By Stephanie Butzer
The Greek epic “The Odyssey,” written by Homer, tells the story of a man leaving his family to fight in the Trojan War. But nowhere in the epic is the story of his wife and son told.
Through his production, “Story of Home,” senior BFA acting major Logan Sutton is exploring what Odysseus’ family was doing for the 19 years he was away at war.
“I’ve turned the lens, using modern dramatic theory, away from the man in the myth and towards the family he left behind,” Sutton said.
“Story of Home” will be the Department of Performing Arts’ full-length play in the Black Box Theatre for the fall semester. It is also one of the first times a student has written and produced one of the university’s main productions for the semester. Kevin Otos, coordinator of the BA program in theatre studies, will direct the play.
Sutton saw Mary Zimmerman’s rendition of “The Odyssey” when he visited his high school during his freshman year at Elon. He became curious about Odysseus’ son, Telemachus, and his struggles as he grew up without his father.
During his College Fellows second-year seminar, Sutton started looking more into the topic. When he became a Lumen scholar and started conducting research, he began reading more plays and watching more television and films related to the epic. Every new piece of material helped him develop ideas for “Story of Home.”
As he dug deeper, Sutton developed more questions and became interested in how Odysseus’ wife, Penelope, fared in addition to Telemachus. She had to maintain the kingdom of Ithaca in her husband’s absence and remain loyal to her husband, even with more than 100 suitors in the home.
“What I’ve tried to do is explore in a more realistic way, or modern way, the struggle of a wife dealing with this absent but present character,” Sutton said.
Although Odysseus never makes an appearance in “Story of Home,” Sutton said his presence is just as important as any other character.
Sutton has explored many connections between the struggles of the Trojan War era and the trials of the present. The Trojan War lasted 10 years and the United States has passed the 10-year mark for the War on Terror. In addition, both wars were sparked by a single terrorist attack.
“Story of Home” will analyze the validity of war and how it affects those at home. Sutton said challenges like the ones Penelope and Telemachus experience can change how people proceed into the future and how one identifies a “good” human being.
Sutton hopes to shed light on the recurring nature of history and how the challenges of the present day are largely the same as those the people of Ancient Greece experienced.
“Struggle is plain,” Sutton said. “It’s plain in the way that anyone would look at any of our lives and say, ‘Well, everyone goes through that.’ But that doesn’t make it any less valid to us and any less moving. I think by blending the two, I can find a greater amount of empathy.”
“Story of Home” will count as Sutton’s BFA acting senior capstone project, College Fellows senior thesis project and Lumen Prize project. Auditions for the play were held Aug. 27 and the cast was announced Aug. 30.
“It’s very dynamic,” said senior BFA acting major Mallory Marcus. “There are some humorous parts, but it’s mostly very dramatic and it follows the form of the Greek tragedy. But it’s a little more contemporary so we can relate to it a little more.”
Sutton was fortunate enough to have several chances to further “Story of Home.” He studied abroad in Greece, which gave him the opportunity to do site-specific research for the Lumen project.
Sutton met a woman in Greece who helped him understand the culture around which his play is centered. He valued this experience and said it helped him solve validation issues with his setting and characters.
In addition, he got the chance last summer to have a workshop reading of his script at a regional theater in Raleigh.
During the spring after his return from Greece, Sutton wrote three drafts of “Story of Home.” Now that auditions are complete, rehearsals will begin. The play will run from Oct. 5-11 in the Black Box Theatre.