest yet. For when this insignificant page from Greece meets Rome’s most powerful man, their love will turn the world.