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The Odyssey

 

Devised and directed by Kimberly Jannarone. Performed in the Main Stage and Digital Arts and New Media Building at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Fall 2016.

 

Kimberly Jannarone’s stage adaptation of The Odyssey disrupted the typical theatrical experience in a multitude of ways. The production invited audiences to join Odysseus on his harrowing journey home to Ithaca from the Trojan War while simultaneously interrogating the viewpoint from which they view the well-known narrative. Spectators sat on the stage to observe the bloodshed of the Trojans, confrontation with Polyphemus, and enchantments of Circe and Calypso in Act I, facing outward at the empty auditorium seating. The audience rose to their feet for Act II, walking through performance installations inspired by the many islands Odysseus visited. Finally, they arrived in black box theatre for Act III, watching their hero reunite with his wife and child while stained with the blood of the Ithacan suitors.

 

As assistant director I was tasked with overseeing Act II. My directorial skills bridged the gap between the installation artists and the performers, liaising with these groups to develop unique interactive experiences for the audience. Many of the actors had to portray characters completely unrelated to those they played in Act I or Act III, and their new proximity with the audience required an arsenal of both prepared dialogue and improvisation. I aided the performers in the process of realizing their roles for Act II and honing their abilities to effectively play out scenes with spectators.

 

Alongside these duties, I also created my own performance piece for Act II based on the mythology of Scylla and Charybdis. On one side the duo of Scyllas, dressed like monstrous synchronized swimmers (Christina Dinkel), grabbed at the audience while speaking lines from The Odyssey, Metamorphoses, The Trojan Women, Zimmerman’s Odyssey, and an array of contemporary poems about rape culture, reflecting the plight of women in Homer’s work. Opposite these actors sat Charybdis, confined to an inflatable pool, splashing at the audience and creating a metallic din. As audiences struggled to navigate between these halves of the installation, the performers repeated, “Better to mourn six men than to lose your whole ship.”