October 29, 2019

Welcome Home, Stranger

Brynn Duncan as Penelope and Benjamin Young as Odysseus Brynn Duncan as Penelope and Benjamin Young as Odysseus Photography by Todd Collins

By Nadia Sine, The Odyssey Dramaturg

Homer’s Odyssey has been interpreted in countless different ways, and this holds no exception. Through this adaptation by Mary Zimmerman, we are taking yet another spin on the classic epic poem. As a director/adaptor, Zimmerman has embedded her own physical storytelling into the text amplifying the motions of being at sea and internal moods and notions as well. We have endeavored to meet the muscularity of her imaginings with our own as we portray the story of Odysseus returning home from war and what experiences he undergoes with the certain mythical creatures he encounters. His “odyssey” does not end at sea, that is merely a preface. It practically begins with his homecoming when he finally sets foot back on his native land.

Our director, Alexandra Harbold, speaks to the core questions of our production: how do strangers become guests, and what does it feel like to arrive home after war or strife and wonder whether we will be welcomed or not? The true themes of homecoming and hospitality are so crucially needed in the contemporary world today, especially in a political sense. Our country seems to lean towards a more xenophobic mindset with our current situation concerning immigrants. In order to show that we are unified, we need to be seen as equal and appreciate others for their safe arrival into our lives regardless of background or past. Hospitality is a virtue, and relationships can construct a home and an identity for someone. The Greek words nostos meaning “home-coming” and xenos meaning both “stranger/foreigner” and “guest/friend” immediately points to the underlying subject of The Odyssey, which is how strangers ought to be treated and become guests. Indeed, welcoming strangers can ensue some potential dangers; nevertheless, it is our duty as humans to treat others as we ought to be treated. 

Needless to say, hospitality can produce the opposite effect as well. Foreigners can manipulate one’s kindness and invade one’s home, or much like in Odyssey where the host Odysseus himself slaughters the “un-welcomed” guests and those who don’t act cordially. Both parties have an obligation to behave humanely so the host-guest interaction can potentially cultivate into a genuine friendship. 

Despite the fact that all scenarios appear idealistic or in the “worst case,” our base responsibility still stands. Whoever approaches you, whether on the street or in your own home, simply greet them in a kind manner. The painless way possible to treat someone is to be a good person. As Telemachus declares to the suitors in his home, “You others, I will suffer no viciousness against a guest./I know what is honorable and what is not.” Though he could remove them from his home, he chooses the higher road. How would we treat strangers in our homes? Could we see others more as mere strangers? These questions arise throughout the journey of Odyssey, and relatively, ours as well.

For more information on this production of The Odyssey, please visit our dramaturgical website at https://odysseyuofu.wordpress.com/