An Iliad Notes
An Iliad is a modern-day retelling of Homer's classic. Poetry and humor, the ancient tale of the Trojan War and the modern world collide in this captivating theatrical experience. The setting is simple: the empty theater. The time is now: the present moment. The lone figure onstage is a storyteller—possibly Homer, possibly one of the many bards who followed in his footsteps. He is fated to tell this story throughout history.
Many of us first encountered Homer’s epic The Iliad in the same way we first met Shakespeare: as a canonical literary text that we studied in a high school classroom because it was “important.” However, the bardic poets did not begin as authors of great literature, but as performers of improvised stories. Every time they “sang the song,” they did it differently. Before The Iliad was “important,” it was alive and it was urgent, engaging a society grappling with the pain, horror, and beauty of endless war.
Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare’s adaptation of Robert Fagles translation of The Iliad infuses this ancient story with contemporary urgency. Their unique telling is an attempt to reconcile Homer’s story with a society still defined by its wars, still addicted to its rage. In the tradition of the improvising bardic poets, the play they created is “An” Iliad. It is one iteration of this story, a recognition that each society reshapes its stories to speak to the particular concerns of its people. Each theatrical production, too, is a singular artistic iteration. While we originally developed this production for the Great River Shakespeare Festivals 2017 season, we are excited to learn how it will grow and adapt as we share it with you today.
Stories live in all of us differently and testify to our unique, lived experiences and connections to the piece. We invite you to respond to the work individually and personally. We created this production with the principles of the GRSF’s founders, Alec Wild and Paul Mason Barnes, in mind. Rather than aiming to travel back in time, we want to remain rooted in the present so that we may hear the play in a way that speaks to our own lives and experience. We hope that this production of An Iliad reflects our belief that a really good story clearly told has the power to connect us to the pressing concerns of our world and the universal conflicts of the human heart.
"Spellbinding…Smartly conceived and impressively executed, An Iliad relates an age-old story that resonates with tragic meaning today…As he talks about ruined civilizations and how blind rage can overwhelm people whether they are on a battlefield or merely cut off by a car on the highway, the poet asks viewers, 'Do you see?' Indeed we do."
"Explosive, altogether breathtaking…Brilliantly meshes past and present calamity, with touches of the most caustic dark humor suddenly shifting into unimaginable pathos."
"100 intelligent, emotional minutes."
"A brilliant and thrilling adaptation."