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by Kacey Hartner '13
“Go to horrible places, and let them go,” said Joel Sugerman, LA's director of all things theater, softly, as he led this fall’s 11-person cast of An Iliad into a state of focus and creativity to begin a recent rehearsal. “Locate images of despair, and make them disappear.”
This theater warm-up might sound "different," and stage manager Sophie Hager ’16, couldn’t agree more.
“If I had to choose one word to describe this play, I’d probably have to say ‘different,’ too,” said the senior. “The play itself was actually written as a one-man show, so we have had to work to split up the text into an ensemble of storytellers.”
This script, written by theater artists Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare a few years back, was created in the wake of the US invasion of Iraq. According to the author’s note, the writers were inspired by “what it means to be a country at war.” They wanted to “find a way to talk about it.”
With a mélange of events from deadly, to godly, to musical, An Iliad is an ideal theatrical project for teenage performers.
Addressing his cast, Mr. Sugerman implored, “You want your words to land on somebody – make sure they get into somebody.”
In a play that is mostly poetic and a medley of ancient and modern language, Sugerman explained to the students that this piece is utterly defined by an actor’s choices.
“Justify the poet’s words by understanding the thoughts behind them,” he urged. “We’re interested in authenticity.”
“This particular script is almost like a modern recap,” said Hager as she watched rehearsal. “In reading it you can definitely tell that this is a story being told; it's written to be told.”
Sugerman added that “the play is directed at a modern audience.”
As with all good storytelling, An Iliad's audience can expect interactive intensity; a roller coaster of emotions from an ensemble that will even sing in Greek.
That’s right, the students will sing in Greek.
“Its really been crafted into something new," said Hager. “Right now we’re working on emotion and trying to divvy up the parts we’ve created from what used to be a one man-show. The process needs to be really collaborative in order to make the show come together.”
“For now we’re focusing on expanding on intensity and on the war scenes…but expect to see some comical moments too,” she said.