PROVIDENCE — Marcus Gardley’s epic tale "black odyssey" will make its East Coast debut at Trinity Rep this month.
Inspired by Homer’s "Odyssey," the play examines Ulysses Lincoln’s journey home from war when the world — and the gods — are against him.
That journey home leads him on an adventure connecting him with his own ancestors and our shared humanity, before finally delivering him back to his wife and son.
Throughout his epic voyage, Ulysses Lincoln’s fate is controlled by a host of gods, including the dignified Deus, as played by resident company member Jude Sandy, the scheming Paw Sidin (Omar Robinson), and radiant Aunt Tina (Broadway veteran Julia Lema).
"This breathtaking, vibrant, and gloriously theatrical production is a lyrical, musical, and spiritual celebration of storytelling and what it means to find home," according to program notes.
The production features resident acting company members Sandy and Joe Wilson Jr. as co-directors, with Wilson playing Ulysses Lincoln.
“Marcus Gardley's 'black odyssey' is one of the greatest contemporary plays that I've read in years," said Curt Columbus, the Arthur P. Solomon and Sally E. Lapides artistic director. "It combines one of the foundational texts of Western cvilization — Homer's "Odyssey" — with the distinctive voice of one of the most extraordinary young playwrights in America. Marcus takes the deeply resonant story of Ulysses, returning from war, and marries it with images and events from African-American history of the last two centuries in a thrilling, epic story of hope, loss, family, and love.”
Gardley is a poet-playwright whom The New Yorker describes as “the heir to Garcia Lorca, Pirandello and Tennessee Williams.” His most recent play "X," or "The Nation v. Betty Shabazz," was a New York Times Critic Pick and was remounted off-Broadway in the spring of 2018. In 2019, he will be named the Library Laureate of San Francisco by the city’s mayor. He is the recipient of the 2017 Special Citation Theater Award for "black odyssey," which swept the Theater Bay Area Awards garnering six other prizes, including Best Production.
Gardley is the recipient of the 2015 Glickman Award for "The House That Will Not Stand," which recently ended its run at New York Theater Workshop. He is one of the most-produced playwrights in the U.S., with over two-dozen productions, some of which are "Every Tongue Confess" at Arena Stage (starring Phylicia Rashad and directed by Kenny Leon) and "On the Levee," which premiered in 2010 at Lincoln Center. Gardley served as an assistant professor of theatre arts and performance studies for Brown University.
Wilson and Sandy will be working alongside Edward E. Haynes, Jr. (set design), Kara Harmon (costume design), Dawn Chiang (lighting design), and Peter Hurowitz (sound design).
“Trinity Rep’s production of 'black odyssey' represents everything that this institution holds dear," said Wilson in a statement. "It will be a celebration of company, community and education, as well as a celebration of the ancient practice, and building the power of storytelling.”
“'black odyssey' is a play that encourages us to love all the parts that make up who we are, to embrace our histories, our personal pasts, and our families," Sandy added. "It’s a play that teaches us that the first, crucial step to bringing healing into this world is to accept, celebrate, forgive and find healing in all the things that make us who we are.”
The cast also features resident company members Brown/Trinity Rep MFA students Kalyne Coleman, who will play Nella Pell, Anwar Ali, who will play Artez Abine, and Cloteal L. Horne who will play Alsendra Sabine. Guest artists Omar Robinson will play Paw Sidin, Kai Tshikosi is Malachi, and local actor Jackie Davis is Benevolence.
Continuing Trinity Rep’s tradition of offering affordable tickets for all, the theater will have discounted previews of 'black odyssey.' Tonight is a "Pay What You Can" performance. Tickets go on sale at 6:30 p.m. and are limited to one per person.
Other special performances for 'black odyssey' include an open-captioned performance for the show on Sunday, Jan. 6, at 2 p.m. and Wednesday, Jan. 23 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The Next Generation Night will be held on Thursday, Jan. 10, and includes a pre-show reception for the next generation of theater-goers. The Teens Talk performance will be held on Friday, Jan. 11, which features Trinity Rep’s Teen Ambassadors discussing their perspective on the show following the 7:30 p.m. performance.
A "Context and Conversation" panel discussion will be held on Thursday, Jan. 17, at 6 p.m. at Sophia Academy in Providence. At this free event, panelists from Sophia Academy and from within the community will discuss the roles of family and community. Christina Bevilacqua, Trinity Rep’s conversationalist-in-residence, will moderate the discussion.
Subscriptions for the 2018-19 season are now on sale. Along with "black odyssey," the season includes "Pride & Prejudice" by Kate Hamill, a special limited-engagement of "An Iliad" by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, "Macbeth" by William Shakespeare, "The Song of Summer" by Lauren Yee, "Little Shop of Horrors" with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken, and José Rivera’s "Marisol."
For more information on the 2018-19 season, call the box office at 401-351-4242 or visit Trinity Rep's website at www.TrinityRep.com.