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SUNY Plattsburgh Theater Department to Present 'The Odyssey'

SUNY Plattsburgh’s Department of Theatre will present a Main Stage performance of Homer’s “The Odyssey” Nov. 1-4 in the Hartman Theatre, Myers Fine Arts Building. The play was adapted and originally directed by Mary Zimmerman, who based her work on the translation of “The Odyssey” by Robert Fitzgerald.

“This isn’t just a show for Classics scholars,” said director Shawna Mefferd Carroll. “The Odyssey’ is a timeless tale of a soldier’s return home from the war. It is a story of strategy, of humility, of love and of community. It is the story of a hero’s journey, but, more importantly, it is a story that asks us the bigger question: how do we mend our lives after the terrors of war?”

This dramatic adaptation of Homer's myth begins with a modern young woman who is struggling to understand Robert Fitzgerald's translation of “The Odyssey.” A classical muse appears, and the young woman becomes the goddess Athena — a tireless advocate for Odysseus in his struggle to get home.

With her trademark irreverent and witty twist on classic works, playwright Zimmerman brings to life the story of Odysseus's 10-year journey, depicting his encounters with characters such as Circe, the Cyclops, Poseidon, Calypso, the Sirens and others.

“Zimmerman’s adaptation provides an opportunity for our students to experience an ensemble theater process, which is a far more collaborative approach than traditional plays that are lead-character based,” Carroll said.

While Odysseus and Athena are prominent roles, they are not the focus; rather, the telling of the story is the focus, and that work is shared by all cast members. The play has more than 91 characters performed by 21 people. This provides students with an opportunity for diverse character work.

The actors portray heroes, gods, goddesses, monsters, nymphs and muses. Many play multiple roles.

Carroll said, “As an artist, Zimmerman’s work appealed to me at the levels of creative process and message. She is clearly interested in the feminine roles in the epic. Her adaptation of ‘The Odyssey’ points out that the mending of war has generally been ‘women’s work’ — it is only through women/goddesses, Athena in particular, that Odysseus reaches his home. Zimmerman was asked in an interview if ‘The Odyssey’ still had any relevance, and her response was, ‘Aren’t there still fatherless children?’”

Homer was an ancient Greek bard credited with creating “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey.” He is thought to have lived between 750-650 B.C. There were no written records during Homer’s time so most of what is known about him was written long after his death.

Zimmerman has been a collaborating member of the Lookingglass Theatre for more than 20 years and an artistic member of The Goodman Theatre. She has adapted several classics for the stage during her career.

Tickets will be sold at the door and are available in advance at the Angell College Center desk. Tickets for Thursday’s performance are offered as a buy-one-get-one-free promotion and are available only at the door.

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