“Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy.
Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds,
many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea,
fighting to save his life and bring his comrades home.
But he could not save them from disaster, hard as he strove—
the recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all,
the blind fools, they devoured the cattle of the Sun
and the Sungod blotted out the day of their return.
Launch out on his story, Muse, daughter of Zeus,
start from where you will—sing for our time too.”
—Homer, The Odyssey
My wife and I spent yesterday, June 9th, on Angel Island attending a 6 hour production of Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey. An inspired Ava Roy, founder of We Players, conceived and directed the play which took place in 14 scenes, spaced over 4 miles of paved/gravel roads and trails.
“We Players presents performance events that transform public spaces into realms of participatory theater. We bring communities together, reclaiming local spaces for public discourse and civic celebration through art. Extending the transformative powers of performance beyond the stage, we invite our collaborators and audience to engage fully and awaken to the spectacular world around us.”
—Mission Statement, We Players
The very climate and natural environment of Angel Island resembles the Mediterranean climate of Odysseus’s world; the island supports the same kind of vegetation as the rocky hills of Odysseus’s home of Ithaka. Angel Island is the largest island in San Francisco Bay and has been home to the Miwok Indians and Spanish explorers. It has the longest continuous military presence of any site in the Bay Area and is the perfect setting for Homer’s story of a young man’s journey in search of his missing father and, ultimately, himself.
It was fitting that our journey started the same way that Odysseus began his, on the sea. We boarded an Angel Island Ferry in Tiburon and motored out to Angel Island to begin our journey. We initially joined Odysseus’s son, Telemachus, as observers to his efforts to reunite with his father, but over the course of the day we got involved in his trials and became participants in his search. I found that by the end of the play I was viewing James Udom, Telemachus, not as an actor but as a bona fide Leader of the assembled audience and Theater Ensemble. The transformation occurred slowly but it happened. It was a powerful moment that will stay with me when I think about this production.
The Odyssey is sold out for the rest of this run. I recommend attending a future production of We Players just to experience theater in an active, not passive, manner. Click here to get information about the next project: Twelfth Night