March 12, 2020
Homer’s Odyssey is the second-oldest known work of Western culture, bested only by The Iliad, also written by Homer, sometime around the 8th century B.C. A staple in high school and collegiate literature courses everywhere, The Odyssey focuses on the Greek hero Odysseus, king of Ithaca, and his journey home after the fall of Troy.
The Penelopiad, presented March 20-21 at the Studio Theatre in Kettler Hall on the campus of Purdue Fort Wayne, is a companion piece of sorts and retells that same story from the points of view of Odysseus’s wife, Penelope, and her handmaidens.
The stage adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 2005 novella of the same name, The Penelopiad is filled with modern twists as the 13 female spirits of the story reminisce on their lives in Ithaca before and after the Trojan War’s end. In this performance, the Greek chorus of handmaidens continually interrupts Penelope’s narrative to express their views on events.
Using a different genre for each view, the maids’ conversations make for lively exchange and a visual experience that includes a jump-rope rhyme, a lament, a ballad, a lecture, a court trial, and several types of songs. The central theme revolves around the double standards between the sexes and the classes, as relevant today as when the novella was written 15 years ago.