Violent Inspiration

Mary Zimmerman’s The Odyssey begins with the divine inspiration of a muse. Wouldn’t we all like a muse sometimes? Someone to just show up and take care of all our feelings of being stuck. I would like one right now as I try and write this blog.

Inspiration is really scary. Sometimes you will be brought on the seas of glory and artistic divinity. Sometimes you will feel mortal. You will feel endlessly, completely trapped in the day-to-day. You will lose loved ones. You will get lost. There will be war. You will not be able to find your way home.

Odysseus, the classic hero, navigates this struggle constantly throughout his journey, though perhaps in a more swashbuckling way than your average person living in 2019. (Stars - they’re just like us!) He conquers gods, kills monsters, controls the elements. He also sits and cries on an island for 8 years (we’ve all been there). He is thwarted again and again. He is betrayed by his own name. Sometimes he is in control of his story, masterfully and artfully detailing his struggles. Sometimes, it is in control of him.

But he does make it home! However, the classic image of homecoming – reunion with wife and child, floor littered with the bodies of dead men – is not the end of our story. Our show ends when Odysseus, following the prophecy of Tiresias, travels on foot far enough inland that he comes to a place where the children know nothing of the sea and there plants an oar. For the first time in our long, long tale of adventuring, Odysseus truly honors the gods. He lets himself be the vessel for the story, instead of resisting.

The world of The Odyssey is a violent place. There are sea monsters, potions that turn men to pigs, bloodthirsty gods out for vengeance, and storms that can keep you away from your family for 20 years. In a world alive with spirits that have agency over your life, it’s hard to ever feel safe. Our world is a violent place. There is constant war, political strife, mass shootings, and ideological conflict. In a world alive with anger, it’s hard to ever feel safe. It’s hard to ever feel at home.

The Odyssey is not an easily definable work. It cannot really be pinned down. One question, one statement of meaning cannot encompass all that it entails. (Believe me, I’ve tried.) But maybe there’s a reason that the muse keeps coming back. What if we stopped fighting our story? What if we honored it? In times of anger and violence we lose a shared world. What if we tried to get that back? What if we all knew of the sea?

By Francesca Hsieh, Assistant Director of The Odyssey

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My name is Kimi Brown and I am from Sunnyvale, CA. I am a senior completing her BFA in Musical Theatre, Spring 2020.

Right now, I am the Assistant Director for Salt Lake Acting Company’s World Premiere of Charly Evon Simpson’s Form of a Girl Unknown. I am working with a fantastic cast and the most amazing artistic team. I work mostly with Melissa Crespo, a New York Based director who has worked on multiple readings and workshops of this show and countless other projects. This project has been  incredible because it is the most diverse project I’ve worked on, with a majority of the cast being either people of color, women, or both. I’ve learned so much about working professionally as a member of the artistic team while still enriching my skills and knowledge as a performer. This show is incredible because it is such a specific story that touches on so many important and necessary topics that we as a society need to be talking about, and at the same time, making us laugh, and cry, and reflect on what it means to be a human in our world today.

I chose the U’s Department of Theatre because I wanted a conservatory style training while still maintaining the full college experience by continuing to challenge myself in other subjects.

There have been so many meaningful things I have learned throughout my time at the U. I have learned how to truly be myself and create art that I am passionate about. There are a million other artists in the world, and rather than condemning myself for not being like them, I need to value and celebrate the things that make me unique and learn how to make myself the most effective artist I can be. When we spend more time challenging ourselves in objective ways, rather than pining to be like someone else, that allows us to celebrate ourselves and other artists on their journey so we can focus on creating and collaborating. This concept encourages me to push myself, while also never forgetting why I do this in the first place. I love theater, and I want to do it always.

Also, be kind to yourself and to others. And let kindness evolve in different ways depending on what you need. Listen to your gut, and go towards what scares you and excites you.

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