Stanford Summer Theater dramatized and will present in Athens at the Michael Cacoyannis Foundation’s main theatrical hall, from September 12 to 15, the play “Wanderings of Odysseus”, based on a part of the second great epic poem of the ancient Greek literature, Homer’s Odyssey.
As the director and Stanford University professor, Rush Rehm notes
The Story of the Odyssey
In his Poetics (1455b), Aristotle sums up the story of Homer’s Odyssey:
A man has been away from home for many years, for Poseidon keeps watch against him. He is all alone. At home suitors are wasting his estate and plotting against his son. After being storm-tossed, he returns, reveals himself, attacks and destroys his enemies, and is saved. That is the essence; the rest is episodes.
In terms of bare plot, Aristotle correctly identifies the essential elements of the story. The continued vitality of Homer’s Odyssey depends on this basic pattern, involving the return of a wandering hero in time to rescue his family and restore his home. However, the adventures contained in Aristotle’s elliptical “after being storm tossed” play no small part in the poem’s abiding popularity. It is this part of the story—the wanderings of Odysseus—that we have extracted from the epic to perform for you.
Twenty four books in length, the Odyssey begins with the poet’s invocation of the Muses, “the daughters of memory” and source of poetic inspiration. Books 1- 4 lay out the groundwork for the poem, introducing Odysseus, revealing the gods’ plans for him, and explaining the situation at his home on Ithaca. Odysseus’ faithful wife Penelope keeps the increasingly violent suitors at bay, while their son Telemachus leaves the island to search for his father.
The Wanderings of Odysseus begins with the poem’s opening lines, and then proceeds directly to Book 5, in which Odysseus, after a lengthy stay on the island of Calypso, resumes his homeward journey. The gods on Olympus send Hermes to inform the divine nymph that Odysseus must be released from her enchanted island and allowed to go home. With the reluctant Calypso’s help, Odysseus builds a raft and sets sail. Nearly killed in a storm unleashed by his nemesis Poseidon, Odysseus safely reaches Scheria, the peaceful island of the Phaeacians.
After an exhausted sleep, Odysseus awakens to the voices of the princess Nausicaa and her handmaidens. She invites him to the palace, where her father, King Alcinous, and her mother, Queen Arete, welcome the stranger. They promise him safe passage home and provide a banquet in his honor, during which Odysseus reveals his identity and recounts the adventures that brought him to Phaeacia.
He tells of the seductive Lotus Eaters, of his escape from the monstrous cyclops Polyphemus, and of his visit to the island of Aeolus, where his sailors squander the gift of the winds. He encounters the enchantress Circe, who instructs him to visit the underworld as the next step of his journey home. There he speaks with the prophet Teiresias, his mother Anticleia, and his dead comrades from the Trojan War. Odysseus concludes his story with tales of the irresistible Sirens, the terrifying Scylla, the whirlpool Charybdis, the disastrous stay on the island of the sun, and his long stay on the island of Calypso.
Odysseus receives gifts from the admiring Phaeacians and their King and Queen, and he departs on a Phaeacian ship for his home, Ithaca.
Books 14 through 24 tell of Odysseus’ struggle on Ithaca to reclaim his wife and home. Invite us to perform that part of the story for you some other time ….
Translated by Oliver Taplin and directed by Rush Rehm, the play was staged for the first time at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, in October 1992. Later, Rush Rehm elaborated on the play further and it was presented in 2010 during the Stanford Summer Festival “Around the Fire”, for a six-member cast with one percussionist. The play is coming to Athens, along with the dithyrambic reviews received by the Press and the enthusiastic comments of the audience in San Francisco. As it was noted: the imaginative direction and the innovations in directing, the actors’ performances –each of them perform more than one role, the costumes and the settings, the lightings and the choreographies were exceptional. Again, the music created by the percussion made also an impact, as it flooded the play with the sounds of water and sea.
The rehearsals for the play to be staged at Michael Cacoyannis Foundation began in previous May and it has been adapted for one more time. Since it will be staged at a different place, the play should be easily adapted to it, just like we assume the ancient bards did 3.000 years ago, when they told Odysseus stories each time at a different place and to a different audience.
It should be noted that Stanford University takes part in the program bearing the cost of the airline tickets of 5 members of the crew from and back to the U.S., the preparation and rehearsal costs in the U.S., as well as part of the cost of the settings’ adaptation.
Stanford Summer Theater (SST), founded in 1997, brings professional theatre to the Stanford community in a festival environment. Supported by Stanford’s Vice-Provost for Undergraduate Education, SST combines the prestige and the infrastructure of one of the most important institutions of research world wide with the inquiring spirit and talent of its students and presents high expectations’ plays.
Translation: Oliver Taplin
Theatrical Adaptation – Direction: Rush Rehm
Re-staging Consultant: Courtney Walsh
Costumes: Connie Strayer
Choreography: Katharine Hawthorne
Lighting Design: Jacob Νeil Boehm
Select Roles: Zeus, Poseidon, Alcinous, Odysseus, Eurylochus, Agamemnon: Jeffrey Bihr
Hermes, Odysseus, Elpenor, Achilles: Paul Baird
Nausicaa, Polites, Teiresias, Siren Leader: Ariel Mazel-Gee
Odysseus, Echenous, Alcinous, Eurylochus, Ares: Peter Ruocco
Athena, Aphrodite, Circe: Angela Schiller
Calypso, Arete, Polyphemus, Anticleia: Courtney Walsh
Percussion: Taylor Brady
Stage Manager: Brendon Martin
Assistant Stage Manager/Understudy: Logan Hehn
Coordinator of the Project
“Ancient Greek Drama: Influences & Contemporary Approaches”
for the year 2012 in U.S.A.: Katerina Zacharia