Hundreds of characters. Four actors. One epic journey home.
On October 20 at 8 p.m., New York’s The Acting Company casts a 3,000-year-old epic poem in new, contemporary context.
This fresh adaptation of Homer’s The Odyssey by director Lisa Peterson is set in a present-day relocation center, where four young women fleeing conflict in Middle Eastern, North African and Eastern European countries are trapped in the limbo of a refugee camp, each retelling Odysseus’ adventures while awaiting the next step of their own quests for home and family.
Through the hundreds of extraordinary characters of this epic tale, the women explore what it is to host a stranger, follow the rules of generosity, question what it means to belong without a “place” to call home, and discover the thrill of adventure at the heart of it all.
Zamo Mlengana (Zee), Sophie Zmorrod (Béa), Anya Whelan-Smith (Hana), and Layla Khoshnoudi (Anoud) in the world premiere of Odyssey from The Acting Company in association with Marin Theatre Company. Photos: Marin Theatre Company / Kevin Berne.
Arrive early and join members of the company and fellow theatre-goers for a pre-show discussion with associate director Maggie Lee about director Lisa Peterson’s adaptation. 7 p.m. prior to the 8 p.m. performance in the Tina McGuire Theatre at the Wortham Center.
TRANSLATION AND ADAPTATION
The Acting Company’s Odyssey, written and directed by Lisa Peterson, is based on MacArthur Fellow Dr. Emily Wilson’s revelatory new translation, which the New York Times named as one of its 100 notable books of 2018, the New York Times Book Review called “A revelation…a version both fleet and vivid,” and The Guardian declared as a translation that “will change the way the poem is read in English.”
Peterson’s thought-provoking adaptation of Dr. Wilson’s translation poses the question: What will you do to go home again?
The 100-minute adaptation features about half dialogue and narration written by Peterson, with the other half featuring verse from Wilson’s translation. The four-person, all-female cast vividly portray gods, monsters, heroes, and villains. Peterson said in an interview with Penn Today that she looks forward to audience reactions when they realize the verse is directly from Wilson’s text, considering the translation is so well-regarded for its more contemporary-sounding language.
Peterson shared, “When I started working on this adaptation… I was really struck by how much of the story is about hosting a stranger. The reason the Odyssey still moves us is because it’s about… the whole idea of home — what it means and how some of us have been lucky enough to have homes… and other people have not been so lucky.”
“One must honor guests and foreigners and strangers, even those much poorer than oneself.”–from The Odyssey, translated by Dr. Emily Wilson
ODYSSEY IN THE MEDIA
“There are a huge number of female figures in it, and it’s not about a woman but [Odysseus is] surrounded by women, and I said ‘Let’s put women at the center,’” she says. “And as I did it, I thought, ‘Oh, I’m actually making the women the hero.’ And why can’t they be the hero? Why can’t the hero’s journey be claimed by women, and not just women, but a young woman from Syria, from Tunisia, from Rwanda, and Albania?”
–Lisa Peterson, from “Adapting translation: A reimagined ‘The Odyssey’ at Penn Live Arts” –Penn Today
“I want to open up more conversations. I mean, I think history is all about debate, and literature is all about debate…I want to create translations that have enough clarity in the storytelling and enough vigor in the sound and the characterization that they are going to arouse debate and make people think, make people want to talk to each other and discuss…”
–Emily Wilson, from “How a translation of ‘The Iliad’ into modern language reinforces its relevance,” PBS News Hour
ABOUT THE ACTING COMPANY
Founded in 1972 by John Houseman and Margot Harley with the first graduating class of the Drama Division of The Juilliard School, The Acting Company has launched the careers of some 400 actors, including Kevin Kline, Patti LuPone, Mary Lou Rosato, Keith David, Rainn Wilson and Lorraine Toussaint — all while bringing sophisticated theater to hundreds of communities from coast to coast.
Among many accolades, The Acting Company won the 2003 Tony Award for Excellence in the Theater, and, more recently, the 2019 Audelco Award for Best Play for its production of Nambi E. Kelley’s Native Son, directed by Seret Scott. The Acting Company’s productions have been enjoyed by more than 4 million people in 48 states, 11 countries, both on and Off-Broadway, and at leading resident theaters including the Guthrie, the Kennedy Center and New York City Center. The Acting Company’s production of ODYSSEY is in association with Marin Theatre Company. The company’s performance at the Wortham Center on Oct. 20 is part of a nationwide tour.
MEET THE ACTORS
*Member of Actors’ Equity Association
Layla Khoshnoudi* (Anoud) is an Iranian-Texan actress based in New York. She received an MFA in Acting from Brooklyn College. Select theater credits include Men on Boats (Clubbed Thumb); 7 Minutes (Waterwell); Dance Nation (Playwrights Horizons); Bull in a China Shop (Lincoln Center); Dido of Idaho (Ensemble Studio Theater); I am Gordafarid (Noor Theater); Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus (Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater); Will You Come With Me? (Play Company); Nobody’s Girl (NJ Rep); Wyoming (Lesser America). TV: “Instinct” (CBS); “FBI” (CBS); “All Hail Beth” (BricTV), “My Ex is Trending (YouTube). Film: Long Nights, Short Mornings; Bad at Birthdays. Short films: Nadia Jaan; Androgen; Bookends.
Zamo Mlengana* (Zee) is thrilled to be making her stage debut in Lisa Peterson’s Odyssey. Zamo recently earned a BA in Fine Arts from New York City’s famed The Juilliard School, where she was a Shubert Foundation Scholar. Zamo proudly hails from Johannesburg, South Africa. She would like to thank God, her family and team for always supporting her.
Anya Whelan-Smith* (Hana) received an MFA in Acting from The Juilliard School. She recently completed a run of Hamlet at the Guthrie Theater, playing Ophelia. Other theater credits include: 2022 New Works Festival (Gulfshore Playhouse); His Girl Friday (Barrington Stage Company); A Class Act (Berkshire Theatre Group); Macbeth and Taming of the Shrew (MaineStage Shakespeare repertory); and Blue Ridge (Williamstown Theater Festival, Original Workshop Production). TV: “FBI: International” (CBS); “Law & Order: SVU” (NBC). Film: Fall to Rise; Pizza Party; Souvenir Drunk (upcoming).
Sophie Zmorrod* (Béa) is an actor, vocalist and playwright based in Brooklyn, New York. She received an MFA in Acting from Brown/Trinity Rep, was a Stephen Sondheim Fellow, and is a recipient of the David Wickham Prize in Playwriting. Theatre credits include Beadle Bamford in Sweeney Todd (Trinity Repertory Company); Marjana and the Forty Thieves (Target Margin Theater); INVASION! (Ancram Opera House); Miss U in Promenade (The María Irene Fornés Marathon at The Public); Hamlet in Machine Learning Hamlet (MetaPhys Ed); The Protest (Cherry Lane Theatre); Ocean Filibuster (Pearl D’Amour) and James Joyce’s The Dead (Hangar Theatre). Brown/Trinity Rep credits include Robin in Wolf Play; Yitzak in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Death in Everybody, Leontes in The Winter’s Tale, and Mona in Lex Derman’s Playhouse. Film/Tv: “For Life” (ABC/Hulu). She earned a BA in Music from Columbia University, graduating cum laude. sophiezmorrod.com.