The Odyssey

category: full length one-act
genre: adaptation (Greek Epic)
running time: 90 minutes
setting: Mythical Greece
period: Classical Times

ODYSSEUS, king of Ithaca
YOUNG ODYSSEUS, journeying home
OLD ODYSSEUS, Odysseus in Disguise
ATHENA, goddess of wisdom
ZEUS, king of the gods
TELEMACHUS, son of Odysseus and Penelope
ANTINOUS, leader of the suitors of Penelope
EURYMACHUS, one of the suitors of Penelope
AMPHINOMUS, one of the suitors of Penelope
PENELOPE, wife of Odysseus
EURYCLEIA, former nurse of Odysseus
EURYNOME, handmaiden of Penelope
MELANTHO, handmaiden of Penelope
CALYPSO, a goddess
HERMES, the messenger of the gods
POSEIDON, god of the sea
INO, a water nymph
NAUSICAA, a princess
ARETE, her mother, a Queen
ALCINOUS, King of Scheria
EURYLOCHUS, first mate of Odysseus’ ship
POLITES, one of Odysseus’ crew
PERIMEDES, one of Odysseus’ crew
POLYPHEMUS, a cyclops
CYCLOPS 1 & 2, his neighbors
AEOLUS, keeper of the winds
IDIOTS 1, 2 & 3, members of Odysseus’ crew
CIRCE, a witch
ANTICLEIA, the mother of Odysseus
TEIRESIAS, the prophet, a ghost
HELIOS, god of the Sun
MERMAIDS 1, 2, 3, 4, attendants on INO
EUMAEUS, a pigkeeper
POLYBUS, another suitor

The hero Odysseus, who fought on the winning side of the Trojan War, spends ten years returning home to his small island kingdom of Ithaca. Aided by the goddess Athena, who favors him, and in spite of the machinations of the god Poseidon, who curses him after Odysseus and his men blind Poseidon’s son, the Cyclops Polyphemus, Odysseus and his crew go on many adventures, including traveling to the kingdom of the dead, before his crew is drown by Zeus as punishment for killing the cattle of the sun god, Helios. Odysseus makes his way home after living with the nymph Calypso for 8 years, and then being shipwrecked once more in Scheria, where the king and queen, urged by their daughter Nausicaa, help him home. Once in Ithaca, he is reunited with his son Telemachus and discovers that his wife, Penelope, is being forced into an unwanted marriage with a group of suitors, lead by the greedy Antinous. Aided by Athena and his son, as well as the shepherd Eumaeus, Odysseus tricks the suitors into a competition for Penelope’s hand that they all lose, and then kills them as punishment for their squandering of his wealth. After convincing Penelope of his identity, Odysseus tells her his story.

author’s comments:
At the same time that I was adapting The Odyssey for No Single Thing, I was commissioned by Ginny Wehrmeister and Jacquie Duckworth at the Performing Academy of Lafayette, a children and young adult theater group, to adapt the poem into something stageable for their rather large group whose massive casting needs were a nightmare hurdle for most playwrights- and a dream come true for me. Using the Samuel Butler translation of the poem, I stuck much closer to the source material than in my other adaptation, but still snuck a few original ideas into the piece. The decision to split Odysseus in three roles came from Jacquie, who was worried the role might be too big for her young actors, but I ended up loving it as a chance to create a dialogue about the various aspects of the self, particularly when we think about how we change over time, and how experiences and journeys in particular change us. I have always loved The Odyssey. It is, probably, my single favorite story of all time, and there is something about it that I come back to again and again. The particulars of it, of course, enchant and delight me, but I think what I love about it overall, in almost every version, is how it captures the sense of wonder and possibility in the unknown world, the thrill of adventure, and also the deep sadness that accompanies all adventures, as you can’t have a journey without leaving some place- and someone- behind. The idea that sometimes that someone is actually a version of yourself is one that really hit me when working on this adaptation.

The original production of this adaptation was staged in Lafayette, California in December of 2018, by child actors, under the direction of Jacquie Duckworth and Ginny Wehrmeister, for the Performing Academy of Lafayette.