wild ride. Directing this show has been both a stretch and a treat for
me. From its inception, The Odyssey has been an explosion of
collaborative efforts: flexing our fingers learning sign language, rehearsing
the blues, push-ups in the park. One heckuva ride and I feel blessed
to work with such a warm and zany team of artists.
The Odyssey is an adventure of twists and turns, dives and saves,
near misses and temptation. It is a tale of the telling of a tale, of
heroism, legends, warring gods and goddesses. And one very strong, very
real bond of love.
About the sign language: I had never worked with a deaf actor before
Antoinette auditioned for The Odyssey. In the auditions, she
knocked my socks off and so I HAD to cast her. I needed, however, to
incorporate sign language into the show as well as ensure that hearing
audiences would be able to understand her. As a solution, I cast her
as Zeus, King of the Gods, and used multiple actors voicing her lines.
This also proved to be a powerful stage convention: hearing Zeus' voice
"in stereo" seems appropriate for the King of the Gods. A
couple of signing rehearsals later, we came up with the idea that signing
would be the language of the gods. The consistency of the signing varies:
when speaking directly to Zeus, the gods use more detailed signing.
When speaking to each other or to mortals, they can afford to be more
selective. As we continued exploring this idea, I became more sensitive
to deaf audiences. I decided other sections should be signed as well,
particularly the songs which outline main plots of the story. The sirens
needed to sign because they look so darn cool doing it, and it added
to the mystery of that particular scene. My collaboration with Antoinette
has added an element to The Odyssey that we never would have
thought of without her influence.
For twenty years, pursued by angry, vengeful gods, Odysseus battled
extraordinary dangers to return home to Ithaca. But The Odyssey
is more than an adventure story. For me, it is about what it means to
In this retelling, I particularly explored the character of Penelope.
Her strength and courage struck me as being as heroic as Odysseus' battles.
In a sense, Penelope and Odysseus represent the struggles we all fight
in our lives: Odysseus against the demons of the outside world, Penelope
against the demons closer to home.
In Homer's original poem, the only details we know of Odysseus' journey
are through his own account. The tale he weaves has led many to suspect
that things may not have happened exactly as he described. Nonetheless,
at their core lay some deeper truths. Every storyteller from Homer to
today's rap artists know that "story" truth is in some ways
more real than facts. Often in storytelling, in myth, we encounter a
deeper, more significant meaning than a recounting of facts could convey.
As Aleithis puts it, "I am not a fact singer, I am a truth teller."
I am hoping my interpretation of this ancient story will be taken in
the same spirit.
Last year, the first version of this adaptation was written for and
performed by my students at King Middle School in Berkeley. Fifty students
participated. I am grateful to those students, as well as to the Shotgun
Players, for allowing this display to reach a larger audience. This
script is dedicated to Laura, my companion for twenty years, with whom
I have grown to understand what could prompt Odysseus and Penelope to
hold on to each other despite all the sirens and monsters in the world,
and to my daughter Carmen, who helped inspire my understanding of Hermes
as a trickster.
Abbamonte as Zeus, Westwind, Halitherese, Siren & Sailor
Armstrong as Athena & Sailor
Ali Dadgar as Poseidon, Suitor, Sailor & Cyclops
Keith Davis as Odysseus
Beth Donohue as Queen Penelope & Sailor
Elica Funatsu as Circe, Muse, Lotus Eater, Siren & Sailor
Brian Linden as Telemachus, Aeolus & Sailor
Toran McGill as Aleithia
Marin Van Young as Calypso, Muse, Dawn, Lotus Eater, Siren, Anticlea
Dan Wolf as Antinous, Sailor, Suitor & Tiresias
Michael Storm as Hermes, Achilles, Cyclops & Suitor
Carolyn Padilla, stage
set design and construction
costume design and construction, house manager
Benjamin Lovejoy, graphic design
P.J. Sonnichsen & Darin Wilson,
Marin Van Young, managing director
Patrick Dooley, artistic director
Opened: Friday, April 3, 1998
Performed: Saturday & Sunday at 1:00 pm
Codornices Park, MLK Park, Willard Park, Live Oak Park, John Hinkel
Park, Ohlone Park, Lake Merritt Park, Mosswood Park
Closed: August 23, 1998
Scott Moore for SF Weekly
Annie Guy for The San Francisco
Chad Jones for The Oakland